Some people would say that the best way of getting to know a country and the people who live in it is to try their national food and drinks. This sounds very reasonable: among the things a country’s traditional and other dishes and recipes reveal is the inhabitans relation to their land and its products, and their cultural roots and influences. This is true in spades of Greece, a country which for centuries has been, as it still is, a crossroads of worlds and civilizations. In this nook of the Mediterranean can be found global gastronomic patents such as food cooked in oil or the pitta, and also clear traces of Oriental cuisine as well as sophisticated Western cuisine. The manifold Greek landscape with its endless variations, and particular historical causes, have ensured that each region and locality of Greece has its own typical recipes and dishes.
Some things remain constantly the same, of course: the austerity of the materials, the clever management of basic foodstuffs and means, the use of olive oil, the fondness for fish, greens, root and other vegetables, the subtle changes played on spices and flavourings, the economic use of meat, and above all the attitude to food and wine as not only items necessary for existence but as element of social life. For Greeks their food and wine has always been a good starting point to get together with friends and family, to discuss things, to enjoy themselves, and to share a moment of time. This is perhaps part of the reason why, although greeks adore meze and the other tidbits that traditionally accompany an ouzo or a tsipouro, they have never taken greatly to the institution of breakfast.
The visitor to Greece today can in fact find and enjoy virtually every variety of modern cuisine and school of cookery. He or she can eat genuine Japanese sushi, a proper Italian rissoto, or Indian tandoori chicken. But one thing is beyond doubt: the best place to try Greek food is in Greece itself. For reason not always easy to put a finger on, nowhere else in the world does an octopus simply grilled over charcoal taste as good, and nowhere else does a plate of stuffed tomatoes or a freshly – picked bunch of grapes have quite the same delicious flavour.