FOOD AND DRINK:
WHAT XENA AND GABRIELLE EAT ON THE ROAD
IAXS Research Project #256
By Virginia Carper
Copyright © 1997 held by author
BREAD AND CHEESE
EATING AND COOKING
AVAILABLE FOODS IN THE WILD AND IN THE MARKET
Joxer, Xena, and Gabrielle at the campfire
in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)
 Watching Xena and Gabrielle sit around the campfire recalled to me my younger days in the deep woods of Maine. My grandfather and uncles hunted game in the pine woods. My aunts, my mother, and I gathered berries that grew among the rocky meadows. On the bank of the Kennebec River, I learned to fish.
 Like my grandfather, Xena is the expert in the art of woodcraft. She knows where the wild things are. Xena teaches the village-bred Gabrielle how to fish and how to find good things to eat. Xena admitted to Ulysses that she could not cook (ULYSSES, #43). If it was possible, she would ruin the bread and cheese. Obviously, cooking is not one of her many skills.
 In LOST MARINER (#45), Cecrops tells a seasick Gabrielle, "I've decided to make you the cook. You already have experience with food." Like my grandmother, Gabrielle is skilled in cooking. She learns to make do with one pot and a fry pan, and cook over a campfire. When Xena fights attacking fiends with Gabrielle's pot, the resourceful Gabrielle then uses Xena's chakram to clean fish. Xena fails to appreciate Gabrielle's efforts to make a fine meal. In A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39), she scolds Gabrielle for not respecting her weapons or her exercise in using her creative juices. Gabrielle retorts, "Can we cook in your juices?"
Gabrielle catching her first fish by hand
in ALTARED STATES (#19)
 Greece is a mountainous L-shaped peninsula surrounded by hundreds of islands. Fish abound in the sea, the rivers, and the lakes. Xena often catches fish with her hands (ALTARED STATES, #19; and A DAY IN THE LIFE, #39), but fly fishing appeals to her. The creative Xena crafts a fly from red wool and feathers, attaches the fly to a bronze hook, and casts the line for the fish to bite. In THE PRICE (#44), she and Gabrielle are surf-casting, a relaxing way to catch fish from the shore.
 The carp is a fish worthy of Xena's fishing skills. Found in most any type of freshwater, a carp likes to patrol stream banks and islands, rooting around in the mud. An intelligent fish, it plays a waiting game. The carp's sensitive barbels (feelers) can sense Xena's hands groping for it. With its sucker shaped mouth, a carp will vacuum up anything it can find including Xena's fingers.
 The perch is a fish for Gabrielle. "Ol' Stripey", the fisherman's friend, will bite when nothing else will. Common perch have a mild delicate flavor and a firm flesh. Gabrielle can skewer and broil them with their heads on.
 Fishing for an eel in broad daylight is difficult. Catching one bare handed as Xena did in A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39) is nearly impossible. Most people fish for eels at night with nets. Eels scavenge about on the muddy bottoms of ponds and sluggish streams, hiding from direct sunlight. When caught, they whip their bodies in purposeful snakelike movements towards the water.
 The woods, that Xena and Gabrielle often travel through, abound with game. A sling shot or a bow and arrow can bring down a partridge or a quail. For bigger game such as boar and deer, Xena will need a spear, which she does not carry. It would appear that she does not hunt. As for Gabrielle, her code extends to not killing animals. In A SOLSTICE CAROL (#33), she bought a donkey with their last dinars to prevent it from being killed.
After noticing war wagon tracks filled to the brim with clams
(you had to have been there),
Xena and Gabrielle look up to see a bevy of
slo-mo fleeing Beauty Contest contestants
in the surreal HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (#35)
 Gabrielle falls into a deep rut made by a war chariot, while walking on the beach with Xena. In the rut, she finds clams for her lunch. (HERE SHE COMES ... MISS AMPHIPOLIS, #34). Clams and mussels are good, raw or steamed. Even though Gabrielle found these clams by accident, she can dig for more clams at low tide.
