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THE GREEK CUISINE


Traditional Greek dishes

    Its unique tastes are some of the things which set Greece apart. You are in for pleasant culinary surprises while in this country. Contrary to common belief you will soon discover that Greek cuisine does not solely consist of mousaka, souvlaki and horiatiki salata.

    Greek cuisine has a great variety of dishes and can be an extremely satisfying culinary adventure for both meat-eaters and vegetarians. It could not be otherwise in the country that gave birth to the symposiums and the Epicurean philosophers. It was, in fact, Archestratos in 330 B.C., who wrote the first cookbook in History and let us not forget, that cuisine is a sign of civilization. Greece has a culinary tradition of some 4,000 years.

    Nevertheless, like most national cuisines, the Greek, has both influenced others and embraced ideas from its easterly and westerly neighbours.


THE TRADITIONAL CREEK CUISINE

What distinguishes the traditional Greek cuisine from others is a combination of the following factors: the unique ingredients, the Greek philosophy concerning matters of eating and sharing meals, and the country itself, the total environment.

    THE BASIC INGREDIENTS

Greek cuisine has four secrets: the good fresh ingredients, the judicious use of herbs and spices, the famous Greek olive oil and its basic simplicity. Greek olive oil merits a special mention. Greek olive oil Present in almost all Greek dishes and in most of them in abundance, it is of excellent quality and very good for the health. Then there are the vegetables and herbs.

Due to the mild Greek climate, forced growth of vegetables is not widespread. Therefore most vegetables are grown naturally and full of aroma and taste. You will be delighted by the taste of Greek tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, onions, parsley and garlic, not to mention the rich flavour and aroma of its fresh fruit : grapes, apricots, peaches, cherries, melons, watermelons, to name but a few. The herbs, that almost all the Greeks collect from their mountains and countryside, are renowned for their taste, scent and healing properties. Eating one of the many different Greek dishes the aroma of oregano, thyme, spearmint or rosemary, will inebriate you. Do not forget to try also the Greek cheeses and particularly feta.

As lambs and goats in Greece are free-grazing and the pastures are very rich in herbs, the meats have a unique taste not to be found anywhere else in the world. Seafood from the Mediterranean sea is by far more tasty than that from the oceans. In the Aegean and the lonian sea the waters are crystal clear and abound with fish. Charbroiled fresh fish is considered a treat.

    THE GREEK PHILOSOPHY

The time of day when Greeks gather around a table to enjoy a meal or various appetizers (mezedes) with ouzo, is a time held in reverence by all the inhabitants of this country. For the Greeks, sharing a meal with friends, either at home, in a restaurant or a taverna, is a deeply rooted social affair. The Greek word symposium, a word as ancient as the country itself, if translated literally means drinking with company. The atmosphere in typically Greek restaurants and tavernas, is very relaxed, informal and unpretentious. Food preparation, on the other hand, has its own sacred rules. Good amateur cooks are held in great esteem in their social circles. A good houseperson in Greece, means a good cook. And a good cook can spend days preparing a meal for his or her friends.

    THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT

Athenian taverna Try having a glass of ouzo or wine, accompanied by barbecued octopus or any other Greek dish, while sitting beneath the shade of a tree, in a small tavern by the sea, on one of the Aegean islands. Then, when you go back home, try repeating that experience by preparing the same dish and serving the same drink. No matter where you decide to have it you will soon discover that it does not taste the same. Do not try again. There is nothing wrong with the delicacy of your palate or your cooking skills.

The Greek meal experience, namely the combination of what you eat and where you eat it, cannot be repeated, exported or duplicated. It is just something you can only find, taste and enjoy in Greece, like the blue of the Aegean Sea.


THE GREEK WINES

Greece, apart from giving birth to Dionysos, patron god of wine, is the birthland of the first VQPRD wines in history. They were the wines of the islands of Chios and Thasos, renowned in all the ancient world. For various historical and social reasons, as well as various natural disasters, the art of wine-making was neglected from the middle of the nineteenth century until the early sixties. It was then that the ancient traditions of wine-making started being rediscovered and today one can find many excellent Greek wines produced all over the country.

When tasting Greek wine, keep in mind that it is a product of a distinctive environment and of grape varieties unknown to western wine lovers. The wines of Greece are divided into 4 distinct categories: 1. the Controlled Appellations of Origin. 2. the Appellations of Origin of Superior Quality. 3. the local wines and 4. the table wines.

    THE CONTROLLED APPELLATIONS OF ORIGIN

This is a category that contains only the liqueur wines, such as the Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia and Patras, the Muscats of Patras, Lemnos, Cephalonia, Rhodes and the Doux of Samos.

    THE APPELLATIONS OF ORIGIN OF SUPERIOR QUALITY

This category contains many of the best wines of Greece. There are 20 areas so far that have the right for Appellation of Origin. In northern Greece, there are the Appellations of Zitsa, Amyntaio, Goumenisa and Naousa. In Chalkidiki, the Appellation of Playies Melitona. In Thessaly, there are Anchialos and Rapsani. Near Athens, Kantza. In the Peloponnese, the appellations of Patra, Mantinia and Nemea. In the Ionian islands, the Robola of Cephalonia. Also in the islands of Paros, Lemnos, Rhodes and Santorini. Finally in Crete there are the appellations of Archanes, Peza, Sitia and Daphnes. Both the above categories of Appellations have a blue and a red banderole respectively, affixed over the mouth of each bottle.

    THE LOCAL AND THE TABLE WINES

These categories hide many pleasant and intoxicating surprises for the wine lover.



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