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Lesson Transcript

Maria: Welcome back to GreekPod101.com, the All About Greece Series. I'm Maria.
Iro: Geia sas, eíimaie i Iróo!
Maria: I think many people have a basic idea of what Greek cuisine is.
Iro: Yes, I bet the first thing people think of are olives!
Maria: Haha, even I thought that at first!
Iro: Well, the Greek cuisine is a lot more that olive oil and féta cheese. I can proudly say that we have some of the most versatile and delicious foods in the world!
Maria: You would say that, being Greek and all, wouldn't you? But I do agree. I was so impressed with the variety and quality of the foods when I first went to Greece.
Iro: Having the Mediterranean Sea as your neighbor has its perks. So today's lesson will be about the gorgeous dishes Greece has to offer.
Maria: Yep, all the way from deciphering menus to some insider tips on what to try!
Iro: Okay, now one thing that we are going to help you with so you don't go hungry is Greek menus.
Maria: Yes, luckily Greek menus are quite straightforward and often have pictures.
Iro: Yes, and due to Greece's popularity among tourists, most menus have English translations on them.
Maria: Yes, but I remember going to this really small village outside Thessaloniki, and there wasn't a single word in English!
Iro: That is a possibility in more local places.
Maria: And this is where the Greek alphabet comes in handy!
Iro: Sure! And the dishes we will present today will be no problem.
Maria: Okay, I say we jump right into it! What can people expect from Greek food then?
Iro: Great! As I mentioned earlier, Greece has one of the richest food cultures in the world. And the base of most Greek food is, as you guessed it, olive oil.
Maria: Actually Greek olive oil is really good, even just to dip a little bread in.
Iro: Yes, mmm.
Maria: Besides olive oil, seafood and fish are also very basic foods for the Greeks because a beautiful sea flows across Greek borders.
Iro: Yes, we can get fresh fish very cheaply every day if we go to the local fish market.
Maria: Okay good. Now what else can people expect about food in Greece?
Iro: Well, it depends on where you are to some degree. The same dish can have a slight difference depending on where you are in Greece.
Maria: A lot depends on what foods are native to the area.
Iro: Yes, but generally all restaurants in Greece have some basic dishes they serve that can be found all over the country.
Maria: Like Greek food at home though, the main cooking methods are grilling, frying, and stewing.
Iro: Yes, there are also a lot of vegetables in Greek dishes - raw, boiled, or cooked.
Maria: And the food is usually accompanied by fried or oven cooked potatoes right?
Iro: Yes, potatoes are a steady pillar in Greek food, as well as rice, actually!
Maria: Yes, Greece has its own type of rice that they use in many dishes too.
Iro: Sure. Another really important thing to the Greeks is bread!
Maria: Yes, I've never seen a Greek table without bread! It's kind of an insult not to serve bread!
Iro: Yes, bread was once considered to be a gift from the Gods, and so the Greek people treasure their bread with their meal very much.
Maria: It's tasty and cheap too! I love going to the bakers in the morning and buying a fresh baked loaf of bread. Mmmmmm…
Iro: Mmmm…
Maria: Okay, moving on. Something cool to try as well are some seasonal dishes.
Iro: Yes, there are some dishes that everyone goes crazy for when they are in season.
Maria: Well, one I know for sure is "Vasilópita" or "St Basil's cake."
Iro: Oh yes, it is very famous.
Maria: Yes, it's a New Year's bread with quite a profound meaning.
Iro: We place a coin inside the cake and then cut the cake and distribute it in a specific order.
Maria: Yeah, I remember there were many pieces left over that no one would eat when I first tried it.
Iro: Yes, the order is very important, and everyone gets their piece.
Maria: Who gets all the cake, and what's the order anyway?
Iro: Well, as Greece is a highly religious country, this cake is first dedicated to Jesus, who also gets the first piece. One piece is for Mary, one for the house, one for the business, and finally, the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member, including absent members. Sometimes, we also cut a piece for the poor.
