The early foods of the Greece are largely made up of what the people abundantly get from the land and the sea. Greek cuisine is notable for its famous triad, the grain that makes bread, grapes that turns into wine and olives for the oil. Livestock are scarce and mostly used to till the land or provide cheese. Fish, vegetables, bread and wine made up the traditional Greek meal.
But as Alexander the Great extend the borders of the Greek Empire, foreign influences started to change the commonly simple dishes of the islands. Invasions to the Greek islands also brought in a wider food types and taught the Greeks to cook differently. This is why Greek cuisine is loosely connected with and usually known as Mediterranean food. Invasions from the Balkans, Romans, Venetians, Slavs and the 400 year invasion of the Turks significantly changed the Greek cuisine. But the major influencers were the later Italian, French, Spanish, Persian and Indian cuisine.
Today, a simple Greek meal is a banquet. While they are still notable for the simple fish, wine and bread meals, sumptuous fares have already been added into the food choices. Coupled with the Greek hospitality and love of festivity, food has been part and parcel of any Greek ceremonies. No Greek event is held that doesn’t come with lots of eating, drinking, music and dancing.
It was also the Greeks who first made cooking an art. In the early 320 BC, a Greek foodie named Archestratos wrote the first acknowledged cookbook. The wearing of chef’s white tall hat also came from the tradition of chefs in early Greek monastery. In order to distinguish the cooks from the monks, who wear black hats; monks who prepared foods were made to wear the white counterpart. That tradition is still practiced today, with chefs given the distinction of white hats.
As much as the Greeks love politics and learning, they also acknowledged the art of cooking long before men of other nations thought of food preparation. Cooking was considered a menial job in the early civilization and thus relegated to women. In contrast, cooking was a man’s privilege in Greece. Early priests and monks are given the honor of slaughtering animals for food and for sacrificial rites. Food discussions and its merits are just as enthusiastic as any mathematical theorem.
Agora, or food market is a Greek word derived from its vibrant market places. These places largely resemble the present day farmer’s markets. Fresh produce from the farmer are sold or bartered. Food marketing is a serious business. They are handled with extreme care, very much like their adoration of the ancient gods.
Many of the Greek dishes we know today are actually adopted from other countries. The famous Greek rabbit stew, the stifatho, came from the Slavs. The yogurt actually came from their Bulgarian neighbors up north. Nomadic Romanians who crossed the borders showed the Greeks how to preserve spiced beef, or the pastourma. And the 400 year stay of the Moslem Turks practically vanished pork from the Greek tables for sometime. The Italians taught them pasta making and the Arabs influenced the Greeks with their coffee drinking habit. And the Venetians left them with sweet cookie recipes.
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