Thursday, April 07, 2005

Greece: a culinary paradise

Foreign travel has always been one of my passions in life, and, like most people, sampling new and exotic foods is one of the most exciting part of any trip. On my recent trip to Greece, I was blown away by the cuisine and I miss it already.
One of the most well-known staples of the Greek cuisine is the Greek salad, which is a simple but heavenly mix of vegetables and cheese. It is usually piled high with tomatoes, onions, olives, and maybe cucumbers, and then, of course, topped off with a humongous chunk of feta cheese. A piece of feta cheese that size would probably cost several hundred yen in Japan, so the cheese alone makes the price worth it. It's intimidating to see all that cheese on a salad, but if you are sharing, it will disappear quickly. Another famous Greek staple is souvlaki, which is essentially pita bread stuffed full with lamb or chicken, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, a lovely sauce of yoghurt and garlic. Obviously, souvlaki is terrible for your breath, but wonderful for your tummy! Despite rising prices in Greece, you can usually get a souvlaki for around 1.5 euro, which makes for a filling and economical lunch. If you want coffee with your meal, however, add 3 more euro--twice the price of your lunch!
What I especially liked about Greek cuisine was the approach to eating. Although Greeks tend not to eat dinner until the unbearable hour of 9 or 10 at night, the wait is well worth it. Greek food often consists of a series of mezes, which are small dishes to be shared. This makes eating in Greece a much more communal affair than in the US, as people share everything when they eat, similar to eating in a Japanese izakaya. Eating is very casual and enjoyed, as people stick their forks straight into each dish and place pieces of bread right on the table.
Another great aspect of the Greek approach to eating is if you wash everything down with ouzo, the most famous Greek alchohol. Although this drink has the unique and acquired taste of black licorice, it goes surprisingly well with food. It goes to the head quickly, so it is guaranteed to make dinner conversation livelier and more interesting.
Finally, despite constantly stuffing my face while in Greece, I always felt like I was having a healthy meal. Greek food is full of vegetables, seafood, and the good oil (olive oil), so you could eat a lot while feeling like you were giving something good to your body as well.
Again, eating is the highlight of any trip, and I will daydream of Greek cuisine for months to come...


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