 While walking on the beach, as in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32) or ULYSSES (#43), Gabrielle can gather sea turtle eggs, which make tasty omelets. Atlantic sea turtles crawl up onto the beaches to burrow and lay their eggs. Since Gabrielle apologized to the fish she caught for breakfast in THE PRICE (#444), she probably will refrain from killing a turtle for its meat.
 When properly prepared, raw squid can be delicious. However, to eat a dead squid out of a bucket is a bad idea. It is small wonder that Gabrielle had the heaves in the LOST MARINER (#45). Barbecued is a better way to eat squid or octopus. To prepare these cephalopods for eating, Gabrielle will need to soften the tentacles by pounding them with a rock.
 In the meadow, in the forest clearing, or by the roadside, Xena and Gabrielle have their choice of vegetables. Wild cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions are available for most of the year. In the springtime, Gabrielle can make a tonic of new vegetables with burdock or milk thistle for additional vitamins.
 In CRADLE OF HOPE (#4), Gabrielle searched the town for milk for the baby boy. She had to find a nursing mother who would give her breast milk. To increase their milk output, many mothers often used cabbage or milk thistle. Zeus, the King of the Gods, blessed cabbage (which came from his sweat) for mother's milk.
Xena having an extremely Freudian moment while she views Draco's exit from his bath
in A COMEDY OF EROS (#46)
 Wild grapes and figs abound, ripe for the picking. Whenever they pass by an orchard, Gabrielle gathers up the apples that have fallen on the ground. Scattered about the countryside are olive groves, where Gabrielle bargains with the owner for amfissa olives, which are black and round with a nutty-sweet taste. Nuts for the nut bread that Gabrielle likes so much (ALTARED STATES, #19), she gathers from English walnut or almond trees.
 In A COMEDY OF EROS (#46), Draco, the warlord, keeps a bowl of fruit in his tent. Besides the usual grapes and persimmons, he has cherries. Imported from Asia, cherries were available only in the marketplace. Only a warlord or a king could afford cherries. Draco smitten with Gabrielle offers her cherries as a token of his love.
 Meg, the new cook for King Lias (WARRIOR...PRINCESS..TRAMP, #30), has her choice of wild and garden herbs. For her spiced cakes, she uses anise, which helps King Lias' guests to digest her rich meals. The herb of kings, basil, goes well with the other spices in her dishes. If Meg wants a good crop of basil, she has to curse and yell while planting the seeds. Since she likes to cook spicy dishes, Meg picks capers when their buds are small -- the smaller the bud, the more piquant the taste. But if Meg is too generous with the capers in her cooking, King Lias will curse and yell at her while eating his meal.
BREAD AND CHEESE
 Whenever they reach a town, Gabrielle and Xena buy bread and cheese. Usually for sale in the market is flat bread made from wheat, rye, or barley. For cheese, Gabrielle can choose from feta, the classic white goat cheese; manour, a soft cheese; or mizithra, a hard cheese.
 In FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40), Gabrielle squirts Joxer and Ileandra with cold spring water to cool their ardor. Springs abound in Greece for Gabrielle to fill her water skins. However parasites live in rivers and streams, making that water unfit for drinking.
 In THE BLACK WOLF (#11), Gabrielle throws Salmoneus' tomatoes at the guards. Since tomatoes are from North America, Salmoneus could not have had them for sale; or could he? The wily salesman, undoubtedly, has a tomato concession from the Norse who travel west towards the New World.
 Gabrielle reminisces with Perdicus about stealing ears of corn in BEWARE OF GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (#12). In her temple, Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, holds an ear of corn (A FISTFUL OF DINARS, #14). Barley is the corn of the Greeks, not sweet corn (maize) which is grown by Native Americans.
 In A COMEDY OF EROS, Draco has a bowl of fruit in his tent. When Xena visits him, she has one of his bananas. Bananas, a tropical fruit from Central America, was unknown in Xena's time. On Crete, a relative of the banana was cultivated. But, Xena's banana was not the puny, sweet Crete kind, it was the robust, large, yellow Central American type.
