In Greece, food is a special part of our lives. We love to gather for traditional family meals, especially on Sundays, when a large table is set with our special favorites. Traditional recipes are prized possessions. Over the years we have learned to keep the best of the past while carefully selecting the best of the modern.
Our range of eating establishments clearly define our eating habits. We enjoy our coffees in a traditional Kafenieo, where we might be served a small spoon sweet with our freshly made-to-order “Greek” kafe. For lunch we may visit an Estiatorio and select from the wide variety of dishes that have just be freshly prepared, and sitting down with the waiter serving without delay. Or, perhaps we meet friends for a sampling of meze at our local ouzeri, sipping our national anise-flavored spirit and enjoying a great talk—with a half dozen plates of appetizers. For a late day treat we head to the small shop that specializes in loukoumades, fried donuts drizzled with honey and sugar. Dinner is a treat at the many tavernas in Greece, each one specializing in one style or another—grilled meats, seafood, the cuisine of Crete or North Greece, enhanced with local wines and, if we are in the mood, local music. Fast food? Well, we do love our souvlaki, served on a stick or wrapped in Pita bread, with tzatziki and all the flavorings. And of course we almost never visit a friends house without stopping at our favorite patisserie, choosing from baklava, fresh ice cream, or the many “pastas” displayed.
Weekly farmers markets are prized more than the latest craze in fast food. We love to shop from local growers, who harvest according to seasonal practices and get up before dawn to bring their products to our neighborhood markets.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space, consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruit and vegetables, fish, a moderate amount of dairy, small amount of red meat, and many condiments and spices, all accompanied by wine or infusions, always respecting beliefs of each community. However, the Mediterranean diet (from the Greek diaita, or way of life) encompasses more than just food. It promotes social interaction, since communal meals are the cornerstone of social customs and festive events.
The traditional Greek diet, shaped by history and climatic conditions, meets the main criteria of an optimal diet. It has health-promoting properties and it is believed to be a prototype of the Mediterranean diet.
The global attraction to the Mediterranean diet has placed Greek products on shopping lists the world over. Restaurants, homes, and institutions now realize that the Mediterranean diet, what we have always called the Greek diet, is one of the best in the world to maintain optimal health.
More than any other food ingredient, olive oil represents the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with longevity, low heart disease rates and well.