Greek Food is Amazing
I’m not one to really believe in true love, fate, destiny or any of that stuff. Of course, there are times when my unbelief are tested, such as meeting my soulmate in Iceland and going on to spend a crazy 2.5 years in China together. Another similar example was my discovering Greek food for the first time.
The small island of Paxos was a great place for a first-timer to experience Greece in a vacuum. You have the crystal blue sea, olive trees everywhere and none of the pesky economic crisis. And the food. Each time I bit into a new dish, I was pulled deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole of new flavors. Here are some of my favorites.
1. Meze (μεζέ)
Appetizers are not very big in America, barring a small salad, but they are absolutely crucial to a Greek meal. Sometimes they are the meal. When you have a collection of meze as delicious as the stuff we had in Paxos, you really don’t need much else. A common suspect is tzatziki, which is a sauce made from Greek yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil and sometimes dill always served with fresh bread for dipping. Another favorite of mine is gigantes – basically huge lima beans baked in a tomato sauce. Add in some fried zucchini and fried whitebait (salty little fish, think anchovies) and you’ve got yourself a meal in itself.
2. Greek Salad (Ελληνική σαλάτα)
A Greek salad isn’t hard to come by in America, but this is Greek Greek salad son. Don’t give me those pitiful little feta cubes that I have to dig around to find, give me a massive slab of the stuff with local oregano and olive oil on top. With some bread and tsatziki, this is the perfect lunch to recharge from the beach, both refreshing and filling (with all that cheese).
3. Moussaka (μουσακάς)
Moussaka is essentially a meat/potato/cheese lasagna, which, in my opinion, is basically God’s food. It’s usually made by layering minced beef or lamb, potatoes and eggplant with cheese everywhere in between. This is Greek soul food territory, and you’re going to need a carafe of wine to help wash it down. If it feels like there’s a sack of bricks resting on your stomach after eating this, don’t worry. Completely normal.
4. Souvlaki (σουβλάκι)
Who doesn’t love grilled meat on a stick? China does it great with chuanr, but it’s nice to have a break from that and instead indulge in something both delicious and less likely to give me tapeworms. Souvlaki is a classic Greek dish that’s been around for centuries, usually pork with veggies on skewers, but chicken and lamb is often used as well. Salad and chips (fries; this is what having an English girlfriend and 2.5 years of teaching British English does to you) usually come on the side.
5. Lamb Kleftiko (αρνί κλέφτικο)
If you like lamb, look no further. Kleftiko literally means “in the style of the Klephts”, the Klephts being a roaming group of bandits in the countryside who woulds steal lambs or goats and cook them in sealed fire pits so that the owners of the flocks wouldn’t see the smoke. The Klephts are long gone, but this dish has survived, usually slow-baked on the bone after being marinated in garlic and lemon juice. Most tavernas have swapped out the sealed pit for the modern convenience of foil, but the result is the same: lamb that is so tender it melts in your mouth.
Food as Culture
I’m not a food blogger so I don’t do this often, maybe the only other time being the two posts I did on Chinese food. But Greek food stood out. The meat and potato flavors are classic, but the healthy dose of olive oil, oregano and feta in pretty much everything release the flavors of the earth. I’m going to try to replicate some dishes in my shitty, small Chinese kitchen, but I’m afraid the only way to satisfy the itch is to return to the Ionian Islands some day. Oh, damn.