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The Greeks love eating and the Grecian love for food is well known all over the world. Their cuisine is all about a variety of tastes, aroma, flavors, colors, and textures. Their food is healthy, delicious and fun to prepare. In fact, they’re so passionate about their food that it is believed that Archestratus, a Greek poet and a connoisseur of food, is said to have written the first cookbook in 350 B.C.
Greek cooking dates back thousands of years. It has a rich history, which will be discussed further in the post. The great thing about Grecian cuisine is that the ancient cooking traditions and recipes are still very much a part of their diet even today. These include dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and many other preparations made using fruits, vegetables and grains.
Greek cuisine derives influence from both the East and the West. In the olden times, thanks to the influence of the Persians, the Greeks started to include Middle Eastern foods like rice, yogurt and sweets made with honey, nuts and sesame seeds.
When Greece was invaded by the Romans in 197 B.C., the latter brought with themselves their food which largely included pasta. If you travel to the south of Greece, don’t be surprised to find Arabic influences in their food. Dishes containing spices and condiments such as cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and cloves are cooked in a variety of ways in these regions.
While coffee was introduced in Greece by the Turks, potatoes and tomatoes came from the US.
In fact, some of the Greek dishes are known by Turkish names till date. In 330 A.D., Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, which laid the foundations of the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantinople fell in the hands of the Turks in 1453 and remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for around 400 years, a period over which several dishes came to be known by Turkish names, and continue to be called the same to date.
So What Do the Greeks Typically Eat?
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The Greek diet is a healthy Mediterranean diet which makes use of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, seafood, and meat. Greeks everywhere use a lot of olive oil in their food, which is considered a healthier option to other types of oils.
The renowned Greek salad incorporates the use of lots of olive oil along with onions, Greek tomatoes and feta cheese. The famous Greek sauce/dip Tzatziki, which is served with the even more famous Souvlaki, also includes olive oil. This is probably what makes Greek cuisine so flavorful and healthy.
If you ever get the chance to enter a Greek kitchen, do so by all means. You’re sure to find it replete with vegetables and spices, which are mild in piquancy. You do not need to get alarmed at the thought of eating their red sauces as they’re not made of chili but cinnamon, which adds to the exoticness of the dish.
Eating Habits and Traditions
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Although we Greeks love gorging on exquisite gastronomical delights, we are not big breakfast eaters. In ancient Greece, it was called akratisma. Greeks typically eat a simple breakfast consisting of bread, cheese, fresh fruits, with adults ending the meal with a cup of coffee. The ancient Greeks would simply eat bread dipped in wine.
For a long time the lunch was the main meal of the day, particularly in rural areas, and was usually eaten early in the afternoon. It was followed by a couple of hours of rest, during which people stayed in their homes, and schools and businesses remained closed. Today, however, this has changed and people eat a light lunch with no special afternoon breaks in between. They may eat a big dinner or deipnon later.
Come early evening and the Greeks indulge in snacks or appetizers called mezes. It is an assortment of small dishes eaten before a meal and is traditionally served with either Greek wine or ouzo (for adults). Mezes may comprise fresh vegetables, meats, cheese, breads, dips, olives, etc. Some of the popular mezes items include souvlaki, hummus and pita bread, Spanakopitas, dolmades, and fish spread.
History of Grecian Wine
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Wine is one of the most important parts of a Grecian meal and has its roots planted deeply in Greek food history. As per the ancient scriptures, wine was introduced in Greece in 4000 B.C. and has been an inseparable part of Greek cuisine ever since.
The scriptures also suggest that wine was considered a part of Greek agriculture and was regarded as a gift from the Gods. It was diluted in water and then consumed. Wine-drinking festivals were held in the honor of Dionysus, a mythological being with the mind of a man and the nature of a beast.
The manufacturing of wine was at an all-time high during Homer’s era and continued to improve. The Greeks started using spices to add flavor to and store the wines. It is said that the decline in grape cultivation begun under the Ottoman regime.
When it comes to wine, many historians have gone to the extent of saying that Greece was to wine then what France is to it today.
Greek cuisine is interesting to look at as well as to eat. We prepare some of the classic Greek dishes right here at Despina’s Cafe. Our café and bakery is one of the best places to sample some of the tastiest and authentic Grecian delights such as Spanakopita, bougatsa, orzo salad, baklava, and so on. Feel free to drop in and try some of the said delicacies. And do not forget to ask for our signature almond cake!