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How to Eat Your Way Around Greece

Today we are featuring Julie Bowman who loves independent worldwide travel and immersing herself into the local culture, trying the local foods, visiting unusual local sights and bringing plenty of mementoes home!

Eating in Greece is a fantastic way to learn about the culture and the people as there here there is a really strong emphasis on family and dining is an extension of those beliefs. When in Greece, a traveller can expect to eat dinner very late as many restaurants open at 9:00 pm (don’t worry, most of the tourist restaurants operate longer opening hours) and the meal usually lasts until midnight or later. It is wise to eat snacks throughout the day so you are not starving hungry by dinnertime!

Greek food is an interesting blend of Mediterranean influences, with a bit of Italian and Arabic backgrounds thrown in for good measure. The main things that anyone can order with confidence (due to their huge popularity in the west) are things like Moussaka which is minced lamb and eggplant (aubergine), which is usually baked and served with rice. Another well-known Greek sandwich type food is Gyros (pronounced heroes), which is usually thinly sliced meat on a skewer that has been slow cooked and placed on pitta bread with a cucumber lemon sauce and thinly sliced tomatoes and onions. Another tasty item that visitors can try is known as Stifado, which is a hearty stew made from veal and it is usually made in a base of red wine sauce.

An item that will seem to be somewhat familiar to travellers is a form of Greek lasagne known as Pastiso. Another fabulous choice is spaghetti made with lobster sauce. Try spanakopita, which is a popular dish locally and is a type of spinach pie made with very thin layered filo dough pasty with feta cheese. A fantastic end to a meal is Baklava, which is a traditional Greek dessert made with filo dough and nuts that have been soaked in honey and sometimes with a honey cinnamon sauce, always a sweet ending without being overwhelming (unless you pack too many away).

When eating out in Greece, visitors can expect the use of a variety of local dairy products and farm products as the Greek are rightfully proud of their produce. Expect the heavy use of goats cheese, feta cheese and haloumi in many meals, after all Greece is the world’s biggest consumer of cheese! Another kitchen staple is olive oil, tomato paste and freshly squeezed lemon.

The types of restaurants found in Greece range from very casual dining spots known as Tavernas, to the more formal Estiatorio, which are sit-down restaurants with tablecloths and a slightly higher price tag to boot. The drinks and food can flow for hours and since it is customary to take up to three hours to consume a meal, visitors should embrace the laid back culture and enjoy the experience. One interesting custom when dining in a formal Estiatorio type restaurant is that visitors will often be asked to visit the kitchens to choose what they will eat.

As far as drink goes, Greeks as a rule rarely drink beer, preferring instead liquor known as Ouzo, the national drink of Greece which is sweet and tastes of aniseed. Commonly wine is the drink of choice to be served with dinner. There is no drinking age limit in Greece, so often young children will be found drinking with adults.

Perhaps one of the strangest foods to be found in Greece is tripe soup, which is made from the stomachs of cows and another odd soup known as cow lung soup, which is self-explanatory! For the extremely adventurous, there is a treat known as sea squirt. Sea squirt resembles a rock and when it’s cut open; the insides are pulled out and eaten, dripping! Make sure you’ve packed your indigestion tablets on your adventure trip!

For snacks on the run, there are pie stands which feature a fantastic variety of pies from feta cheese pies, with or without spinach, and sweet pies such as a version of pumpkin pie and vanilla custard pies. The smell from these pie stands entice visitors daily! Souvlaki shops are also found on almost every street corner for a quick and filling pick me up while shopping or running errands. For the most part, Greek food is amazingly tasty and will create fond memories that travellers can recreate once home.