All over Greece you will see and smell fruit-bearing trees: olive trees, dating from ancient times, sweet-smelling orange and lemon trees, juicy peaches, apricot, apple, pear and fig trees, and vines loaded with bunches of grapes. The fields are full of all sorts of vegetables: red, sweet tomatoes; fresh beans and peas; cucumbers; artichokes; aubergines; onions; and fruits like melon and red, delicious watermelon, both a real treat in the heat of the summer.
In the sea hundreds of fish send out silver reflections. Swarms of bees in beehives produce the famous Greek honey. There are forests of walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, oaks, and pines. The pines give us a special ingredient for Greek wine, called retsina, and the pine kernels are also used in several dishes.
Most of the Greek foods are prepared with olive oil. It is the so-called Mediterranean ingredient, famous for being so good for the health. In Greece a main dish can consist of vegetables only cooked so as to offer a wholesome meal. But generally we are fond of meat, and this comes to its apogee during Easter, the great outdoor feast, where whole lambs are specially prepared on the spit, and all the neighbors celebrate together dancing, eating and drinking – a feast strictly not for vegetarians. Even the entrails of the animals are cooked, making the famous kokoretsi. Lambs, goats, and mainly cows give us milk from which we make the famous Greek cheese called feta, a white kind of cheese. Also yogurt, which mixed with crushed garlic, makes a famous dip called tzatziki. Feta cheese, tzatziki dip, aubergine dip, and a dip from fish roe, called taramas, olives and small cheese pies are the dishes served with ouzo, a transparent aperitif, which one could drink as is–but that is not recommended, remember what happened in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
In the northwest part of Greece they make delicious, crunchy pies with filo pastry or dough, with every imaginable ingredient, savory or sweet: pies with spinach, or other herbs, or a mixture of them, with cheese, tomatoes, aubergines, leak, meat, chicken, and also sweet pies, with rice and currants, or pumpkins and custard-filled pies. The list goes on and on…
Greek sweets are very… sweet. Honey and walnuts are mostly used to make the traditional Greek sweets. These together with filo pastry make baklava, and with dough they make the traditional Christmas sweets, melomakarona. Another kind of Greek confectionery is the preserves with fruits such as figs, grapes, apricots, sour cherries, plums, quinces, and even roses (the flower!), tomato, the skin of watermelon, the skin of orange and citrus, and whole walnut with its skin, which are cooked in water and sugar and then preserved in jars for the winter. The mild winter cold is fought against with soups made from beans and lentils. Several spices are added to improve the taste of dishes, all used moderately so as not to cover the taste of the meat or any other main ingredient: oregano, mint, garlic, dill, parsley, bay leaves, basil, thyme, cinnamon, clove, rosemary, saffron. All the dishes are accompanied with wines, sometimes home-made, as well as with retsina. At the end of the meal you can have coffee, Greek coffee, or frappe. Greek coffee is prepared on low heat until it froths – be careful, you do not have to drink the dregs. Frappe is instant coffee, served especially in the summer, for which you put coffee, sugar, and cold water in a shaker and then add milk and ice cubes. Enjoy it with a straw while watching people passing by.
There are many kinds of eating places in Greece, like restaurants; taverns – for a more informal meal – grill houses; fish taverns; small places where you can have ouzo and starters only; small, usually underground taverns where you can hear live music; but also kebab places, and cafes. There are also places where you can have light meals, usually to go, like pies or sandwiches (two pieces of bread filled with whatever you like), and also fast-food. The popular Greek fast food chain is called Goodies.
In conclusion, when dealing with Greece and the Greek culture, one should savor the flavor.