Traditional Greek food is cooked from scratch. Shop-bought or ready-prepared ingredients are rarely used.
In Greek cuisine you will discover an example of the healthy Mediterranean diet. The art of Greek cooking is to keep it simple, to savor the taste of fresh produce, to taste the fabulous combinations of herbs and spices, and to experience the very essence and taste of Greece.
The Greek climate is ideal for growing fruit and vegetables, especially olive and lemon trees, two of the main ingredients in Greek cooking. Herbs and spices grow wild in the fields and on the mountain sides. Oregano, thyme, mint, and garlic are just a few of the fresh herbs used to enhance the flavors of traditional Greek dishes, not to smother them. Basil, the king of herbs, gives that uniquely Greek flavor. Most Greek families have a pot of this pungent aromatic herb at hand, ready to be freshly picked and added to the cooking pot to give that extra something that taste of Greece.
Greece is a country of fishermen and nowhere on the Greek mainland is very far from the sea. Fish and seafood play a large part in the Greek diet and are always fresh. Greeks are so sure and proud of the freshness and quality of their food that it is common to be invited into the kitchens of restaurants and tavernas to see for yourself the food being cooked and to choose your own fresh fish. The chef is very likely to tell you where the recipe originates from, how it is cooked, and what the ingredients are.
Lamb and goat are the most common meats eaten in Greece especially for local festivals and family celebrations and, of course, at Easter. A Greek Easter is not Easter without lamb! Poultry, beef, and pork are plentiful, but the most traditional Greek dishes use lamb or goat. Most Greek families will usually eat meat only once or twice a week. The other days they take advantage of the locally grown fresh herbs and vegetables.
Vegetarians are easily catered for in Greece since there is such an abundance of fresh vegetables used to make the tastiest of dishes: stuffed tomatoes and green peppers filled with spicy rice and green beans cooked in a delicious tomato sauce flavored with garlic and fresh herbs, are just a couple. There are so many more. When the meal doesn’t contain meat, they will have as a side dish locally fresh cheeses usually organically produced as a source of protein.
Vineyards cover a large area of the Greek countryside. Greece has become well known for its fine wines, perfect for accompanying Greece’s wonderful dishes.
Ingredients and cooking methods have changed very little since ancient times. Each mouthwatering Greek dish carries with it a small piece of history. When Alexander the Great enlarged his empire from Europe to India, northern and eastern influences were added. When Greece was taken by the Romans in 146 BC, Roman influences were also added. In 330 AD, the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople, creating the Byzantine Empire. Pursuant to the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 all dishes and food were given Turkish names that remain the same today for many Greek traditional dishes. With each invasion of Greece came new culinary influences: tzatsiki (cacik in Turkish), dolmades (dolma in Turkish), and hummus (Arabic for chickpea), to name a few.
Greek food is steeped in history. Not only was Greece the cradle of civilization; it was also the cradle of the art of cooking, Greek cooking. The first cookbook was written by Archestratos, in 330 BC. The tall white hat worn by chefs today was first worn by Greek monks who prepared the food in the Greek Orthodox monasteries in the middle ages to distinguish them from the regular monks who wore tall black hats.