Cuisine is one of the highlights of visiting Greece. The Greek Mediterranean cuisine is based on olive oil, feta cheese, seafood, vegetables, and herbs that give the Greek cuisine its unique taste. The Greek climate is ideal for the local produce, including many colorful fruit. Many regions of Greece serve traditional foods and meals that are unique to those particular regions, and cannot be found anywhere else.
Some of the unique Greek dishes are:
- Souvlaki made with pork meat, tzatziki, tomato and onions
- Mousakas made with eggplants, potatoes, mince meat and besamel sauce
- Pastitsio made with pasta, ground meat, cheese and besamel sauce
- Tzatziki made with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, vinegar and olive oil
- Skordalia made with potatoes, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
- Taramousalata made with cod roe, potatoes, lemon juice and olive oil
- Stuffed Vegetables tomatoes, peppers or zucchini stuffed with flavored rice
- Dolmades vine leaves stuffed with flavored, herbed rice
- Anthous zucchini flowers stuffed with herbed rice
- Greek Salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil
Greek desserts include baklava, milk pie, bougatsa and kataifi. Some of the fruit that is associated with Greek cuisine are red watermelon, yellow melon, pears, grapes and figs.
Throughout the Greek history, food has been a kind of philosophy for Greeks. Instinctively they seem to know that what makes a perfect feast is not just great food, but also the good company. Food is always prepared with guests in mind, should the dishes be roasted or fried, light or heavy, and the wine carefully chosen. Much of the conversation at the dinner table centers amicably around the food. The freshness of the fish, having just leapt from the sea, the vegetables just dug out from the ground or picked from the vines of the local farmers. The host will want to proudly point out how they have attempted to provide the best and freshest produce for you to enjoy.
The traditional eating schedule is still de rigueur on the islands. It begins early with a quick breakfast of coffee and pastries or dried Rusk soaked in warm milk, followed by a substantial lunch and a siesta. After a few hours more work, evening is the time to relax with family and friends whilst nibbling meze, the Greek appetizer. This is followed by late dinner with sweet pastries, cakes or ice-cream enjoyed afterwards in the cafes. Strong distinctive tastes are the hallmark of this culinary rhythm. Herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, coriander, dill, fennel, and sage; spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla, and mastic are all crucial.
The traditional diet and method of cooking food in Greece have not changed since the ancient times, the original flavors and ingredients are still used along with the most basic ingredient of all - Greek olive oil. Olive oil enriches and flavors and the traditional cooking methods of grilling and long slow baking all enhance and mellow the food.
Eating and drinking in Greece is still wonderfully enjoyable and very democratic, young and old, wealthy and not so wealthy, the ordinary people and the celebrities, all enjoy the same favorite neighborhood tavern, restaurant or cafe. Today, the special meals and special occasions are more likely to take place in local taverns or restaurants than in private homes, with all the other guests enjoying live, traditional music and spontaneous dancing. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks created a civilization, of which part was the idea of good living. One of the major philosophers in the Hellenistic period was Epicurus. His teachings point to the fact that all actions lead to attaining pleasure, conceived of as tranquility, and it can be attained by limiting the desires and by banishing the fear of the gods and of death. Pleasure, simplicity, and good friends were central to his theory of life.
For ancient Greeks, wine was the drink of the Gods, and even today it is the most popular drink in Greece. Among the most popular wines is the Retsina - a wine that foreigners either love or hate. It is a wine prepared in a traditional way, whose name comes from the resin that it contains. You can still find places and taverns that sell wine from barrels. Other popular wines in Greece are Kokineli and Brusco (red dry wines) and Mavrodafni of Patras (sweet dessert port wine), Muscat of Samos or Samiotiko.