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Greek Appetizers

For a Greek restaurant, its appetizers, or starters, ts kitchen can do.  After all, the whole range of foodstuffs - meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products - is available for use in Greek appetizers.  They range from the simple and refined to the brilliantly creative, and quite often reflect the main courses.  They can be eaten hot of cold and may be just the introduction or the main course itself - whatever the customer chooses.

In the cities especially around midday the great army of office workers is drawn in little groups to the countless small restaurants that have opened up in recent years, hidden among the rows of houses, and that have now become sought-after addresses.  In the mezedopolio, a shop selling nothing but mezes as far as the eye can see, there will certainly be something to suit every taste.  Ouzo, the Greek anise-flavored schnapps, is a constant accompaniment to all mezedes.  Drunk with ice, water, or straight, its task is to reinforce the appetizing sensation aroused by the mezedes.  "Appetite making" is, after all, the meaning of the word mezes, which comes from Turkish.  Appetizers certainly do that, but if you are not careful, they manage to do something else as well; they make you feel much too full much too quickly, just because you are longing to try a bit of everything.  You can always tell experienced connoisseurs of mezedes by the restrained way their forks pick up, say a piece of squid, then a potato, perhaps an olive next or maybe a small meatball.  In between people chat, break off a piece of break, sip their glass of ouzo, have a drink of water, and generally take their time.  Where people dine in groups, all selecting uninhibitedly from the dishes, something of the original rural Greece has obviously survived, as in the past whole villages would demonstrate and renew their social solidarity through similar forms of communal eating. 

The difference regions of Greece reveal the characteristics of their cuisine not least in the selection and preparation of the typical local mezedes.  So the mezes must definitely be seen as a kind of ambassador.  For example, in the areas which were once strongly Ottoman, oriental influences predominate, while a western fragrance permeate those parts of the country which were formerly under Venetian sovereignty.  On the Greek islands, the selection of mezedes is still determined by what is produced on each island, and on the mainland, appetizers have a stronger taste than in the south of Greece.  They whole variety of Greek mezedes can be seen gathered together in the big cities, where the host's origins and the preferences of his regular customers are the deciding factors.  And they are available from morning till night, because Greek appetizer culture is a round-the-clock affair.  Mezedes will be available at any time of the day, even if you arrive at 11 p.m. 


excerpts from: "Culinaria Greece"


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