Maria: Wow! That's a lot of pieces! What happens if you get the coin?
Iro: Well, whoever gets the coin is lucky for the next year!
Maria: Have you ever gotten the coin?
Iro: Unfortunately no. For some reason, it always seems to end up in Jesus' piece.
Maria: Yipes.
Iro: Anyway, especially around Christmas and New Year's, there are many different seasonal sweets.
Maria: Yeah, the Greeks love their sweets! I remember thinking they were ridiculously sweet when I first had them, but they are so tasty you just can't stop eating them, and eventually you get used to the sweetness!
Iro: Haha, indeed!
Maria: What about etiquette and table manners?
Iro: Etiquette can be quite tricky sometimes, but to be honest there isn't too much to worry about in Greece.
Maria: But there are a few points that need to be mentioned.
Iro: Yes, definitely. First, you need to know that people will share food from their plate or the middle of the table, so no being shy; just dig in!
Maria: I remember all these small plates of food came out, but I had no idea who had ordered them. I just kept my plate to myself while everyone else was happily dipping bread into the salads and dips until my friend mentioned that that's how it's done in Greece.
Iro: Sure, we love eating a lot. And a lot of different tastes and dishes is one of the best ways to experience the Greek food culture!
Maria: I think so!
Iro: Oh, one important thing to think about when it comes to table manners is to keep your elbows off the table and your hands where everyone can see them!
Maria: Yeah, I think it's rude in most countries though; so common sense usually works in Greece too.
Iro: Yes, and as mentioned earlier, bread is very important to the Greeks, and you should never bite it off with your mouth. You break pieces off with your hands before you eat it.
Maria: Well sometimes you get so much bread it's actually impossible to bite it! But in most cases, the restaurant has cut it into easily breakable slices.
Iro: Yes. Bread is usually free, so you can get as many refills as you want!
Maria: Filling up on bread can be very easy. It's so tasty though. A curse, I say, a curse!
Iro: There is always room for bread, and then some more bread!
Maria: mmmm….
Iro: One other thing is the bill.
Maria: Yes. I don't think I have actually ever paid when going out for a meal.
Iro: That's because, when invited, the host will usually pay the bill, otherwise the Greeks will offer to share the bill with the host, but you shouldn't try to pay.
Maria: Yeah, I've seen many a long argument over the bill. But the host always ends up paying it, and everyone knows they will. A bit of a waste of time, but it can be rather entertaining!
Iro: Haha,indeed!
Top Five Foods to Try in Greece
Maria: Okay, these are all like the yummiest of the yummy and the must eats!
Iro: Yep. Okay, number One. "Γύρος" ("Gýros")
Maria: Oh my goodness, I miss it so much.
Iro: This is probably the most famous Greek "fast-food."
Maria: Yes, basically, a gýros is a kebab but different from the traditional Turkish donner in the way it uses pork or chicken meat in pita bread.
Iro: Yes, you will see the gýros kebab machines in shops everywhere!
Maria: The seasoning of the meat with all the salad is such a wonderful combination.
Iro: Oh, I'm getting so hungry thinking of it.
Maria: Me too. The way of eating gýros is different depending on where you are though, right?
Iro: Yes, in some cities we eat it with "tzatzíki" ("traditional yogurt sauce"), where in other cities, they just eat it with ketchup and mustard.
Maria: Yes, they are loved by Greek people everywhere. I prefer the tzatzíki gýros; it feels more Greek!
Iro: The second yummiest, but probably most famous dish, is "soyvláki."
Maria: Ah, I love "soyvláki!" Whoever thought of this was a genius!
Iro: Haha, yeah. It's one of the simplest dishes but it will definitely leave you fully satisfied.
Maria: To put it simply, "soyvláki" is "marinated pork on a skewer."
Iro: Yeah, they are usually served with salad, potatoes, and, of course, "tzatzíki."
