Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Greece's Greatest Hits

On this trip I was reminded just how difficult it is to find good food when you're traveling abroad on a budget. It's not that satisfying food can't be found, it's just that between jetlaggedness, long days of sightseeing on foot, language barriers (including a different alphabet in this case), and unfamiliarity with neighborhoods all lead a traveler to sacrifice interesting dining experiences for convenience and ease. In addition, I found that most guidebooks like Frommer's (we used Lonely Planet) don't offer much in the way of really great restaurant recommendations, since they're dedicated primarily to sightseeing.

That being said, I was able to sample lots of traditional Greek dishes both in Athens and on Naxos, many of which I had already tried back at home. What was interesting to me was observing the difference between Greek-American food and Greek food. Take the classic Greek salad, for example. In the U.S. it's typically comprised of shredded romaine, kalamata olives, chopped tomatoes, and feta crumbles. Lettuce was conspicuously absent from the salads I ate in Greece, however, and there was nary a feta crumble to be found. A sizeable bed of fresh-tasting cucumber and red onion slices replaced the lettuce, and the feta was always served as a thick slice--never crumbled. And unlike the gyros you often eat in the U.S., my gyro fixings were served neatly arranged on a plate, never tucked into a pita, with generous dollops of tzatziki (yogurt dip studded with chopped cucumber) rimming the plate. I really enjoyed all of the little touches provided by each taverna at the outset of each meal: a generous basket of fresh bread with silverware and napkins tucked inside, and big glasses or pitchers of ice water provided at no charge--a rarity in Europe.


Blogger MUD said...

You're a blogging goddess! I love the Greek spreads (yoghurt, eggplant, etc.) -- just not the salmon roe one! I notice the difference between Chinese and American-Chinese dishes all the time -- the American dishes use a lot more spices, while the Chinese dishes are more in tune with the ingredients -- so zucchini tastes like zucchini and not salty soy sauce!

2:45 PM  
Blogger RiRi said...

I love cucumbers and sour cream but over the years, with an increased fear of fat calories, I've discovered that yogurt is indeed a good substitute with the cucumbers....plus a little dill.

9:03 PM  

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