- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By now, the first and maybe even the second flush of the new year dieting excitement has worn off. Yet the dreaded swimsuit season approaches.

Never fear. We can take our inspiration from the ancient Greeks, who saw the body as a temple and treated it with respect. Yet they also treated food with respect.

In ancient Greek times, citizens started the day at the gym. It was more than just a place to work out. It was the social center of ancient cities, the place to meet friends, court allies and plan the night’s festivities. A good body was a must in ancient Greece and Rome. For proof, just take a look at those gorgeous ancient statues.

Philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle and Plato taught that it was essential to take care of the body by eating right and getting exercise to show self-control and discipline. If you’re like millions of Americans, you’re thinking about shedding a few pounds in time for bikini season.

Here are 10 quotes from the ancient Greeks and Romans and the modern-day lessons they teach. Who knows? Maybe 2,500-year-old advice still has the power to inspire the best bods on the beach.


Some men live to eat and drink, I eat and drink to live.

— Socrates, Greek philosopher, fourth century B.C.

Modern lesson: Be sure to try a new interest or two. Eating shouldn’t be your only hobby.


Appetite is the best seasoning.

— Socrates

Modern lesson: Get in touch with the healthy feeling of being a little hungry. Don’t snack on junk food at the very first pang of hunger. Wait for a meal, and you’ll enjoy healthy foods a lot more.


We should look first for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. Dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.

Epicurus, Greek philosopher, third century B.C.

Modern lesson: Don’t eat alone, standing in front of the fridge or over the sink. Try to have at least one meal a day with someone else; you’ll probably eat less and enjoy the meal more.


It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well and justly, and impossible to live wisely, well and justly without living pleasurably.

— Epicurus

Modern lesson: Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food. Sounds like the opposite of diet advice, but guilty eating isn’t pleasurable or satisfying, and so you end up depressed and eating more.


A crust eaten in peace is better than a feast in anxiety.

Aesop, about 550 B.C.

Modern Lesson: Don’t eat when you’re stressed out. Sip some tea, take a walk, talk to a pal. Stuffing your face to cure a bad mood will only pack on the pounds and give you indigestion, too.


Nothing can nourish the human body unless it participates in some sweetness.

— Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.

Modern lesson: Don’t deprive yourself. A once-in-a-while treat is fine.


The way to keep healthy is to know one’s own constitution, to understand what is good for it and what is bad and to exercise moderation regarding all one’s physical needs.

— Marcus Cicero, Roman statesman, first century B.C.

Modern lesson: Don’t overdo. Don’t overeat, but also don’t overexercise. Setting unrealistic exercise goals invites failure and maybe even injury.


Live each day as though your last.

— Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, first century

Modern lesson: Treat yourself elegantly. Set a nice spread when you sit down to eat: good plates, a pretty napkin, maybe even a candle.


There are two liquids especially agreeable to the human body, wine inside and oil outside.

Pliny the Elder, historian, first century

Modern lesson: Drink a glass of red wine with dinner. The ancient Greeks believed that wine was essential for proper digestion and many French and modern health writers agree. The ancients called a meal without wine “a dog’s dinner.”


To be happy takes a complete lifetime. One swallow does not make summer… .

— Aristotle

Modern lesson: One bad day doesn’t mean anything. Everyone slips off the diet wagon once in a while. Don’t beat yourself up for a binge blast. Keep your eye on the larger picture: healthful eating and healthy lifestyle.

The following recipes were adapted from my book, “The Philosopher’s Kitchen” (Random House).

Chickpea dip with grilled pita

1 large onion, diced

cup olive oil, divided

1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 bay leaf

teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

6 pita breads

3 tablespoons minced fresh mint

Saute onion in 1/4 cup oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add soaked chickpeas, oregano, bay leaf, pepper, salt and stock.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chickpeas are tender and stock absorbed, about one hour. Discard bay leaf.

Put mixture into a food processor along with garlic, lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Pulse until combined.

Preheat grill or broiler.

Broil pita bread until warm, about 1 minute per side.

Cut in triangles and arrange around dip.

Serve chickpea dip topped with lemon zest and mint.

Makes 8 servings.

Herbed olive puree

cup pitted oil-cured black olives

cup pitted large green olives

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

10 fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup minced assorted fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint and basil

Assorted vegetables for dipping

Puree olives, onion, garlic, mint, oil, fennel seed, cumin and coriander in food processor until smooth.

Place puree in serving bowl, top with minced herbs and plate with assorted veggies.

Makes 10 servings.

Braised chicken with peaches and squash

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, advised cooking meat with fruit. He thought the fruit made the meat easier to digest and healthier.

4 chicken legs and thighs, separated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

All-purpose flour for dredging

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoons ground cumin

1 acorn squash, peel on, sliced inch thick

2 cups dry white wine

1 peach, fresh or canned, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons minced watercress

Liberally season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. In large saute pan, warm oil over high heat and brown chicken on all sides. Remove chicken from pan. Remove all but 3 tablespoons remaining pan juices and add caraway, cumin and squash. Cook squash until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine to squash slices and bring to a boil.

Return chicken to pan, cover with a tight lid and reduce to low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and squash from pan and arrange on a serving platter.

Add peach slices to pan juices and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and watercress and pour over chicken and squash. Makes 4 servings.

Minted garlic spread

3 cups cubed crusty bread, crusts on

3 tablespoons fruit vinegar


4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoon honey

teaspoon ground coriander

teaspoon ground cumin

cup grated Parmesan cheese

cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup mint leaves

Assorted raw vegetables for dipping

Place bread cubes, vinegar and cup water in a food processor. Let stand until bread has absorbed all the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic, honey, coriander, cumin and Parmesan. Puree until smooth. Slowly add olive oil and continue to puree until incorporated.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add mint leaves and pulse a few times to incorporate. Serve in a bowl surrounded by raw vegetables. Makes 10 servings.

Red snapper in parchment

This is one of my favorite recipes because it takes only minutes to assemble, can be made hours in advance and is bursting with classic Mediterranean flavors.

Juice of 2 lemons

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

4 bay leaves, crushed

tablespoon whole pink peppercorns

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

15 oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved

4 red snapper fillets, about 8 ounces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lemon, cut in wedges

Have ready 4 12-inch-long sheets of parchment.

Combine lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, bay leaves, peppercorns, capers and olives in a large bowl. Add red snapper to marinade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Brush both sides of parchment paper with a little olive oil. Remove a fillet from marinade, season with salt and pepper and place on paper topped with several spoonfuls of marinade.

To close the packet, bring top and bottom edges together and fold over about inch.

Continue folding until you reach the fillet. Tuck sides of parchment on each end under the fish. Repeat for the other 3 fillets.

Place parchment packets on a baking sheet with sides. Bake packets in preheated 400-degree oven 10 to 12 minutes. Serve fish in paper with lemon wedges on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Francine Segan is the author of three books, “Shakespeare’s Kitchen,” “The Philosopher’s Kitchen” and “Movie Menus.”

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