Information about Gastronomy in Greece
Greece, with a culinary tradition spanning 4,000 years, is the country which invented the symposium and which was home to the Epicurean philosophers.
It was here, where the first book on cooking was written in 330 BC by Archestratus, a reminder that a country’s cuisine is a measure of its civilization. Ancient Greeks were pioneers in the art of cookery; authentic Greek cuisine, unique and full of vitality, just like the people of the land, marries the taste and the aroma of the fresh products coming from the Greek land and the blue sea that surrounds it.
Greek cuisine is characterized by frugality, based on simple ingredients, crispy fresh vegetables, virgin olive oil, honey, succulent fruit, fresh fish and, naturally, exquisite wines made with grapes ripening under the magnificent Greek sun, for decades now gaining ground on the world’s vinicultural stage.
International studies have recognized the value of the Greek cuisine. Launched in the early 60’s by the World Health Organization, the Seven Countries Study set out to examine the eating patterns of people from seven different countries: Greece, Italy, Serbia, Holland, Finland, the USA and Japan. This long-running study which lasted for 30 years showed that people living in the Mediterranean countries, Greece in particular, had lower mortality rates compared to the rest of the participating countries.
The “secrets” to Health and Longevity were documented as the combination of a simple diet and regular physical activity, dubbed as the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean diet is not simply a Greek claim; it is a unanimous conclusion reached by the international scientific community which supports that the traditional dietary patterns of the people residing around the Mediterranean basin are healthier compared to western eating habits.
Greek traditional cuisine and Greek gastronomy, the wine-making tradition, the great variety of dishes that changes with season and geography, the culinary habits passed down from generation to generation constitute elements of the overall Greek culture and each region individually (Cretan diet, island cuisine, Macedonian cuisine etc).
Greece has the potential and must become a gastronomic destination. Food has long been an intrinsic part of Greek culture, from harvesting the family groves and foraging for wild greens to gathering snails after rain. More than a mere necessity, for Greeks food is an element of their identity, bearing the mark of local traditions, customs and culture. The agricultural calendar still dominates life in rural areas, where traditional agricultural activities are social and cultural events. In Greece, there is an authentic gourmet trail through some dramatic mountain ranges, bucolic villages where little has changed over time, and fertile meadows where locals have been producing delicious olive oil and wine for centuries.
Travelling through the back-roads of the Greek countryside, visitors encounter a dazzling assortment of delicacies. Small, independent, honest producers compose an informal network of small-scale farmers, monastic communities, women’s cooperatives and small industries where tradition and technology coexist in harmony. They are still making their own wine, traditional cheeses, cured meats, handcrafted marmalade, fresh yogurt, aromatic honey, raki, wood-fired bread and even artisan pasta in myriad shapes and flavors. Hard-working people cultivating ancient family plots, monastic communities following time-honored traditions, young people turning to sustainable agriculture – this is the modern legacy of the Greek countryside. The versatility of the Greek culinary ecosystem originates and flourishes in the small plots of people entrusted with the safekeeping of food-making secrets passed down through generations.
Foodies tired of eating and drinking the same things again and again turn to quality-oriented artisan food producers of high quality, fresh, local organic food and products that draw their identity from the Greek landscapes and tradition.
- Greece’s countless olive trees are cultivated principally by families who own small plots usually forming cooperatives with rules regarding picking and production to ensure fine quality. Several manufacturers have earned top honors in international competitions for their extra-virgin olive oil.
- Today’s Greek winemakers produce what Forbes has called “some of the world’s most elegant and interesting” labels made from mostly indigenous grape varieties. Most of the Greek wines entered in the world’s biggest wine competition have won medals, with many bottles taking gold.
- Besides the famous feta, Greece has a slew of wonderful cheeses. Many regions and islands, and often a single village, have their own indigenous varieties, some aged in caves for months and mostly produced from the milk of goats and sheep freely nibbling wild grasses.
- The biodiversity of Greece lends itself to the production of a wide variety of award winning honey that either comes from flowers (thyme honey, orange honey, sunflower honey, briar honey, chestnut honey etc.) or from the sap of trees (pine and fir).
- From the rustic Cretan paximadi (dried rusk) to the hearty sweets of Northern Greece and the delicate confections of the Aegean and the Ionian islands, Greek traditional breads, cakes and cookies are made with an abundance of honey, nuts, molasses, fruits and even olive oil, a longstanding tradition dating back to the confections of the ancients.
- From trahana (pasta made of coarsely ground semolina and milk) to intricate homemade noodles, Greek artisan pasta is the main ingredient of many delicious meals.
- Famous for its ouzo and wine, Greece has been lately offering a selection of beers produced at mostly local breweries, with an incredible variety of flavors and a local character that make Greek beer truly special. Scattered throughout Greece, local microbreweries use top quality, all natural, original local ingredients which create a variety of flavorful, unfiltered, unpasteurized and preservative-free brews.
- Meat delicacies ranging from the famous Cretan apaki (smoked pork) to free-range water-buffalo sausages from the Kerkini region in northern Greece, garner awards at gourmet food expositions.
Pioneering Greek chefs source their ingredients from small, independent producers who have stayed faithful to what they know best. In an attempt to push their culinary boundaries without losing sight of the food’s origin, trendy Greek restaurants go the “slow food” route with a creative take on old-fashioned home-cooked meals based on the recipes of grandmothers and the experiences of village women in the kitchen.