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Interno del ristorante Taverna Greca Mykonos a Milano

Some historical background

Greek cuisine originated in Greece and the colonies of Magna Graecia, and influenced the customs of our southern Italy. 

As early as the time of the Roman Empire, Greek cooks were in high demand, held in high esteem by wealthy Romans, and paid handsomely.


Greek cuisine

Reading around various sites I found that "One very curious thing is that the white hat that characterizes chefs around the world today originated in Greece. In the Middle Ages chefs working in the kitchens of Greek monasteries used to wear tall white hats to distinguish themselves from the monks who wore tall but black hats." and I would add, with the fall of Kostantinoupoli, many chefs as did writers, intellectuals, scientists, artists fled to the Europe of those times.

In Greece from the times of antiquity until today, the various courses are not used, there is no first course, second course, etc. It usually starts with "Mesedakia" which remain on the table even when the main course is brought. Salads and feta cheese, never missing from a Greek table.

Greeks at the table socialize, you find family, friends, talk, eat unhurriedly, sip, sing and dance, and go on to eat the "Mesedakia" and whatever is left on the table. It is not unusual to find fruit and coffee, on the table with people around still eating feta or dolmadakia. It is, clearly, Greek for the word "Symposio" which means eating, drinking and being in company.

The atmosphere in a tavern is like that at home!

Reassuring, peaceful, festive. For a Greek, eating is not just eating and making small talk and then going to the movies or disco. For a Greek, eating is already all that.Reassuring, peaceful, festive. For a Greek, eating is not just eating and making small talk and then going to the movies or disco. For a Greek, eating is already all that.

A bit of history

One of the Greek goddesses was Dimitra, the goddess of crops and the earth. Both bread and wine and sweets, had fundamental roles in the life, cuisine and spirit of the Greeks.
Bread at first was a flatbread, piata piata, made of barley, then they made it with different grains and flavored with oil, milk, flavored with herbs and roots. They would knead it with water but also with wine, oil. They would make it salty or sweet. They baked it in the oven, over coals, under ashes. Bread was important, and still is, for the Greeks, bread (like feta) is eaten with EVERYTHING...even pasta!

Greek bread is good, tasty, fragrant. Even though "European" type bread is now found in Greek bakeries, Greek bread is still the tastiest, the one that keeps the longest, not to mention the "Horiatiko Psomi" which is the "village" bread that is all the rage.

Also with flour, “pita" is made, what marvels that one made by the none, and baked in the wood-burning oven or even in the baker's oven (in Greece it is still customary to take to the baker to bake dishes). The pitta, worked flour, leavened or not, rolled out thin or very thin, and filled with an infinity of ingredients from which it then takes its name, such as Tiropita (of cheese which is usually feta), Kolokithopita (of zucchini), Melitzanopita (of eggplant) Kotopita (of chicken) Kreatopita (of minced meat), Revithopita (of chickpeas), Jalatopita (with milk cream), and so on. Then they are made in the big pan, or one invents individual shapes and off they go. It is an art that developed par excellence in the Greece of Asia Minor (Pontos), which, when the pontiffs were forced to immigrate to Greece, enriched the recipes of Greek housewives.

Let us not forget Dionyso, the god of wine, and not without reason.

Wine, like bread and sweets, played a fundamental role in the lives, cuisine and spirit of the Greeks. Greece is the land of origin of wines from antiquity to the present day.

Greek wine

If we think of modern-day wines of controlled origin, we can say that the wines of Chios and Thasos were the first wines of controlled origin in antiquity; they were renowned throughout the known world at the time.

Wine production in Greece was abandoned for a long time, whether for reasons of wars and occupations, social reasons and natural disasters. There are some wineries with centuries of history, but great production, attention in cultivation, and use of innovations began after World War II and continue until now. Not a few Greek wineries have won international awards for their productions. Greek wines are enjoyed keeping in mind that they are produced in different environments ,soils and climatic conditions than Western wines.

The ritual of Greek coffee

The Kafeneion is the place to drink coffee, then it was on to playing "tavli" a type of backgammon, and then on to playing cards, chess, and checkers. Coffee in Greece is a real ritual and is enjoyed leisurely, after it has been allowed to settle for a few minutes.

The Kafeneion and Greek coffee 

Coffee does not have Greek origins, however, the first "Kafeneion" was opened by Greeks, in Konstantinople, after the occupation of the capital of Byzantium by the Turks. It took little for the "Kafeneion" to expand throughout the territory and through the immigration of Greeks to Europe after the Turkish occupation, to take hold in European cities and capitals as well. The first cafes in Rome and Venice were by Greeks. The real success of coffee came when it was landed in the New World, in the Americas. Currently the largest producer of coffee is Brazil.

Greek coffee is prepared by boiling, traditionally in copper pots, coffee (which is ground very fine, almost like powdered sugar) together with sugar. As soon as the coffee makes "kaimaki" (foam) it is removed from the heat and poured into the cup.
In Greece you also drink another coffee. Just think, the Greeks invented a coffee for hot summers, to be drunk cold with ice (cubed or crushed), using Nescafé (from Nestlé), and French tourists gave it the name "Frappé" .

At the "Kafeneion" the letter carrier would deliver letters and the teacher would read and answer them, writing on people's behalf. They discussed, exchanged news, kept each other company, and passed by at least once a day. In villages they are almost the agora of ancient times, a salon open to all even though, traditionally, it was (and in some villages still is) a men's room. They are almost always spartan, with a 1930s atmosphere, unfashionable chairs and tables, but authentic.

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