What Most Non-Greeks Don’t Know About Greek Food

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Like in many other countries, food is at the center of Greek culture. Known for its rich meats, unique flavors, and fresh ingredients, Greece has some of the best food recipes in the world. But what else is there beyond gyros and souvlaki?

Here are some Greek food facts that you may not be aware of until now:

1. Lunch is the heaviest meal of the day

When you visit a restaurant franchise business or a traditional restaurant in Greece, expect that diners are eating heavier meals in the middle of the day rather than at dinner or breakfast. Lunch or the midday meal for greeks is called mesimeriano, which usually eaten around 2 pm, around the time that establishments in Greece close for lunch break.

2. Olive oil is one of Greek cuisine’s staples

When you think Greek food, the first ingredient that would probably come to mind is olive oil–and you’re right! Greeks use a lot of olive oil for almost any food. They douse it on their salads, cook meat and vegetables with it, and dip bread into it. Almost every Greek recipe calls for olive oil, and a lot of it. So if you’re going to dine at an authentic Greek restaurant, expect to eat dishes with olive oil.

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3. Some popular ‘Greek’ foods are not Greek

Some dishes like hummus, baba ganoush, and moussaka are known by many as ‘Greek food,’ but they aren’t. You might find them in a Mediterranean restaurant–and many Greek joints actually offer these dishes–but they are actually from the Middle East.

4. Greek yogurt is not Greek

For yogurt to be considered Greek, it has to be traditionally made with sheep’s milk. That said, the Greek yogurt you see in grocery stores is not exactly Greek.

Moreover, traditional Greek yogurt is either eaten plain or sometimes with a little honey and nuts. If you visit Greece and want to enjoy a traditional yogurt, order it plain or with minimal toppings.

5. There is a right way to order gyros

If you order gyros at your local Greek restaurant, you probably won’t run into any problems. But if you order gyros in Greece, there are some things that you have to remember.

‘Gyros’ is pronounced ‘yeeros’ in Greece. If you want your gyro to have all the usual ingredients (meat, fries, onions, tomatoes, tzatziki, pita bread), say that you want it ‘ap’oa.’ Otherwise, specify your preferences, such as chicken instead of pork, no onions, etc. If you want your gyros on a plate with salad and fries separated, order a ‘gyros merida.’

6. Greek cuisine uses the whole animal

Greeks typically use the entire animal for cooking, which means no part is wasted. Apart from the meat itself, Greeks use brains, livers, hearts, kidneys, brains, and guts for their home cooking.

Exploring Greek cuisine will take your tongue on a gastronomic adventure that is full of fresh ingredients, exciting flavors, and historical dishes. But if you want to get to know the food culture more, the things discussed in this guide are a good start.

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