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Top Chefs Greece: Ancient Greeks used portable grills at picnics

Jan. 10, 2014 at 4:22 PM   |   Comments

HANOVER, N.H., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Ancient Greeks gave the world many things -- architecture, military tactics, poetry, art -- and a portable grill, a Dartmouth College researcher says.

Modern-day cooking experiments indicate the Mycenaeans used portable grill pits to make souvlaki and had non-stick pans to bake bread, LiveScience reported Thursday. How they were used, though, was a puzzle.

To solve the culinary mysteries, Julie Hruby of Dartmouth College said she and ceramicist Connie Podleski of the Oregon College of Art and Craft, mixed American clays to imitate Mycenaean clay, creating two bread pans and two souvlaki trays then got cooking.

"We don't have any recipes," Hruby told LiveScience. "What we do have are tablets that talk about provisions for feasts, so we have some idea of what the ingredients might have been, but in terms of understanding how people cooked, the cooking pots are really our best bet."

They found bread was more likely to stick when cooked on the smooth side, but did better on a side filled with tiny holes, LiveScience said. The holes, Hruby said, seemed to be an ancient non-sticking technology that ensured oil spread evenly.

Hruby and Podleski said the souvlaki trays were too thick to transfer heat when over a fire pit, but placing the coals inside the tray was more effective.

"We should probably envision these as portable cooking devices," Hruby said, "perhaps used during Mycenaean picnics."

Hruby says the pans' likely users were chefs cooking for the Mycenaean ruling class.

"They're coming from elite structures, but I doubt very much that the elites were doing their own cooking," Hruby told LiveScience.

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