Food is a huge part of Greek culture. It has to do with much more than just flavours and dishes. It has to do with the excellent ingredients, the lengthy procedure involved in preparing the food, and the culture of sharing dishes with others. Essentially, it has to do with bonding with others through one of life’s greatest pleasures. Read on for a small introduction to what makes food in Greece so special!
It’s not Greek food without…
Olive oil and feta cheese! These are the two absolutely essential staples for any Greek person around the world – no, we are not exaggerating. We take Greek olive oil and Greek feta cheese extremely seriously, and we are not prepared to use substitutes. In fact, there are very few Greek dishes where olive oil is not used.
As for feta cheese, to our knowledge, it cannot be replaced with any other cheese. We have tried – and failed miserably!
Variety of dishes
Food in Greece is made from fresh ingredients when cooking, like vegetables, pulses, nuts, yogurt, cheese, grains, fish and small amounts of meat. It’s no secret that Greek cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world! A meal out, will typically include several small dishes (meze) which are shared with everyone, just like the bill.
Measuring system in Greek cooking
Most Greek cook books offer quantities when it comes to recipes. However, most Greek people, especially Yiayias (Grandmas) don’t really measure quantities when cooking. The best measuring system in Greece is “with the eye”. Therefore, the question “how many olives go in a Greek salad?” doesn’t really have an answer.
Similarly, if you ask for 300 gr of feta cheese at the supermarket, don’t be surprised if you end up with a half kilo packet. It’s assumed that it will be eaten!
Hours spent in a Greek kitchen
Many typical Greek dishes, like our famous moussaka, take hours to prepare. This is what makes Grandma’s food delicious! During important holidays, like Greek Easter, food preparations can go on for days – but time spent consuming that food can be equally long. After all,“He who receives his friends and gives no personal attention to the meal which is being prepared for them, is not worthy of having friends” (Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin).
Some Greek food like home-made bread and stuffed tomatos and peppers take a long time to prepare, but they are totally worth it.
Eating with friends
Eating food in Greece is a big thing – it’s a social event, where you get to share a lot more than just food. To quote the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf”.
Meals that go on for hours are very typical of Greece – food, wine and good company make for a great combination! Even in crisis times, Greeks will go for long meals, though we might not order the amounts of food we used to do many years ago.
The hours to eat food in Greece are quite different than in most European countries. Depending on their profession, a Greek person might skip breakfast. Instead, they could have a coffee or two and a small snack like a koulouri during the morning. They will have some form of lunch around 2 pm, although an official lunch break is very uncommon. Dinner is usually late, after 9 pm, especially when it’s a dinner out with friends. On weekends, people can be seen having a meal at 4 or 5 pm. This is neither a lunch, nor a dinner – it’s something in between, according to appetite!
Where to eat food in Greece?
When visiting Greece, people are often surprised by how many different types of restaurants there are. Here are some of the most common types of restaurants, which, confusingly, are often very similar to each other!
- Taverna – A basic restaurant with a huge menu, many meat dishes, and, typically, friendly prices
- Psarotaverna – A restaurant offering many fish and seafood dishes
- Estiatorio – A restaurant slightly more upmarket than a taverna, with a huge menu
- Magirio – A basic taverna offering hearty, traditional Greek dishes and friendly prices
- Inomagirio – A basic taverna offering hearty, traditional Greek dishes, house wine and friendly prices
- Mezedopolio – A restaurant serving mostly small dishes, where the emphasis is on the company and the drink, rather than the amount of food
- Ouzeri / Rakadiko – A small mezedopolio serving food to accompany our strong alcoholic drinks, ouzo or raki
- Koutouki – A small, cosy taverna with an emphasis on house wine
- Psitopolio / Ovelistirio / Souvlakeri – A place offering souvlaki!
Of course, the ultimate experience of eating food in Greece, is to eat Greek food in a Greek home, especially if the food is made by a Yiayia!
Have you ever enjoyed a long meal with great company in Greece? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!