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Greek Food History: It Oozes Awesomeness

Greek Food History
A beautiful country, with breathtaking views and an astounding history, tingles all your senses, taste being one of them. Greece has a cuisine that stands witness to its history and cultural diversity. A know-how on Greek Food History is a must in order to honor the country's contribution in the tourism as well as the food industry.
Chaitra Suraj Saxena
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2018
Greece is located in the southeast of Europe, and is surrounded by countries like Albania, Bulgaria, and on its two sides, it is surrounded by water bodies, namely the Aegean Sea and the Lonian Sea. Because of its geographical location, Greece has been an important part of the Roman trade routes, and hence, the people of Greece had a chance to meet and understand people and their cultures from far away. This has strongly affected the Greek cuisine. The trade route not only introduced various cultures to the people of Greece, but it also brought in the knowledge of various commodities that were being traded off, spices being the major one.
Greek food uses a lot of spices that originally came from various parts of the world. Spices like oregano, mint, garlic, thyme, basil and fennel seed are very popularly used. Some northern areas of Greece are also known to use spices like cinnamon and cloves in traditional dishes like stews and the ones made of meat. Today, Greek food is a mixture of recipes taken from both inside the country, as well as the outside. Internally, recipes and cooking methods vary a lot geographically and regionally, thus adding to the tale of ancient Greek food history.
Ancient Greek Food
The most basic ingredient of Greek food is olive oil. This explains the cultivation of olives in the country on such a huge scale. The other main ingredients are wheat, yogurt, honey, meat, vegetables, fruits, wine and fish. All these together, with some other ingredients and loads of spices make up for the vast variety that Greek cuisine has to offer. The origin of many of the Greek dishes goes back to the ancient times, to ancient Greeks. And to name a few, they are, lentil soup, skordalia, pasteli, etc. Many dishes of Greek food can be linked to Italy, France and as far as Persia and Arabia. A lot of dishes have Italian and French influence, like pastitsio, makaronia me kima, etc. This influence goes back to the times of the Roman invasion of Greece.
The geography of Greece supported the breeding of goats and sheep, hence leading to subsequent popularity of their meat. Beef is eaten in Greece, though it is not that common. Rather, the proximity to the coast has led to the popularity of fish and other sea products.
Greek Cheese History
Other than all the everyday foods, one thing that the Greeks specialize in is the production and consumption of cheese. Greece produces many different types of cheese, and also consume them in equal amounts, hence, making their food history a little 'cheesy'. Apart from internal consumption, the Greeks also manage to export their specialized cheese in huge numbers, and are in demand the world over. A few of them are Feta, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, Graveiera, Anthotyros, Ladotyri, Anevato, Batzos, Mizithra, Metsovone, and the list goes on. Now, coming to the participation of cheese in Greece's food history. According to historians, the ancient Greek scriptures suggest that the making and usage of cheese in Greek cuisines goes back to 4000 BC. The oldest of them being the Feta and the Kaseri. Their history goes back to some 6000 years, making them the oldest cheeses in the world.
Greek Wine History
Wine is one of the major ingredients of Greek food, and a major participant in the Greek food history. The ancient scriptures suggest that wine was introduced in Greece in 4000 BC. Wine was a part of Greek agriculture and was a major part of Greek food. Scriptures suggest that wine was considered as a gift from the Gods, and wine drinking festivals were held in order to honor the God Dionysus, a creature with the mind of a man and the instincts of a beast. Wine cultivation was at its peak in the Homer times and improved as the tradition was passed on in the family. The Greeks used spices to store and add flavor to wines. It is believed that the decline in wine cultivation in the country began under the Ottoman empire. Many historians say that Greece was back then, what France is today, when it comes to wines.
Ancient Aphrodisiacs of Greece
During the ancient times in Greece, some foods were unusually conceived to be stimulants of the libido. In fact, the term 'aphrodisiac' itself was coined from Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess who was the symbol of love and beauty. One such story goes that, Greek philosopher, Aristotle cooked lentils (considered to have aphrodisiacal properties) with saffron. There were also some who believed that if women ate artichokes while expecting, then it ascertained the birth of a male child! Some foods said to have aphrodisiacal properties were:
• Edible Bulbs
• Garlic
• Onions
• Mushroom
• Satirio
Did You Know?
Hippocrates, an ancient Greek Physician, conceived that consuming mint led to dilution of sperms and making a person feel fagged out. Contrary to this, there were other stories that played down this fact, by hailing mint as an aphrodisiac. Believe it or not, but Alexander the Great would ask his men to refrain from drinking tea containing mint, while going to fight a war, because he believed that mint induced sexual desires.
Some Lesser Known Facts for Kids
Some facts that everyone, including children should know are:
• Greeks were and are extremely religious people. They consumed meat only after it had been sacrificed to a God, and this applied strictly to domesticated animals.
• Greeks had notions about the cleanliness of foods, some were believed to be cleaner than the others.
• The Pythagoreans did not prefer beans, because it wasn't considered clean.
• Greeks always prayed to God Dionysus before drinking wine.
• And before eating bread, they prayed to God Demeter and Persephone.
• Coffee, referred to as the Turkish coffee, is one of the oldest and the most popular drinks of Greece, and it need not be mentioned where it came from.
Greek food has evolved a lot with time, but the one thing that has not changed is the fact that no matter what is on the table, a Greek family will eat it together. Sharing food with love is one thing that has passed on through Greece's food history, without change. Also, the Greeks don't prefer a lot of refinement in their food, i.e., in most cases, processing is avoided. Greeks need the smallest of reasons to plan a family reunion and invite everyone to share a meal with them. So, along with the wide variety of food, there is loads of love to be served in Greece.
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