Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Greek ways with food

This post will be short, as we are in the middle of painting the house; put it this way: I only found my toothbrush last night...

Today, I came across the most appealing and original Greek food porn that I have ever come across, which I am sharing with you in this post.

Thanks, Margot and Demetra, for pointing out this photograph.
The last time I came across this array of mezedakia was at a taverna in Athens in the Plaka district. My friends invited me to come out with them to see Αθηναϊκή Κομπανία, a music group that was playing there (the name of the taverna escapes me at the moment, but it was wildly popular in those days). I saw waiters zipping in and out of the kitchen with tens of uniform-sized plates (in the same shape and size as those in the photograph) piled up high on their trays, each one full of a taster of good Greek dishes. The plates all carried the same price, and the plates were counted at the end of your evening to work out the price of the meal.  

Memories of a safe Athens (we would around in the evenings until the wee hours) and a carefree lifestyle, matched by equally carefree economics, flooded back at the sight of this photo. Can you name all the mezedakia? The answer lies in this link.

For more information, see
Traditional Greek cuisine doesn't use many flavourings. It's usually lemon- or tomato-based; keeping things basic is the best way to maximise the flavours of the main ingredients, while a sprig or two of fresh or dried herbs are used to enhance the flavours. Michael Pollan would certainly love Greek cuisine, given his belief in not eating anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce

This beautiful photo shows us the colour-coded simplicity of Greek cuisine: most Greek recipes can actually be made using lemon or tomato as a base. So you could make a tomato-based bean dish one week, and the next week you can eat the same bean dish using a lemon sauce. Exactly the same applies for vegetable and meat/fish dishes.

The Real Greek, London
What do you think of this novel way of presenting Greek food at a taverna? Love it or hate it, I think it's perfect for variety-loving Greeks who want to enjoy as many mezedakia as possible, but there is never enough space on the table! A cake stand (as one of my English readers pointed out, or a  vegetable basket, in my Greek reader's eyes - what you see depends on your culture, doesn't it?) looks completely foreign in this rather Greek context and treats the subject of food as if it is some kind of game.

Service in Greek eateries presents us with a tricky question to solve. It's a bit of a conundrum: in the summer, tavernas are filled with both Greek and foreign tourists. But Greeks like to be served in one way, and non-Greeks (our tourists, the people who leave money in our country) like to be served in another way. Greks are used to a particular informal style. Tourists are more open to novelties and they actually like gimmicks. They value them just as much as they value the food. Greeks may be surprised to see a vegetable basket arriving at their table, but I personally love it.

So now you know what my taverna would be like if I ran one: the food would be simple, it would all be served on small plates, and I'd bring it out on cake stands/vegetable baskets.

Καλή όρεξη and Στην υγειά σας!

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