EATING AND COOKING
Xena waking up a bard
 Xena and Gabrielle usually have olives, fruit, bread, and cheese at their meals. At sunset, Gabrielle cooks the main meal which includes fish or eggs. Besides a pan, she can also use skewers to cook vegetables and fish.
 In A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39), Xena fought several warriors with a cast-iron fry pan and a large pot. My grandmother, who cooked only on a wood stove, swore by her cast-iron fry pan. It was the ultimate cooking implement. You seasoned it with backfat (or in Gabrielle's case, olive oil) to keep the food from sticking and to add flavor. Gabrielle was wise to trade Xena's whip for Minya's fry pan. Not being cook herself, Xena did not appreciate the trade.
 The pan that Xena fought with became bent; obviously not a true cast-iron pan. Gabrielle can still saute vegetables and fish in it. However, the best use that Gabrielle could put it to is to give it to Xena to bash heads with.
AVAILABLE FOODS IN THE WILD AND IN THE MARKET
(An M in parentheses denotes that the food is available only from the market and not from the wilds in ancient Greece)
anchovies (M) carp cuttlefish dolphin eel lobster mollusk octopus oyster perch red mullet sardine (M) spiny lobster squid stickleback sturgeon swordfish tuna --- ---
asparagus burdock cabbage carrots celery leeks lentils milk thistle nettles onions parsley parsnips purple orchid radishes (M) roots watercress
Fruits and Nuts
acorns almonds apples apricot beechnuts blackberry cherries(M) figs grapes hazelnuts melon(M) olives peach pear pomegranate pumpkins(M) raspberry southern hackberry sweet chestnut ---
boar deer doves goats hare hens (M) honey partridges pigs (M) quails rabbits turtles
anise basil bay caper cinnamon cloves coriander dill garlic horseradish laurel licorice nutmeg oregano peppermint(M) rosemary sweet marjoram thyme --- --- ---
black walnuts cod hops (for beer and ale) lemons oranges potatoes salmon sweet corn (maize) tomatoes trout --- ---
RECIPES FOR ON THE ROAD
Note: Metric measures are given in parenthesis () and all the recipes serve four.
Horta (Green leafy vegetables)
The Greeks make this dish from the leaves of any green vegetable in season.
If using spinach
2 lb. (900g) spinach --- --- water 1 T (15ml) olive oil 2 tsp. ( 5ml) white wine vinegar --- --- salt
If using beet tops (greens)
1 lb. (454g) beet tops (greens) --- --- water 1 T (15ml) olive oil 2 tsp. ( 5ml) white wine vinegar --- --- salt
- Carefully trim the leaves and cut out the thick stems from the vegetables with a sharp knife.
- Wash vegetables under cold water and put them in the colander to drain.
- FOR SPINACH: place in a large saucepan with very little water.
FOR BEETS: place in a large sauce pan with 1/2 cup water
- Bring water to boil. Cover sauce pan with a lid and reduce heat.
- Simmer: SPINACH : 3 to 5 minutes;
BEETS: 5 to 6 minutes
- Drain the vegetables and place on serving dish
- Measure out the oil and vinegar and mix them into the vegetables with a wooden spoon.
- Season with salt to taste.
1/2 lb. (200g) fresh or dried dates 2 oz. ( 50g) walnuts or almonds --- --- salt --- --- honey
- Take the pits out of the dates and fill them with nuts.
- Sprinkle salt on the filled dates.
- Stew them in honey on low heat for 7 minutes.
MUSTACEI (Meg's spiced cakes)
Food Fit for a King!
1 lb. 2 oz. (500g) wheat flour 3 2/3 cups (300ml) grape juice 2 T (30ml) anise seeds 2 T (30ml) cumin seeds 1/4 lb. (100g ) lard 2 oz. (50g ) grated goat cheese 20 --- bay leaves
- Pour grape juice over the flour.
- Add the anise, cumin, lard, and cheese.
- Work it together to form dough.
- Form rolls and put one bay leaf under each of them.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 425 deg. (180 deg. C)
FOR FURTHER ADVENTURES IN GREEK EATING
Food and Feasts in Ancient Greece, Imogen Dawson