Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Evolution of Greek Cuisine

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
Don’t we know it! Greece has always been world famous for its fabulous cuisine. Being at the crossroads between east and west, Greek cuisine has been infused with the best of both worlds. Preparing and enjoying Greek fare, anywhere in the world, is an adventurous journey into the cradle of civilization and the land of the Gods of Olympus.

Initially, Greek dishes began to take on influences of other cultures as far back as 350 BC when Alexander the Great extended the Greek Empire through Europe to India. In 146 BC, Greece fell to the Romans, resulting in a fusion of Roman and Greek influences. Centuries later Greece fell to the Turks in 1453 and was part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years. It’s not surprising then that some classic Greek dishes still have Turkish names.

With each successive invasion and settlement came more culinary influence, including Venetian, Balkan, Slav and English, resulting in a cross pollination of culinary influences and adaptations.

Many ingredients used in modern Greek cooking were unknown in Greece until the middle ages. Ingredients like the potato, tomato, spinach, bananas, among others, came to Greece after the discovery of the Americas – their origin.

But always, the main ingredient you will find in just about every Greek dish is olive oil. Olive oil is the energy food that fueled a splendid civilization in ancient times, and the one item that even today, every Greek restaurant or home cannot be without.

Though cultural overlapping may be obvious to chefs working in Mediterranean cuisine, these influences have occurred over thousands of years, making what we now consider to be Greek pretty straight forward. In fact, while Greek cooking has influenced and been influenced by other cultures, of all of those cultures, Greece ranks highest when it comes to the concept of "fusion" cuisine.

Fun Facts:

-The first cookbook was written by the Greek food gourmet, Archestratos, in 330 B.C.!  Obviously cooking has always been of utmost importance in Greek society.
-Modern chefs owe the tradition of their tall, white chef's hat to the Greeks. In the middle ages, monastic brothers who prepared food in Greek Orthodox monasteries wore tall white hats to distinguish them in their work from the regular monks, who wore large black hats.
Greek food is simple and elegant, with flavors subtle to robust, textures smooth to crunchy, fresh and timeless, nutritious and healthy. Discovering, tasting, and experiencing Greek cuisine is truly one of the joys we can all share. 

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