Bangladesh Slideshow

17 November, 2008

Gastronomic Delights

Thousands of years ago, the Greeks created one of the most important civilizations ever to be seen. A core part of this civilization was the idea of good living. Greece has an ancient culinary tradition dating back several millennia, and over the centuries Greek cuisine has evolved and absorbed numerous influences and influenced many cuisines. Contemporary Greek cookery is typical of Mediterranean cuisine, making wide use of olive oil, grains and bread, wine, fish, and various meats.

Eating and drinking out in Greece is wonderfully enjoyable with cafes, restaurants and tavernas on every street with al fresco seating (with the exception of the wet winter months). I found people from obviously different social strata sitting at the same favourite neighborhood taverna. Today, in many areas of Greece, celebratory meals, special occasions and family get-togethers are all more likely to occur in local taverns or restaurants than in homes with the event having live, traditional music and spontaneous dancing.

The Greek day begins early with a quick breakfast of coffee and dried Rusk soaked in warm milk, followed by a substantial lunch and a siesta. After a few hours more work, evening is the time to relax with family and friends whilst nibbling meze (appetizer) and sipping ouzo (an anise-flavored spirit) . This is followed by a late dinner (9 or 10pm) followed by sweet pastries, cakes or ice-cream enjoyed later in the cafes. Strong distinctive tastes are the hallmark of this culinary rhythm. Herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, coriander, dill, fennel and sage; spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla and mastic are all crucial. And of course, Greek olive oil enriches and flavours the cooking while the traditional cooking methods of grilling, long slow baking all enhance and mellow the food.
Okay, enough of theory...let's get down to the real business now: amongst the dishes I had were kalamari...
salad with feta cheese and olives
grilled octopus
deep fried red mullet and some other scary-looking fish (I actually covered its face with my slice of lime)
shrimp risotto
There was lovely bread...baked fresh from the oven....
And a host of other dishes.

Any account of Greek cuisine would be incomplete without talking about Greek wine. Wine was for the Ancient Greeks the drink of the Gods, and today wine is the most popular drink in Greece.
Ouzo is the best Greek aperitif known the world over for its special flavor of anise. Among the best ouzo are the ones from Samos and Lesvos islands. Retsina is another popular wine - one of the older wines in Greece that takes its name and taste from the resin that is put in it. I am unfortunately not a wine connoisseur so I will not attempt to discourse on the topic further, save to add that my colleagues really enjoyed their wines in Greece.
We were out every night until pretty late, living it up Greek style.
My trip was truly a gastronomic delight. It lightened the wallet and added to the waistline, but then who's bothered with petty details like that??

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