Greek food in the past consisted mainly of gruel, legumes, salted fish, olive oil, vegetables and very little meat.
Greece is located in the southeast of Europe, and is surrounded by countries like Albania, Bulgaria, and on its two sides, it is surrounded by water bodies, namely the Aegean Sea and the Lonian Sea. Because of its geographical location, Greece has been an important part of the Roman trade routes, and hence, the people of Greece had a chance to meet and understand people and their cultures from far away. This has strongly affected the Greek cuisine. The trade route not only introduced various cultures to the people of Greece, but it also brought in the knowledge of various commodities that were being traded off, spices being the major one.
Greek food has been around for many centuries and is one of the first cooking styles to ever be recognized. While some of the dishes have changed over the years, many of the foods that Greeks eat today are the same as their forefather thousands of years ago. This region of the world has also produced one of the first cookbooks in history dating back to 350 B.C.
This blend of different foods and cultures has really made modern day Greek food very diverse. This diversity is one of the reasons this food has become so popular around the world. There is also a culture behind the way the Greeks consume their foods. They are not known for eating a large breakfast and during this time of the day they often will just eat some cheese or bread.
During lunch time people in Greece normally eat their largest meal. This typically takes place around the hours of 1 to 2 PM in the afternoon. They take a long lunch, much longer than those in the western part of the world. This allows them to stay home when the weather is often very hot outside. After lunch they return to work. For dinner, Greeks normally eat another light meal as they don’t want to load up on calories right before going to sleep.
These traditions have been handed down from generation to generation but there are some changes that are starting to emerge. Younger Greek’s who live in major cities often have larger dinners at night and eat a lighter lunch. This is probably due to the fact that they spend most of their time indoors and not out working on the farm. This is a recent shift and you might see more people in Greece adopting this non-traditional style of eating.
The ancient Greeks enjoyed dinner parties. Some were similar to modern dinner parties and others followed Greek traditions. A symposium was a banquet reserved for men. The first part was dedicated to food and the second part was for drinking. After the meal, a libation would start the drinking. It was often in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine. Guests would recline on couches while low tables held food or game boards. Dancers, acrobats, and musicians would entertain the men. Only the rich could afford large feasts. In most Greek homes, religious feasts or family events were the occasion of more modest banquets. The syssitia were mandatory meals shared by social or religious groups for men and youths, especially in Crete and Sparta. They served as both a kind of aristocratic club and as a military mess. The meals were simpler than meals served at a symposium.
Breads were eaten with most meals. There were many different varieties, including pita, tsoureki, kalouria, and paximadi. It was often served with a dip. The two main grains for bread were wheat and barley. Loaves of flat bread could be used as plates, but terracotta bowls were more common. Pieces of bread could also be used to spoon food or as napkins.
Fruits and Vegetables
In cities, fresh vegetables were expensive. Poorer city dwellers ate dried vegetables. Lentil soup was the workman’s typical dish. Fruits and nuts were eaten as dessert. Figs, raisins, and pomegranates were popular. Dried figs were also eaten as an appetizer or when drinking wine. Raw or preserved olives were another common appetizer.
Wine is one of the major ingredients of Greek food, and a major participant in the Greek food history. The ancient scriptures suggest that wine was introduced in Greece in 4000 BC. Wine was a part of Greek agriculture and was a major part of Greek food. Scriptures suggest that wine was considered as a gift from the Gods, and wine drinking festivals were held in order to honor the God Dionysus, a creature with the mind of a man and the instincts of a beast. Wine cultivation was at its peak in the Homer times and improved as the tradition was passed on in the family. The Greeks used spices to store and add flavor to wines. It is believed that the decline in wine cultivation in the country began under the Ottoman empire. Many historians say that Greece was back then, what France is today, when it comes to wines.