Maria: Mmmm…yummy.
Iro: The third dish I'd like to introduce is a bit more complicated than "soyvláki," but just as tasty! "Moysakás!"
Maria: Oh yeah! It's an awesome dish with a flavor explosion in your mouth!
Iro: That's one way of putting it. Basically, "moysakás" is aubergine casserole.
Maria: When you say it like that, it sounds so simple.
Iro: Well, that's what it basically is! Other than aubergine, there are potatoes, minced beef, cheese, and a special sauce. Aubergine casserole!
Maria: Fine. It's really tasty. But very hot! So be careful not to burn your tongue!
Iro: Thank you for the advice. Next up, is another rather simple dish, but it tastes beautiful. "Kalamarákia."
Maria: "Fried squid!" Love it!
Iro: Yeah! This dish is usually just eaten with a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon! As simple as that!
Maria: I was really suspicious of squid the first time, but it might help to think that you're eating onion-rings. Very squid-tasting onion-rings!
Iro: Haha, yeah. Squid and octopus are very commonly used in Mediterranean dishes, so we're just used to it I guess.
Maria: Sure. It's something you'll love once you overcome squidy thoughts.
Iro: Finally, we cannot go without mentioning the most common and loved salad in Greece! "Choriátiki!"
Maria: And there we have the féta cheese! Finally!
Iro: Yeah, this salad is a very simple, plain salad, but it contains olive oil and féta cheese. Such a lovely combination!
Maria: I think féta cheese is one of the most fitting additions to a salad.
Iro: Yes, and you should definitely try it!
Maria: So having mentioned all the famous and popular foods, we are going to give you the top five foods for the brave.
Iro: Yes, some of these are all really famous foods in Greece that I love!
Maria: I think we should start with where we finished in the previous section.
Iro: Ah yes, Féta cheese. Delicious!
Maria: I agree, but for those who don't know, feta cheese is actually goat cheese.
Iro: Yeah, we have many goats in Greece so we use their milk for many things.
Maria: I think many people might find goat milk to be a bit smelly and strong in taste.
Iro: True, but once you've tried féta cheese, you'll be sold! And it is used in loads of dishes.
Maria: Yeah, so get used to it!
Iro: Yeah! Next, we have "Taramosaláta."
Maria: Ooh, one of my favorites!
Iro: Yes it's fish roe mixed with boiled potatoes or moistened breadcrumbs, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Maria: Delicious!
Iro: I guess fish roe is something not too many are used to.
Maria: Well, there is caviar, but this is a bit different right?
Iro: Yeah, and we eat it with bread usually.
Maria: And it's a really cute color! PINK! Who wouldn't love pink food, ey?
Iro: I don't know Maria, I don't know.
Maria: Okay, next!
Iro: Number three is "stifádo." "Stewed hare."
Maria: It's quite a festive dish, ey?
Iro: Yeah, it usually contains rabbit, hare, or venison stew with pearl onions, garlic, bay leaf, and oregano. Sounds delicious, right!
Maria: Hmm. I don't know. There is something about eating something that once was your pet.
Iro: Well, Greek people love it, and it's a dish worth trying. Some people have chicken and fish for pets too, right!
Maria: I guess I should try that one. It's for a good cause, after all.
Iro: Finally, a rather luxurious dish for special occasions! No dish for the weak-hearted. It's…(drum roll)…lamb brain!
Maria: Sorry? Can you repeat that?
Iro: Lamb brain.
Iro: Lamb br…
Maria: Okay! Okay! I heard you! Why on earth would you eat lambs brain?!
Iro: It's a delicacy!
Maria: But it's brain.
Iro: And it's delicious.
Maria: You can have my piece.
Iro: Thank you.
Iro: Hope everyone gets the chance to try these very special Greek foods and much, much more!
Maria: Me too. Greek food in Greece (also known as food when in Greece…) is really delicious, and there is so much variety. I think everyone can find things they really love.
Iro: Yes, just don't forget to be a little brave.
Maria: Yes! And remember that if you can't understand the menu, you may have no choice but to be brave!
Iro: Yes! Just close your eyes and point, and see what you get.
Maria: Good idea!
Iro: Geia sas!
Maria: Bye!


