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The Cooking of Greece

by Matthew Locricchio

The Regions of Greece and How They Taste

Ancient and modern, rugged and serene, Greece remains the destination of countless travelers who come every year to be a part of the nation's history, beauty, and culture.

Mountains and rugged rock formations cover more than two-thirds of the landmass of Greece. Mount Olympus, the country's tallest mountain, was believed by the ancient Greeks to be the home of the gods. And who would blame them? At almost 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), it dominates not only the surrounding countryside but can be seen from the Aegean Sea.

Greece's culinary history was influenced by the cultures of India and Asia Minor whose trade routes found their way to the Mediterranean Sea. Ships brought new ingredients such as lemons and peaches and the spices cinnamon and nutmeg to Greece. Greek cooks used these exotic ingredients, adding a unique taste to the dishes they prepared.

Greek cooking is a cuisine that also reflects the influence of the holidays central to the dominant Greek Orthodox religion. Recipes without meat are prepared during Lent, a time of abstinence and prayer. The arrival of Easter and Christmas prompts great celebrations when special breads, main dishes, and remarkably rich desserts fill the tables.

Greek farmers work hard to coax their crops from the rocky, arid soil. Vegetables such as eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and garlic abound. A large assortment of fruits also enriches the regional cooking of Greece. Sheep and goat farming provides milk to make the staples of the Greek kitchen - yogurt and feta cheese. The fragrance of lemons, oregano, and thyme glides through the air, a hint of some of the flavors waiting to be enjoyed at the next mealtime.

To explore the cooking of Greece we will divide the country into three culinary regions: northern and central Greece, the Peloponnese, and the islands.

 

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