As a child I heard the expression, “It’s all Greek to me”. The phrase struck me as curious so I had to think it over. It might be because Greece is so vast. With so many islands and dialects akin to colorful history and contributions to our never changing world, it is simply hard to keep up with, and yes the language is challenging. Yet, who can deny that Greeks make some of the most passionate tasting food there is. The mix of flavors is akin to an Italian Opera. Greek dishes often contain spicy components that fit gracefully among other ingredients to create superb flavors.
To mention a little bit about Greece, one would have to mention Mount Olympus. It is one of the most popular sites in Greece. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in the country and home of the gods. It is also a world biosphere reserve. There are well over a thousand inhabitable islands throughout Greece in which 227 of them are populated. All of them sit between the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
Many traditional Greek snacks are originally from the Middle East, Egypt, and Turkey. Fresh feta cheese and Greek olives, hummus, falafel and grape leaves are some of the most popular ‘mezes‘ (snacking foods) to enjoy with drinks and friends. Stuffed grape leaves originated in ancient Rome. The Romans filled their leaves with meat.
Sweet cheese Pie called Kalitsounia is believed to originate from the island of Crete. It is a traditional dessert for the Easter holiday. Lychnarakia and Anevata are the most popular types and easiest to prepare. They are both made with a sweet cheese called mizithra which is the Greek version of ricotta. The dough is sweetened and commonly flavored with vanilla.
Bougatsa, a Thessalonian treat originated from immigrants of Constantinople in the city of Serres. It is a pastry filled with custard, mizithra or meat and is commonly found in Northern Greece.
Baklava had its start in Mesopotamia which was brought to Athens Greece by Greek fisherman.
Santorini, one of the islands on the Aegean Sea is home to Finikia, a picturesque village. Finikia created Melomakarona, a type of cookie made without dairy and flavored with orange juice. It is finished with a mixture of walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. It is enjoyed most during the holidays and is perfect for a Vegan diet.
Greek philosophers set the foundation for the principles of purposeful living. Ancient Greeks sought to expand horizons and explore life to the fullest. They are the original think tank for politics, medicine, and sports. *Philosophers themselves acknowledged the great nutritional value of hummus in their writings.
One of my favorite lunch choices is the Gyro, (jeer-oh) a “revolutionary” modern Greek dish with thinly sliced roasted lamb, wedged in a pita sandwich with onions, lettuce, and tomato and topped with yogurt sauce.
If it’s all Greek to me, I think I can live with that. Beautiful culture, sites, sounds, and textures, and simply wonderful food. I’ve only been there once when I was very young and do not remember it as well as I would hope, but I have another trip on my to-do list. Long Live Greece!