Greek salad, Choriatiki. Photographer Zone 41 (wikimedia commons)
No offense to Souvlaki down on Main Street, but they really don’t do justice to Greek food. The Greeks by Taco Bell are pretty authentic, but even what they’ve got doesn’t hold a candle next to what I’ve been eating here. Like most people, I love eating. Naturally I have been doing a lot of it here, and I am also taking a class on the Greek Palate.
Once you get past the greek salads, feta, and gyros, you have the chance to explore a wonderfully diverse food culture. Different parts of Greece have their own unique specialties and takes on popular dishes. In the northernmost part of Greece the food is very Balkan, in the east it is very middle eastern, and in the south you find the typical “mediterranean” type foods. Some of the common threads are: olives, pork, cheese, and eggplant. Pork is king here. One of the first questions I was asked when I got to campus was “You are not a vegetarian, are you?” It would be very hard to live as a vegetarian in Greece. You’re dining options would be limited, and the Greek salad would get old pretty quickly.
Food plays a very important role in Greece. Meals can last over two hours and you almost never just “grab a bite to eat.” There is fast food, but it is not as popular as it is in America. A common way to eat here is to order lots of small dishes, mezes, and share them in a group. This is definitely the best way to sample the flavors since you get to try a little of a lot.
Some of my favorite dishes have been pan fried calamari from a restaurant in the city, and a rabbit and onion stew that was a village’s specialty. I especially love the customary free dessert most places serve. Sometimes it even comes with an after meal drink to help you digest.
Of course, sometimes you just have to have that greasy gyro overflowing with fries and topped with ketchup, mustard, and tzatziki. Luckily, you can find corner shops with great gyros for just a couple euros all over the city.