Ancient "Baklava" for WdeBord

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Baklava is a typical case of a popular Pastry that its origin and “fatherhood” has and is being disputed among 3 countries.
Greeks, Turks, Arabs claim that they have invented the original recipe.
In my opinion it does not really matter because it is funny when you realize how recipes and culinary traditions travel. I was narrating to Papa’s message board that I took my lesson recently about that! A recipe that I was thinking Greek was pure Sephardic/ Catalan

The word baklava appears in documents in the early 12th century AD but the ingredients existed for centuries earlier.
The phyllo dough was widely used by the Greeks of the 5th century BC but the nomadic tribes of Middle East must have invented it centuries earlier since they were baking thin bread on clay plaques.
Greeks used Honey since 3000 BC in the Aegean (Santorini) Sugar came very early in Europe from China.

One day I was reading Procopius’ “Secret History” . Procopius was a Byzantine Historian of the 6th century who was hired by Emperor Justinean to write about his deeds. But soon Procopius couldn’t tolerate Emperor and above all his wife Theodora and after Justinean’s death he published his “Secret History” where he reveals al the “dirty laundry” of the Royal Court in Justinean Era!.
Procopius in a passage in the “secret History” describes the Empress’ Theodora habits concerning food.
Theodora was some personality. Before getting married to the powerful Emperor Justinean, she was working in a circus as an acrobat!!! They say that she was a prostitute also. She was very short and slightly built , something normal for an acrobat I think.
Theodora must have knows very well the secrets of marketing and self promotion…
She wore very high hills to look taller and she used tons of make –up
Nevertheless, what she really adored to do was to take her breakfast in public! She thought that by doing that people knew that Empress was healthy so she had her breakfast served in the veranda of the Palace!

If you have not read Procopius, you do not know what gross food means…

Procopius mentions her favorite pastry that calls it “Walnut pie with honey”

There is how he describes the recipe. If this is not baklava, then what is it?
I translate Procopius word by word

“ What she (Theodora) loved to have after her roasted beetles (YES!!! You read well) was her walnut pie that the imperial cook was to made by himself following her rules. On a pan (this is not the ancient word, Procopius uses the word Plakous) You place a layer of pressed dough (Plakounta) and you put a layer of walnut on the top with some honey and mellasse (historians think that this a kind of unprocessed sugar). Afterwards you put another layer of dough and again some walnuts and honey and afterwards another layer of dough with walnuts and honey. The plakous (The pan) should be covered by a layer of thin dough and baked in the fireplace after it was covered with a tile. When it was done the cook added hot honey”

Well what do you think!

Joined Mar 6, 2001
Always fasinating......I can't believe how hard it must have been for people to feed themselfs so long ago. Eating beatles and other gross things and being PLEASED that you were so blessed to recieve that meal....

I have some older baking books (only back to 1920's) and I'm amazed by how hard it was to make something good then. Really, I just can't imagine how people figured out how a couple ingredients made so many phyllo dough.

Thank-you for taking the time to post this!!

It makes me realize I'm so happy I that live in 'modern times'.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
You are welcome.

It's my pleasure to talk about Food in Past Times.
I think that this is exactly what makes our grandmothers heroines in cooking!

They were feeding people having practically nothing!

On the other hand ingredients may have been poor but they were pure also!

Joined Jul 31, 2000
Thanks for the post and education.

I have learned so much history on this site
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Athenaeus, the French word for honey is "MIEL". Perhaps its origin derives from MELLASSE?!?!?!
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Miel comes from the Greek word Meli :)

BTW Egyptians were the first to collect bee-honey at the end of the 3rd millenium BC.

We have found in the Ancient City of Acrotiri -Santorini (Greece) a beehive that dates back to 1600 BC

If you are interested in the subject I can post you a couple of bibliographical referencies.

The name of my sister, Melina comes from the word Meli=Honey

Joined Aug 4, 2000
It turns out that middle eastern societies (the lands of milk and honey) that were involved in beekeeping had good longevity. Regarding cancer, very, very little mention is made of it in the old texts that have survived the millenia. There seems to be a link between beekeeping and a low cancer incidence.

A book entitled THE A.J. ROOT BEE LIBRARY cites a study conducted by the University of Southern California (in the 40's)that supports this claim. I don't know if any further studies have been conducted.
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