Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

gastris, an ancient Greek sweetmeat of the second century b.c.e. and a regional specialty of Crete, is important not just intrinsically but as a window into a lost world. Hardly any instructions for making sweets survive from classical Greece. The recipe is known because it happens to be quoted in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus (book 14, 647d), a rich source for Greek and Roman food history written about 200 c.e.: Sweet almonds, hazelnuts, bitter almonds, poppy seeds: roast, watching them carefully, and pound well in a clean mortar. When well mixed, put into a small pan with boiled honey to moisten, adding plenty of pepper. It turns black because of the poppy. Flatten out into a square. Now pound some white sesame, moisten with boiled honey, and stretch two sheets of this, one below and the other above, so that the black is in the middle, and divide into shapes.