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.