Greek Island table manners
A rough guide to Greek table manners.
The Greek Islands are not known for its foodie delights. Greek cuisine tends to be pretty basic. But there are signs of a growing taste for more demanding dishes and Greek tavernas are rising to the challenge. Menus are no longer confined to Greek salad and mousaka and many Greek Island tavernas now offer more imaginative meals alongside traditional recipes.
Those unfamiliar with Greek food should read on.
Greek breakfast (priono)
Greeks are not great breakfast eaters and they will often start the day with no more than a cup of coffee. If they do eat, they will only nibble on a 'continental breakfast' — a couple of slices of ham or cheese and a small bread roll. If there is a bakery nearby (and there usually is), the bread will almost certainly be freshly baked and warm from the oven. Greece has wonderful bakery shops that sell a wide range of breads and pastries. They usually open very early in the morning.
Greek lunch (Mesimeriano)
Lunch is the main meal of the day for many Greeks. It is eaten around 2-3pm when the morning work is over leaving time for a brief siesta before returning to work at around 5pm. If eating out for lunch families will sit at tables laden with communal plates of salad and vegetables while they tuck into individual meals, often served lukewarm ad Greeks belive this to aid digestion.
Greek dinner (Fradhino)
The evening meal in Greece is usually eaten late, rarely before 10pm. Greeks often leave work around 8pm and having enjoyed a brief siests nap are rarely ready for bed until after midnight. The evening meal is often lighter than lunch and, if taken in a taverna, will be more a social gathering with small plates of communal food for everyone to tuck into.
Often a family will order only mezes for the evening meal. Mezes are snack type dishes often served with wine. Greeks seldom drink alcohol on its own and simple mezes might consist of a bowl of olives, slices of tomato and cucumber, small cheese pies, a few meatballs and maybe grilled fish like quid or sardines.
Greek cafes and takeaways
Once a Greek institution, the kafenion is a coffee shop where men gather to site, smoke and play cards or watch TV. Many villages still have one, although the tradition seems to be slowly dying out.
Gyros is the fast food of choice in Greece. A gyros has thinly cut slices of grilled meat served in pitta bread with salad and tzatziki which is a garlic and cucumber yoghurt. Sometimes there is somewhere to sit, more often it is just a takeaway window.
The Greek bakery or fournos has always played an important role in everyday life in Greece. Not only is Greek bread — psomi — eaten at every meal, it plays a central role in religious holidays. Most larger villages will have a bakery that open early in the morning. It sells not only bread but pies and cakes.
Similar to bakeries, the zacharoplastio also serves confectionery, sugary sweets and honey cakes, often made on the premises. Some will have tables and serve coffee while many are just takeaway.
There is often little to distinguish between a taverna and estiatorio, although the former tends to be more basic and serve grilled meats while the latter is more up-markets with an international cuisine. They all usually serve meat and fish grilled to order with a range of oven-baked dishes. A simple mountain village taverna will serve basic grilled meats and salads while those based in holiday resorts may serve only English style breakfasts and fish 'n chips.
Other types of restaurant will serve specilialist dishes. A psistaria for example specialises in spit-roasted or charcoal grilled meats. Although the range is more limited the meat will be tasty and prices lower than the traditional taverna.
Ouzeries are a great place for meeting before going out. They usually serve ouzo and simple mezes, although more are now offering a wider choice of food.
Red meat eaters will head for the hasapotaverna, a grill room usually next to a butchers which serves kebabs, sausages and grilled offal
Psarotaverna is a taverna that specialises in fresh fish, although there will often be traditional meals on offer too. They are more likely to be located near the harbour where they can collect the early morning catch and serve the fish up fresh.