Greek Food and Culture

Essay by ProblemCHigh School, 12th grade September 2006

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Greek food in the past consisted mainly of gruel, legumes, salted fish, olive oil, vegetables and very little meat. At the time most meat was consumed during sacrifices and religious holidays. Vegetarianism has a long tradition in Greece. It was adopted by Pythagoras who did not eat meat for moral and religious reasons. This tradition has been kept by the deeply religious, who abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and during the forty days of Lent. During the Byzantine period food began to materialize as an art form. The royal court had a large staff of professional cooks who expanded the traditional foods to include imported foods such as spices and caviar. After the Byzantium, the courts of Ottoman Sultans took up many of the cooking styles of the Byzantine period and added to them with their own traditions. Under the Ottomans, Greek foods were influenced by Turkish foods.

This can still be seen today in dishes such as Tzatziki, which is a yogurt-cucumber dip, Imam Bayildi, which is eggplant casserole, and Soutzoukakia, which is spiced, sausage shaped meatballs in tomato sauce, Souvlaki, which is meat kebabs in pita bread, and Moussaka, which is eggplant and meat casserole. In the small areas of Greece that were under the Venetians, such as the Ionian Islands and the Cyclades, foods were strongly influenced by the Italian culture. Dishes that were influenced by Italians included Bourdeto, which is a fish stew from Corfu, and Poutinga, which is a pudding that is outlawed by the Greek Church. Greeks also enjoy pasta, which serves as evidence of the Italian influence on their foods.

After the Greek War of Independence, which occurred during the 1820s, food was Europeanized in Greece. Many of the spices that were used in dishes were taken out and the food...