Greek Food & Drink - Traditional food from Greece

Like its Mediterranean neighbours the concept behind the Greek way of eating is simple, yet effective. Greeks make the most of their abundant seasonal produce to make meals the best they can taste, and mealtimes aren't an occasion to be hurried.

The Greeks utilise the concept of mezze along the same lines as neighbouring Italy and Spain. The word itself means 'middle', possibly alluding to the fact that food eaten mezze style is not meant to constitute a full meal. Traditional mezze may contain fresh bread, creamy feta, olives, dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and currants), marinated mackerel or sardines and grilled squid or octopus.

One fifth of Greece's land mass is islands, and the sea isn't more than 85 miles away from any point on the mainland. Needless to say fish and shellfish are fresh, abundant, and while not always cheap they are certainly worth the price you'll pay and feature heavily in Greek cuisine. Lamb is widespread and delicious, and often used in stews or roasted with lemon, garlic and herbs. Greece is known around the world for the production of sheep and goat's cheeses, particularly feta, which has been made in the country for thousands of years.

Greece has the ideal landscape and climate for growing olives, and olives make up more than just part of the Greek diet. They have been integrated for thousands of years in the fabric of Greek society. Olive oil plays an important role in anything from cosmetics to religious and folk rituals, medicine, celebrating christenings and commemorating the dead. Most Greeks consumer 40 pounds of olive oil per person per year, and the country produces more than 430,000 tons annually. The famous Kalamata olive is native to Greece.

Traditional Greek dishes are still made from recipes handed down from generation to generation. One of the best known is moussaka, the classic dish of spiced lamb mine with layers of eggplant, potato and bechamel sauce. Souvlaki is the ubiquitous Greek fast food, with lamb or chicken cooked on a rotisserie, sliced and served in pita bread with salad and tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip). Spanokopita are available everywhere, and the filo pastry parcels filled with spinach and feta are a very tasty treat. The famous Greek version of chicken soup for the weary is avgolemono, made from chicken, rice and lemon. Greece's favourite alcoholic drink is ouzo, a spirit not for the faint hearted. It's made from a combination of pressed grape skins, herbs and berries. Usually served as an aperitif, it can also be the basis of a mixed drink or cocktail. It's ideally drunk straight and sipped slowly, with friends, over plates of meze.

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