Please to leave a comment.
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GreekPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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I think I got hungry with all these delicious dishes! So, what is your favorite Greek food?

GreekPod101.com Verified
Friday at 12:53 PM
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Hi Bibiana,

If you ever go there, let me know what you thought!


Team GreekPod101.com

Thursday at 11:57 PM
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I always go to Piraeus when Im in Athens :) Thank you again Stefania, I will remember your tip and try it next time!

GreekPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 10:39 AM
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Γεια σου Μπιμπιάνα,

παρακαλώ, να 'σαι καλά!

Next time you are around Athens, I suggest you take the train (green line) to Piraeus. Around 4-5 minutes walking distance from the station there's the restaurant Ρακάδικο. I think/hope you will like it... and the food there is GREEK food, not the touristy stuff they keep serving in Plaka. Don't fall on the trap, you can a tourist, sure, but you can be a smarter tourist when you do it like the locals do :wink:.




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Wednesday at 08:27 PM
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Stefania, that was a very good and useful comment! Thank you very much!

Yes it was Plaka, I like it... and after all we were tourists :D Good phrases to be polite... but it depends, if they arent nice with me I wont talk to them politely either :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

GreekPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 11:44 AM
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Hi Bibiana,

Sounds like you were in a touristy area in Athens (like Plaka/Thiseio?) where the waiters are outside and trying to get customers all the time. I absolutely avoid such restaurants, usually the cuisine is just the usual mousaka, souvlaki etc. and not that great either :unamused:

Next time use the athinorama guide ( http://www.athinorama.gr/restaurants/ ) and look for something... classier and not touristy that those types of restaurants.

If you don't eat the bread anyway, it is OK to tell them not to leave it to your table because you don't eat it (Συγγνώμη, αλλά δεν τρώω ψωμί. Πάρτε το αν θέλετε, μην πάει χαμένο. Κρίμα είναι.) Say something like this to justify the "NO". Just make sure to double check your receipt in the end so the "κουβέρ" (cover) charge is not there. It would most probably be there (welcome to Greece!), so you need to bring this to their attention if it is. They might consider as κουβέρ the use of cutlery, napkins etc apart from bread and water, for example. Actually it seems to be illegal to charge you for things you didn't order: http://screencast.com/t/abokgLHgSq

As for the water you can also ask them to take the bottle back and say that you prefer tap water in order to save plastic (Προτιμώ το νερό της βρύσης γιατί είναι πιο οικολογικό. Δεν θέλω να χρησιμοποιώ πλαστικό.) Just come up with an excuse!

If you are worried they might think you are cheap, you can always fix that with a little tip at the end.:wink:


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Monday at 02:44 AM
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Its not true that bread is free in the restaurants... you have to pay for it (about 2 euros or 2,50) Thats what I dont like in Greek restaurants... just one example from my last stay in Athens... Waiters catch you in the street and they tell you all the Menu... what is good what you should eat... and all I want is to sit down and choose what I want... I dont want to eat what others tell me... The same - we sit down, the waiter brings us bread and a bottle of water (what of course you have to pay) but what if I dont want to drink water but something else?!

My question is if it is impolite to tell them that you dont want it so they can take it away? Because I always do that :D I understand that its a Greek habit... but 1. I dont need bread with potatoes or rice (one is enough, you only get fat then :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: ) 2. Im not going to pay for something I dont eat...

GreekPod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 08:02 AM
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Hi Alexander!

I hope you will like them once you try them! Any plans of coming to Greece soon?

Kind regards,


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Wednesday at 05:35 AM
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I learned a lot of dishes I want to try to eat when I come to Greece :smile:

GreekPod101.com Verified
Monday at 03:30 PM
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Hi Matthew,

Gyros with pita and Greek salad are one of my favorite Greek foods as well! Maybe I love gyros a bit more hehe :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.



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Matthew dull
Saturday at 09:48 AM
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my favorite Greek food is Greek salads and gyro to