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The Greek Food Invasion

February 23, 2013
By Jennifer Thompson
If you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding,  you likely are aware that food is a major part of Greek culture.
For thousands of years Greece has led the way in the culinary arts.  Archestratos wrote the first cookbook in 320 B.C.  Greece is also credited with originating the white chef’s hat.  Specifically, in the middle ages, the monks responsible for food preparation wore tall white hats as a way to distinguish themselves from the other members of the monastery.
Meals are of great cultural and social significance to the Greeks.  For the ancient Greeks, food was seen not only as physical nourishment, but as an opportunity for socializing.  Symposiums were frequent pastimes for the men.  These events began with a banquet and continued with a toast to Dionysus (the god of wine) followed by a good deal of drinking, games, and entertainment.  The social aspect of food is a tradition that continues today.  Meals are an opportunity to visit with friends and family.  Sitting down to dinner is an event that may last several hours.
Greek cuisine has evolved through the centuries, but many things have remained constant.  Ancient Greek cuisine was founded on three ingredients: wine, wheat, and olive oil.  Honey and figs were also frequently used.  The Greeks ate very little meat, as meat consumption was closely tied to religious animal sacrifice.  Today Greece has the highest consumption of olive oil in the world.  Contemporary meals continue to primarily utilize wheat, wine, and olive oil, as well as vegetables, herbs, and various meats.

Greek woman grinding wheat in a basin. Terra cotta, c. 450 BC. British Museum

An ancient Greek meal might include:
  • Bread dipped in wine
  • Olives
  • Figs
  • Cheese
 A modern Greek meal might include:
  • Dolmadakia: grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables
  • Spanakopita: spinach, feta cheese, onion, and egg layered in phyllo pastry
  • Fasolada: soup consisting of beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and olive oil
  • Moussaka: ground meat and eggplant casserole topped with custard
  • Baklava: phyllo pastry layered with nuts and honey

Hungry?  I know I am!

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