Greek Cuisine BY Jake Schipper

Mainland Geographical Features: Greece forms the southernmost part of the Balkan peninsula with two additional smaller peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalcidice and the Peloponnese. Mainland Greece covers about 80% of the country's total territory and is largely mountainous. The largest mountain range of Greece is the Pindus range, the southern extension of the Dinaric Alps, which forms the spine of the Greek mainland. The country's tallest mountain is Mount Olympus, which also separates Thessaly from Macedonia. Its highest peak rises to 2,919 m above sea level, making it the second highest of the Balkan peninsula after Musala in the Rila Mountains.

Island Geographical Features: The number of islands vary between 1,200 and 6,000. A figure frequently cited in travel guides is 1,425 islands, of which 166 are said to be inhabited. The Greek islands amount for about 20% of the country's total territory, and vary greatly in size as well as in climate. The country's largest island is Crete, with Euboea being second largest. Many of the smaller Greek islands form groups or chains, often called archipelagos, with notable examples being the Cyclades and the Sporades in the south and central Aegean sea respectively.

Religion: Religion in Greece is dominated by the Greek Orthodox Church, which is within the larger communion of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It represents the majority of the population and is constitutionally recognized as the "prevailing religion" of Greece. Religions with smaller numbers of followers include Islam, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Hellenic Paganism and Hinduism.

  • Eastern Orthodoxy and other Christian (88.1%)
  • Islam (5.3%)
  • no religion (6.1%)
  • others (0.5%)

Food History (Ancient Greek Proteins): Ancient Greeks didn’t eat much meat. But since Greece is surrounded by water, fish were easy to get. Many varieties were available in the markets. Many Greeks thought of eating meat as something that barbarians did. The Greeks believed they were more civilized than that. As a result, they hardly ate meat at all.

Food History (Ancient Greek Beverages): The most widespread drink was water. Fetching water was a daily task for women. Though wells were common, spring water was preferred: it was recognized as nutritious because it caused plants and trees to grow, and also as a desirable beverage. Wine was the main drink in ancient Greece. It was watered down; to drink it straight was considered barbaric. Milk was rarely drunk, because again, it was considered barbaric.

Food History (Ancient Greek Utensils): The Greeks did not have any eating utensils, so they ate with their hands. Bread was often used to scoop out thick soups. Bread was also used as a napkin to clean hands. After being used as a napkin, the bread was then thrown on the floor for the dogs or slaves to clean up at a later time.

Food History (Ancient Greek Symposiums): The symposium, traditionally translated as "banquet", but more literally "gathering of drinkers", was one of the preferred pastimes for the Greeks. It consisted of two parts: the first dedicated to food, generally rather simple, and a second part dedicated to drinking. However, wine was consumed with the food, and the beverages were accompanied by snacks such as chestnuts, beans, toasted wheat, or honey cakes, all intended to absorb alcohol and extend the drinking spree. Women of the house were not permitted to attend. After giving a wine offering to the gods, the men drank and talked about politics or morals. Often young girls and boys would be employed to entertain guests with music and dance.

Current Greece (Importance of Olive Oil): Greece typically produces the third largest amount of olive oil in the world, after Spain and Italy—around 300,000 metric tons per year. Greeks consume more olive oil per capita than anyone else in the world—almost 13 kilograms annually in 2013-14 according to the International Olive Council (IOC), and even more in certain regions. only 27% of Greek olive oil is bottled and branded in Greece, rather than sold in bulk or informally passed on to friends, while 50 percent of Spanish olive oil and 80% of Italian oil are standardized in their country of origin—although 80% of Greek olive oil is extra virgin, the highest quality, far more than anywhere else in the world.

Main Dishes in Current Greek Culture

1. Olives and Olive Oil

Greeks have been cultivating olives for millennia. Some even say that Athena gave an olive tree to the city of Athens, thus winning its favour. Greek meals are accompanied by local olives, some cured in a hearty sea salt brine, others like wrinkly throubes, eaten uncured from the tree. Similarly, olive oil, the elixir of Greece, is used liberally in cooking and salads, and drizzled over most dips and dishes. Many tavernas use their own oil.

2. Dolmades

Each region in Greece, in fact, each household, has its variation on the classic grape leaf-wrapped rice parcel. Eaten as a finger food, some stuffed vine leaves incorporate mincemeat with the long-grain rice, others, simply a heady combination of thyme, dill, fennel, oregano or pine nuts.

3. Moussaka

Variations on moussaka are found throughout the Mediterranean and Balkans, but the iconic Greek baked dish is based on layering: sautéed aubergine, minced meat fried pureed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, and then a final fluffy topping of cheese and béchamel sauce.

4. Honey & Baklava

Greeks love their sweets, often based on olive oil and honey combinations, with flaky filo pastry. The classic baklava is a start, layering honey, filo and ground nuts. Or galaktoboureko, a sinful custard-filled pastry. Simply, pour a lovely dollop of local thyme honey over fresh Greek yogurt.

5. Chicken Soup Avgolemono

The ultimate in Greek comfort food, this soup is a hearty and delicious staple of any Greek household. Avgolemono is a classic sauce of chicken broth, egg yolks and lemon juice; the addition of a bit more chicken broth, rice and shredded chicken turns it into a satisfying soup.

6. Tzatziki - Creamy Cucumber-Yogurt Dip

A cucumber dip flavored with garlic is the perfect complement to grilled meats and vegetables. Tzatziki is made of salted strained yogurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) or diluted yogurt[1] mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and some herbs like dill, mint, parsley, and thyme. It is always served cold and is served on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki.

Credits:

Created with images by PublicDomainPictures - "orthodox greece church" • futureshape - "Olives" • angusf - "Dolmades" • Cyprus Tourism CH - "Moussakas" • insatiablemunch - "Baklava" • Klearchos Kapoutsis - "Tzatziki"

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