The Greeks eat three to five times in a day. Since olive is widely abundant in the regions, it is very commonly used in most dishes, and is the more famous staple of any Greek dish. Olive oil is used for cooking, and for salads, there is always olive oil drizzled on top.
Mezes is composed of small dishes served with wines or homemade liqueurs. These are usually bread flavored by dips, sauces or even fillings.
The great Greek chefs use more than just olives in their cuisine; they also use a lot more of flavorings like mint, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, bay laurel leaves, fennel seed and dill. They also like the sweeter spices like cinnamon and cloves. A bite of Greek food is combustion of flavors in your mouth.
Vegetables used to be the main food in the old Greek times when meat was a luxury, and consumed once or twice a week as source of protein. Vegetables that are widely available are tomato, potato, eggplant, green beans, green peppers, okra and onions.
Honey, which is used in preparing main dishes and desserts are mainly honey from the fruit and citrus trees like lemon and orange.
HOW THE GREEKS EAT
It must be all the blue of the MediterraneanSea that makes eating a feast in Greece. That and the flavorful cuisine.
Like any other nationalities, the Greeks have the usual three meals a day. Some go up to five, with snacks in between main meals. The largest meal is lunch.
Breakfast is usually a small fare of tea and bread. Tea is more commonly drank than coffee, which is more of a luxury. In the more modern times, breakfast is a grab-and-go fare of cheese pie, croissant or their version of a sesame bagel known as ‘koulouri’.
Around 11, if you only had tea and bread, then you most probably would want a mid-morning snack which can be a pie or a sandwich.
Lunch is rather late, considering there is a mid-morning snack. It is usually shared between 1:30 – 2:30 in the afternoon. This is the biggest meal so there is vegetable stew or maybe a casserole, the staple bread, some salad and wine. Those who can afford may have meat dishes.
Before life became a rat race, the Greeks liked to nap after lunch, waking up just before 6 for afternoon coffee. Coffee is usually enjoyed with something sweet, like a small dessert or cookie.
Dinner is later because of the snacks in between. Families come together between 9 – 10 p.m. dinner, though, is lighter with salad, a sandwich and fruit. If you haven’t had a heavy lunch, then dinner can be pizza, burgers or souvlaki, which refers to skewered meat and vegetables.
GREEK DISHES YOU SHOULD TRY
Greek cuisine is as rich as its culture. Here are dishes that you must try either in Greece or in an authentic Greek restaurant in your locality:
- Fish roe dip that is eaten with pita bread. The eggs of the fish are cured or salted, mixed with a potato or bread base, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Cured olives in salt sea brine, or fresh olives picked from the tree.
- Dolmades are a rice parcel that is eaten with fingers. Rice is mixed with mincemeat and some spices and is stuffed in vine leaves.
- Grilled meat, done Greek-style, is delicious whether it is skewered or wrapped in pita bread, eaten with tomato, onion and tzatziki, which is a creamy and tangy sauce of cucumber and yoghurt, with garlic, olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.
- Eggplant dish, Moussaka, is sautéed eggplant, minced meat, spices and potato baked with a topping of cheese and béchamel sauce.
- The coastal side of Greece is abundant with fish and squid. The Greek specialty calls for some grilling done with lemon and oil dressing. Smaller fishes are lightly fried.
- Squash balls or courgette balls. Sometimes, instead of balls, these are made into patties, like burgers. Courgette belongs to the same family with cucumber, squash and melon. It is pureed with dill and other spices. It is then made into balls or patties, then fried, and best eaten with the cooling tzatziki.
- Octopus is common in Greece and you would find them hanging out to dry along houses in the harbors. It is marinated, grilled or made into a stew with a wine sauce.
In a nutshell, if you haven’t tried Greek food at all, be adventurous and try it. Expect a rich, flavorful taste with its olive oil and spices. It is also nutritious as the Greeks are known for their longevity. Greek food is usually fresh, because the women like to go to the market every day. And finally, Greek food is a feast to the senses and to the stomach.
Tips on Eating Greek
If you are trying out Greek food for the first time, here are a few tips you may want to take note of:
- Greek food is always with olive oil. While it is healthy, it can also add calories. Ask for less oil in yours.
- For appetizers, skip the meat dishes and ask for appetizer with fruit or vegetable, like eggplant. Or go with tzatziki, the yoghurt and cucumber combination.
- Feta cheese and olives can be high in sodium. Ask that these be put in the side, and not mixed with your food.
- Ask for sauces and salad dressing on the side so you can control your portion.
- For main course, choose roast dishes over the creamy casseroles
- Filo desserts are usually rich in butter so be wary, or at least try just one. Don’t over indulge.
- Greek desserts have high fat and sugar content so go easy or share it with your friend.
- In a Greek restaurant, avoid ordering fried foods. Restaurants usually pre-fry them and just heat it up when ordered. When in Greece on summer time, order the vegetables. They are at its freshest.
When you are invited into the home of a Greek family, expect to be fed. They equate hospitality with food. A family gathering will always be noisy, fun and with strangers treated as family. There will always be good food, good wine and loads of laughter.