How can you talk about Greek cuisine without mentioning the everlasting moussaka or the inevitable feta?
Yes, I love Moussaka but, no, today I will only talk about Greek cuisine that can be found in the country’s remote gargotes, the dishes simmered by mothers of large families, in kitchens that are foggy, cluttered, noisy and fragrant… The kitchen, yes, the real one, the only one, that of the Greeks, yes the Greeks with a Q!
Greek cuisine is GE-NE-ROUS!
I can’t think of any other adjective to use, sorry for the lack of it, but that says it all. Tomatoes are, how can I put it, imposing, fleshy, present in the dishes. They simmer, they vibrate in simple metal pots, they whistle and sizzle… And it smells so good that choosing a dish is torture. You will regret having so little room in your stomach because you won’t be able to taste everything!
Choose at random on the menu, it will be good anyway. At best, ask to visit the kitchen. Usually it works, people are 99% nice, so if you don’t arrive in full rush hour, it’s quite likely that you’ll be given the honours of the visit. Ask nicely, smile, be kind and it will work.
The Greek food portions are pantagruelic!
The pork melts in your mouth, the vegetables are tender and full of flavour! The slightest fried sardine is a delight, fries homemade. All around you, everyone smiles, you feel welcome as if you were at a friend’s house…
The portion that the waiter brings you is enormous, it even protrudes from the plate.
Apart from the mastery of the Greek cooks, he takes out of the ovens simmered dishes made with seasonal and local vegetables. Try anything that does not resemble a moussaka: stuffed aubergines (melitzanes papoutsakia), vegetables stuffed with rice (peppers, tomatoes), the yemistas and above all try the briam, the vegetable gratin which of course varies according to the season. Dive into soutsoukakia, this huge dish of minced meatballs bathed in tomato sauce, it is comforting and almost regressive. These dishes smell like home cooking, mother love, made with tenderness.
But there is an extra something! Impossible you may say, but there is! It is not only about greek food, it’s about emotion
Stopping at a small Greek restaurant, far from the tourist attractions is to take the risk of seeing the host coming out directly to the car park to welcome you with a smile up to his ears. Then be careful, he or her may take you in his or her arms, just because they are happy that you are happy. All this is true, I have witnesses.
Greece is a superb country in every way, the food is varied, simple, tasty and the wines are delicate… Forget the sacrosanct moussaka and try the enormous vegetable gratins, veal or pork stir-fries, fleshy olives, meatballs, stewed with Mediterranean flavours…
For everything else, the famous Greek feta salad (where the piece of feta is wider than the plate), baklava, dolmas (vine leaves stuffed with rice), souvlakis, no need for a guide or advice, you can find them without looking for them in the streets of Athens. Forget the Moussaka and the Retsina, there is so much more to discover among the Hellenes!