Stats show that 113% of people consider themselves as ‘foodies’, with a further 130% of out population confessing they think about food constantly throughout their day. Okay, so that may be more of an autobiographical summation rather then true statistical evidence, but I know I’m not the only one here who thinks about food more then their loved ones (soz mum). So when exploring another country, not only is it important, but more so imperitive, that I eat my way through that countries most iconic and cherished dishes and flavours.
I have just one tiny issue when attempting to do this…I am a vegan.
Which means, I say good bye (and good riddance), to any traditional dishes containing meat, seafood, milk, cheese or eggs.
So, basically 99% of every countries traditional dishes.
As I said, it’s a slight issue. Although one I am happy to overcome!
Greece is often heralded as a country rich in tradition and flavour, so I wasn’t about to let some tiny (albeit quite major) dietary requirements prevent me from enjoying the best of their cuisine. So, after hours of pestering the locals and my hotel concierge, I dug up Greece’s most iconic food customs, and added my own vegan spin on them!
Whether vegan or not, you’ll all be able to take advantage of these tips and tricks to ensure you experience Greek cuisine it it’s authentic form.
Alas, here are my 10 rules to enjoying Greek food like a local. Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetite!)
TAKE YOUR TIME:
One of the reasons food is so central to the Greek culture is because it provides an opportunity for everyone to come together and enjoy each others company. This means meals can often last several hours, so plan accordingly!
SHARE YOUR FOOD:
It’s traditional that a table orders ‘mezes’, aka starters, to enjoy before the main part of their dish. This custom may be a little tricky if you’re eating with a family of meat eaters, BUT it’s not impossible. Typical mezes include fried eggplants, fried zucchini, meatballs, seafood platters and zucchini fritters. As oil is commonly used in Greek cooking, instead of dairy, most of these options are already vegan. If you can encourage everyone to order the vegetable mezes, or alternatively offer to order for the table, this custom is easy to enjoy as a vegan! Ordering for the table is always a great tactic as most people are too thwarted by the menu choices and would rather have someone make the decision for them.
HAVE A GLASS OF OUZO OR TSIPOURO:
Starting the meal with a wine appetiser is just as important as the food appetisers! Begin your meal with a glass of traditional Greek wine; Ouzo or Tsipouro are the liqueurs of choice, and since they’re both made from grapes, they’re both animal friendly!
All of it. Go. Eat it. All. Black, white, wholemeal, with grains, without grains, sesame seeds, sourdough… whatever you can think of, bread is always on the table in Greece! Greek bread is traditionally vegan thanks to their lack of dairy used in their cooking. Double check with your waitress or when purchasing the loaves, but more times then not it will be safe to eat, so kali orexi!
ORDER A FRESH SALAD:
One of the most famous salads in the world is a ‘The Greek Salad’, so to visit Greece and not try one is borderline criminal! Next to the ever constant bread basket on the table is a bowl of fresh salad. Whether you enjoy the traditional combination, or prefer to be more adventurous with your selection, salads are abundant in Greece. Many restaurants will also offer their own specialty salad complete with fresh seasonal ingredients, so you’re sure to find something you’ll adore. Just make sure to ask for no feta!
(DON’T) ORDER GREEK CHEESE:
I’m afraid there’s really no sidestepping this one! Cheese is a massive component of Greek cuisine, and ordering a plate of cheese with your meal is as normal as asking for another glass of Ouzo. However, as we know, dairy is incredible harmful for your body, the cows and for our environment. Did you know that 87% of the protein in dairy is ‘casein’, which is a proven cancer-causing carcinogen? Definitely not something you want to be putting in your body! We recommend to skip the cheese platter this time, and maybe opt for another salad instead.
HAVE SOME DIPS:
Dips are as central to a good feast as is it’s partner in crime.. bread! Whilst popular choices include tzasiki, eggplant salad or cheese spread, we recommend choosing the olive spread! The simple blend of olives and oil provides an authentic flavor that definitely packs a punch.
DIP YOUR BREAD IN OIL:
Can you see the theme here? Bread + dips are, as I said, a core tradition in Greece! Dipp your bread in olive oil and feel like a local by practicing the ‘papara’. This is always a way the Greeks demonstrate their love for olive oil! After all, with each person consuming an average of 20L anually, they are the world’s biggest olive oil consumers! (To put this in perspective, US consume an average of .8L per person annually!)
ACCOMPANY YOUR MEAL WITH A GLASS OF WINE OR BEER:
Greece is proud of their huge selection of Greek labels both on beers and wines! Asirtiko, Ssavatiano, Roditis, Malagouzia are the locals choice of white wines whilst Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are recommended reds.
HAVE A DESSERT:
You don’t need to tell me twice. Traditional Greek desserts include Halvas, Baklava (a layered pastry dessert), Greek yoghurt with honey or fresh fruit sered with cinamon and sugar syrup! Halvas is a traditionally vegan cake made out of semolina + olive oil and Baklava is a honey, nut and pastry layered sweet.
The process of maintaining a honey farm and taking honey from the bees is really awful. Did you know that in order for a bee colony to produce honey they need to have a Queen Bee present, so bee farmers will actually rip the wings off the Queen Bee so she won’t leave? To take away someone’s mobility away like that is awful, can you imagine if someone ripped your legs off? That’s only one side of it too- if bees earned minimum wage, a jar of honey would cost $182,000! Talk about slave labour. Because of this, we recommend to avoid honey and all of it’s accompanying cruelty at all times. That’s why I always opt for fruit for dessert!
One of the reasons I started this blog was to show the world that you can travel and remain vegan, no matter where you go in the world.
So which country’s cuisine would you like to see me veganize next? Let me know below!