Greece, located in the southeast of Europe, is comprised of a rich history and culture that permeates throughout the country, even to this day. One of the primary aspects of this culture is their unique cuisine; a cuisine that has been enticing foreigners and natives alike for many years. Here, you will find everything there is to know about the fascinating history of Greek cuisine.
Though Greek cuisine has evolved immensely over the history of the country itself, there are still many traditional dishes in usage today. The typical Greek cuisine was derived from a general Mediterranean palette and consists of what is known as the “Mediterranean Triad”. This term refers to wheat, olive oil, and wine. The aforementioned olive oil and wheat, as well as fruits, vegetables, honey, and fish are the pillars of the Greek cuisine. Lamb is also used quite frequently. In fact, Greece is home to one of the healthiest diets in the world.
In the times of ancient Greece, the Greeks typically dined on three meals a day. The very first meal of the day was breakfast, followed by a mid-day meal, and an evening meal. Breakfast consisted of a few light dishes, such as bread dipped in wine, with a possibility of olives or figs to accompany it. The mid-day meal was a quick affair that focused on small, yet appetizing cooked dishes. The evening meal was by far the most important of the day. The two portions of this dish were created by using a wealth of ingredients, such as beans, lentils, wheat, fish, a variety of meats, and salads. Many of these are still in use today, improving over time, yet still retaining their authentic and historical charm.
Not much has changed over the course of the Greek history. One of the few things that has phased out over time, albeit not entirely, was the Greeks use of fingers while eating. In ancient times, utensils were rarely used. Nearly all of the common dishes that were made were eaten with fingers. While a few dishes are still eaten in this manner, most utilize the knife and fork. As for the similarities between then and now, they are too numerous to count. Much like the country of Greece itself, the very intricacies of Greek cuisine have endured over time. For instance, olive oil is used in nearly every dish, and tends to give a sense of pride to the locals, as they are known for cultivating their own olive oil from the nearby olive trees. Throughout history, olive oil has been a basic necessity for most, not only in dishes, but in wine as well.
Outside of olive oil, another ingredient that is found in the majority of Greek cuisine are spices. The citizens of Greece tend to use a plethora of different spices to accentuate their dishes. As most spices are locally grown, they are in good supply throughout many regions. The most common are mint, basil, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, oregano, and saffron. Coriander, also known as cilantro, is used in a variety of dishes that range from marinades for lamb and pork to hummus. Oregano, one of the most popular spices, tends to be paired with marinades and salads. These spices have been a staple of Greek cuisine for thousands of years, and will likely continue to be used in such a manner for thousands more.
There are, quite literally, hundreds of amazing Greek dishes to choose from, though there are some particularly popular dishes that stand above the rest. Soup is one of the few dishes that is able to utilize many of the most popular ingredients in its recipe. Out of the myriad of soups, the most popular ones are the Fassolatha, a sumptuous white bean soup, and the Avgolemono, which is a creamy chicken soup used most often in Greek households. The Saganaki, which is basically just fried cheese, though with a Greek twist, as well as the Moussaka and Baklava are also among the most popular dishes in all of Greece. Moussaka is a traditional casserole using eggplant and spiced meat, while Baklava is a delicious Greek pastry that has delighted tourists for centuries.
While the holidays are a joyous time in any country, Greece, in particular, delivers exciting festivities year in and year out. The cuisine that accompanies these holidays is quite enchanting. The most essential food for Christmas is the Chistopsomto, which is a loaf of break drizzled with honey that is eaten on Christmas Eve. The Karythopita is a wonderful walnut spice cake that is particularly common in the households of those who live on the Ionian islands, and has been for many years. Turkey, lamb, or pork are the most common meats used for dinner on holidays, while Melomakarona cookies and Kataifi confections adorned with cinnamon and sugar round out the most popular desserts. No matter which holiday you spend in Greece, there are a wealth of holiday foods that are sure to please any palette.
Easter in Greece is also a unique experience. With traditional bread, called Tsoureki, to lamb roasting on a spit, it’s a joyous occasion. If you find yourself in Greece during easter, you may even get a change to play a game called, Tsougrisma, or egg tapping. To learn more about Greek Easter, go to our page: Greek Easter: An Overview Of The Holiday.
As you can see, when you’re eating the foods of Greece, you’re not only experiencing food that taste amazing, and is extremely healthy for you, you’re also indulging in dishes that have been around for thousands of years. The local produce and freshness of each meal will intoxicate your senses and the unique spices will have a profound mark on everything you try.
No matter which foods you sample, Greek cuisine is one that you will never forget.