One of my all-time favorite movies is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My favorite line from that movie is, “What you don’t eat no meat, that’s okay, I’ll make you lamb.” It’s an entertaining and funny movie that has some truth to it in terms of Greek traditions minus Windex’s healing properties of course!
I have not had the pleasure of visiting Greece, but it’s on my list, so until then I will listen and learn from my friend who is Greek and has visited Greece many times. Most Greeks will start their day with a breakfast that consists of cheeeses like: kasseri, feta, and graviera along with paximathia a biscotti toast-like cracker along with tomatoes & olives. Lunchtime is typically hearty consisting of lamb, veal, chicken, fish and always lots of vegetables. After a long lunch, typically a few hours, they will have a siesta (a short nap like in most European countries) to re-charge. Everything shuts down, and all is quiet.
Then they wake to a cup of strong Greek coffee, made from ground beans that are finely ground to a powder-like consistency. The Briki is the traditional small coffee pot used to make Greek coffee. This coffee is served in tiny white cups called demitasse cups (like the ones for espresso). There will always be a bit of katakathi (grounds) or sediment at the bottom of the cup. Sometimes a sweet treat will be eaten like the traditional baklava or some Greek cookie like the tasty melomakarona or a butter or sesame cookie.
There are many delicious and popular dishes in Greece, far too many to name but here are a few. Let’s start with meze pronounced mez-ah, not an appetizer, not a meal, but a combo of the two to be shared with family and friends while visiting and socializing. Greeks are very social. They eat a lot of fish & shellfish and especially love grilled octopus which is served as a meze or a main dish. Melitzanosalata is often accompanied pita bread. It is a puree of eggplant with oil and garlic. Pita in several varieties are found all over Greece. Dakos pronounced DAH-kohss (also called “koukouvayia”) is often called “Greek bruschetta.”, and doesn’t require any cooking, so it’s simple and fresh. It is made from a dried bread made from barley with oil, tomato, cheese, oregano and olives, it resembles a pizza. Meze dishes are usually simple and tend to be salty as well as offering multiple food textures.
Some Greek foods you may be familiar with are Tzatziki (zɑːdˈziːki) a classic Greek dipping sauce which is made from strained yogurt (usually from sheep or goat’s milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes lemon juice, dill, mint, or parsley, and served as a dip or with grilled meats. The Gyro is a popular wrap in Greece eaten with meat, cheese and served in a warmed pita drizzled with Tzatziki. Spanikopita is a savory & delicious pastry-like treat made with feta and spinach, it is mouthwatering. The traditional Greek salad (an American favorite) consists of 2 large, juicy tomatoes, 1 cucumber sliced thinly no skin, peppers, any color, thinly sliced, capers, pitted olives typically Kalamata, red onion, feta cheese and crushed oregano. The dressing is mostly olive oil, but sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar is used. Kabobs are very big in Greece and consist of some type of meat and vegetable. And we can’t forget hummus. Check out my recipe for Dillish Hummus
Pastitsio pronounced pas·ti·tsio is comparable to a lasagna. Moussaka is another traditional favorite made with sliced eggplant and ground beef. Stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage are classic dishes. A popular rustic & simple stew in Greece is called Revithia Stew or chick pea stew. My friend shared her cherished family recipe with me. I’ll be sure to add it to my recipes. It’s veal chop and chick peas combined together with butter and sautéed onions creating a tasty stew that will give you a glimpse into Greek cooking and make you want to visit.
Family is at the heart and soul of any traditional Greek family. We get this vibe in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the mom is peeling potatoes (ALOT of potatoes) for a family gathering welcoming her future son-in-law and when asked by her daughter who did you invite and she responds, “you, me and the family” which indicates the entire extended family is part of the family celebration. I love that about Greek and Italian families, the more the merrier. They love to eat, laugh and have a good time and there is a multi-generational representation present at every gathering: Grandma, mom, daughter, and granddaughter.
The spit of good luck is real, trust me I know!! My neighbor does this to give good wishes. We feel loved and ok, kinda wet afterwards!