The first “energy bar” in history, which combines the simplest of ingredients to create a wholesome, natural treat: sesame seeds and honey. These two could not but stick together. Pasteli was made in Greece as a treat for weddings, offered to the guests. You see honey for the Greeks symbolises abundance, euphoria and longevity, whereas sesame symbolises fertility. What a good match!
It seems that the Ancient Greeks did not only leave us with a colossal cultural legacy but also with a nutritionally wise culinary legacy.
References to Pasteli, are found in Homers Iliad (then called Intrion), where it was eaten by the Greeks to help them endure the physical demands of wartime.
Sesame is an excellent source of protein, a good source of calcium and iron, contains the good fats and the most phytosterols (that may protect from cancer). In addition sesame seeds contain antioxidants and fiber. The honey acts as a binder and a sweetener.
Today you can pretty much find Pasteli anywhere in Greece.
The version of Pasteli most commonly sold today is with the addition of refined sugar.
As for the Peloponnese, if you find yourself at Gytheio (Lakonia) I highly recommend you to take with you the best traditional Pasteli bars from the “Manolakos” store. These guys are making Pasteli since 1902. What makes this Pasteli special is that it has no sugar but 45% good quality honey coming from the Taygetos mountain.
photo by Olive Magazine