Elefteria was born in a small village near Thessaloniki and moved to the Netherlands when she was ten. Her father is of Greco-Pontic descent. Pontians are Greeks who originally lived in the Black Sea area. They have their own dialect, cuisine and traditions. So they prepare many dishes that are not found in other parts of Greece. One of the most important parts of the Greek culture that Elefteria has still retained are the Greek dishes and eating habits. She still eats Greek several times a week.
In Greek cuisine many dishes are linked to traditions. Elefteria explains: “For example, at Easter we eat lamb, on March 25 (a national holiday in Greece) we eat baked cod and when a child takes his first steps we bake a pita. Every life event in Greece is linked to food. From marriage to death. Even at funerals and memorials there are eating traditions.” In addition, Greek cuisine is very diverse due to its history. You see Arabic, Italian and Ottoman influences. The Greek Orthodox Church has also had a significant influence on the way of cooking. Lent is a major part of the year. “Fasting in the Greek Orthodox Church means not eating meat or fish with blood. You can only eat vegan for a large part of the fasting period. On the strictest days, you should not use olive oil yourself. As a result, there are also a lot of vegan dishes in Greek cuisine,” explains Elefteria.
“The term flexitarian in Greece is unknown. My aunts laugh about this. They cannot imagine that everyone eats meat every day.”
According to Elefteria, the biggest misconception of Greek cuisine is that only meat is eaten, while this is certainly not the case. Contrary to popular belief, the Greeks do not eat a 'mixed grill' every day. She thinks that this misconception was created by Greek restaurants abroad and because the tourists like to eat meat in Greece. “But my grandmother only ate meat once a week, for example. The term flexitarian in Greece is unknown. My aunts laugh about this. They cannot imagine that everyone eats meat every day," said Elefteria. In addition, the end of Lent is often celebrated with a large barbecue. “Then meat consumption is being caught up a bit,” she says with a laugh.
There are few Greek restaurants that serve truly authentic Greek food. “Dutch often give it their own Dutch touch,” says Elefteria. The Dutch do not like to see fat and bones in their meat. She also notices that people have a wrong image about gyros. This dish is indeed regularly eaten by Greeks and since you need a special device for this, it is ordered from the countless Gyradika (eateries that mainly serve grill dishes) in Greece. These deliver until late into the night for three euros and are at your door within fifteen minutes,” says Elefteria. But for her, the fact that it is served as a dish in a restaurant is comparable to serving a ‘frikandel speciaal’
In addition to the Gyradika, you have even more different types of dining options in Greece. Magiria are cheaper eateries where they make homemade food. Mezedopolias make Greek mezze. And in addition, you have fish Taverns that have fish as a specialty and eateries that mainly serve grilled meat. Something they have less in Greece are the well-known fast food chains. While these can be found all over the world, it is difficult for them to get a foothold in Greece. If you can get fast food on every street corner, made from fresh ingredients from Greek cuisine, then the choice is quickly made by the Greeks. “Why pay six euros for a fast food menu when you can have two delicious pita breads with gyros?” says Elefteria.
“Why pay six euros for a fast food menu when you can have two delicious pita breads with gyros?”
Do you want to know more about the Greek food culture and its cuisine? Elefteria is happy to tell you more about it on her website kookmetelefteria.com. Her mission with her website is to bring more attention to Greek cuisine and the country. She also gives Greek cooking demonstrations and workshops.