Eating and drinking in Greece can be a nightmare if you are vegetarian, although the Greek cheese and yoghurt are superb. It’s just that most Greeks don’t understand that some people don’t like/eat meat or the products that come from an animal. For a carnivore, it’s a paradise of course, if you don’t mind warm food.
Choose a taverna where Greeks are eating and having a great (loud) time. You can be sure the food is good in that particular establishment as Greeks love to eat, drink and talk (loudly). They are an expansive, friendly lot on the whole and if curious about you will either stare unabashed or ask you questions. They might invite you to partake of raki and mezes or wine with nibbles – like the Turks, they think that you should eat while drinking. The traditional toast is stemi yassas (plural and formal) or yassou (singular and informal). This means to your health, while the Turkish toast sherafay means to your honour, and this shows, in part, the difference between the two cultures. Now you know the phrases it will help smooth your way into Greek social occasions!
At Easter and at various celebrations such as weddings and baptisms, the Greeks will have a spit-roasted lamb or kid and alongside the animal there will be another spit of roasting entrails – kokoretsi. Now you may not want to know what this is in detail, so let me just say that it consists of bits we would throw away in the UK or US, and I hasten to add it was at one time banned by the European Union but is now “allowed” because of its cultural significance in Greece – or perhaps not, it’s Greece. Who knows?
Greeks also have a sweet tooth and snack on loukoumades (a kind of doughnut) smothered in honey for breakfast, with baklava coated in sweet syrup for dessert or a sweet snack. Bakeries are full of pastries which could be sweet or savoury, from spinach and cheese pies, while you can find sweet pastries and cakes in the Zacharoplastia or patisserie. There are also creperies which cater for sweet and savoury tastes.
I love Greek winter fare, the stifados and kleftikos. The stifados are made traditionally with rabbit and small onions or shallots with red wine, and spices, although now they may be with beef or even chicken. Kleftikos were cooked by thieves and brigands in sealed clay pots so that the smell did not carry to alert anyone to their hideouts.
In summer the fish soup is incredible although that is true all year round if you are on an island. What goes into this is one of the ugliest fish I have ever come across, with a huge mouth! Tastes good though! The seafood is superb on the islands an even in Athens as it comes into the fish market fresh every morning (at the crack of dawn). There are always kalamare (squid rings) these days as people seem not to enjoy dealing with whole sea creatures on their plates. Don’t let this put you off ordering a fresh fish though, as the waiters will fillet it for you on our plate.
Kalo orexi – Enjoy your meal!
- A Guide to Eating and Drinking in Greece (lynnee8.wordpress.com)