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A - 4 : Why we get to eat our Pyramid

When having Lebanese mezze with my colleagues in the Marush on Edgware Road one day, I did not occur to me that I would be sitting in front of my lap top the following day looking at a 500 year old painting with exactly my dinner. The dishes looked indeed the same! Over many centuries, the Mediterranean cuisine has been remarkable constant. The chefs may have been Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arabs or Turks. But they all followed the rule of civilisation when it came to food.

Ottoman Feast in the 16th Century

Celebration dinner for Jannisars


In today’s world, we take food for granted and hardly know how it is made. But we eat food that only a sophisticated society with large-scale division of labour can produce. Let’s take olive oil. It takes years to grow olive trees until the first harvest. Who is financing the trees and who is feeding the farmers during the waiting time? Making oil from olives requires special milling equipment. Who is making it and who is training the millers so they can do their job? Once olive oil is in the jar, who provides the amphorae in which it can be safely stored and transported? Olive oil gets bad when exposed to sun and heat. And once your oil is in your amphora, what are you going to do with it? You can not drink it. You need to trade if for other food in order to survive.

My point is that the Mediterranean’s staple food is a function of sophisticated civilisations. Wheat does not grow in large quantities without agriculture. Fishing is not possible without someone building boats, someone else making nets and again some other person providing the salt. We can say the same about wine. Food always stood as a symbol for civilisation. The many murals, paintings and mosaics are proof of it. People were proud of their civilisation and expressed it with food.

Barley Harvest in Egypt

Fishing in Roman Times

Harvesting Grapes in Egypt

The Mediterranean food pyramid thus looked for centuries the same - every level an expression of relative abundance and labor input required. The higher you go in the pyramid, the less abundant food becomes but the more labour it takes to make it.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

It starts with wheat as the most basic and easiest to staple product. Then continues with vegetables and fruits which need pickling if you want to eat them in more than one season. Olive oil which takes a full year to produce follows. Then comes cheese and yoghurt, the only way to store protein from milk before the arrival of the refrigerator. Even higher up is fish which requires considerable organisation to catch. Then comes poultry. Meat was for the noble and powerful only. Ordinary people saw meat only a few times in their lifetime on their plate.

Our lunches and dinners will follow the Mediterranean food pyramid. Of course, we feed you more than just bread. In every harbour we will look for fresh veggies, fresh yoghurt, cheeses and fruit. And we will always be on the lookout for the local fisherman to buy their catch straight from the sea. Civilisation shall live on our boat

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