Greek cuisine is based on the Mediterranean diet but it is also influenced by the Orient. It is actually Mediterranean cuisine with important influences from the Balkans, Italy and the Middle East as a result of the many migrations in periods of war. The natural produce and products processed in Greek areas are the essential ingredients of its recipes. The care with which they prepare food is one of the hallmarks of the traditional flavors of this Mediterranean cuisine. Greek fields are plentiful in olive groves, lemon trees and many vegetables, creating a unique, captivating landscape that is transferred to the ancient, traditional Greek cuisine.
Greeks prefer meat to fish, but the latter is also very popular and is served grilled, broiled, fried… in the myriad taverns scattered along the coast. Lamb tops the list as far as meats are concerned. Feasts and religious ceremonies always feature roast lamb. It is also prepared in pots with vegetables, and at the major feasts roast lamb is the main dish. Lamb pilafs are dishes of cooked lamb placed in the center of a crown of rice (i.e., pilaf).
Minced veal or pork is also present in many dishes alongside vegetables, with lemon sauce or avgolemono, a sauce made using lemon and eggs, plus tomato sauces with spices such as coriander, pepper and cumin. The dish par excellence using minced meat is «moussaka», a rectangular pie combining layers of minced meat and eggplant with a grilled cheese topping. Cheese, in fact, is a product that is extensively consumed in Greece, with a great many varieties: feta, kefalotyri, kayseri and mizhitra are some of the better known Greek cheeses.
When visiting Greece you must be aware that there are different types of restaurants. Tavernas open at lunch time and in the afternoon until past midnight, mainly serving mezedes, a selection of appetizers and fish sold by weight. Psistarias are taverns specializing in roast and grilled lamb, chicken and pork dishes. Galaktopolias serve breakfast, coffee, sweet foods and dairy products. Zaharoplastios are bakeries offering bar services. Kafeneios are cafeterias mainly frequented by men, serving as centers for social life in towns. And of course there are classic restaurants, where there are three major types of dishes: Mayirefta is used to refer to dishes prepared beforehand; tsiroras are broiled dishes, and stakarvouna is the word for meat dishes prepared right before serving; and finally there are fish dishes. There are many different wines and dishes to choose from and the categories and price ranges also vary.
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