THE GREEK BREAKFAST EXPERIENCE
Pittes (as pies are known in Greece) have a way of locking in everything Greeks value most about food. The homely aromas of the first cut trigger memories of a grandmother rolling out wafer-thin filo pastry in a village home and the simple yet delicious ingredients celebrate seasonality. So it’s not surprising that Greek pies are designed to be snacked on at literally any time of the day. The trusty tiropita (cheese pie) and spanakopita (spinach pie) barely scratch the surface when it comes to Greek pies, with just about every region having its own twist (literally when it comes to the spiral varieties).
Bakery goods that make every day the weekend
Bread has always been part of the Greek breakfast table. Something similar probably happened in antiquity, given the descriptions of bread offerings to Demeter (the goddess of cereals and agriculture), although bread back then was made from barley and zea flour (which has made a comeback). And while the image of the village grandmother kneading and baking bread before dawn may be a rarity these days, a visit to the bakery for a traditional loaf and pastries is still the ideal start to the day in Greece, especially at weekends and on festival days.
You can tell just from the variety of breads on offer. Horgiatiko (with or without sesame seeds) is the staple, usually made from hard (yellow) wheat flour and with a crispy crust and solid crumb, while prozimi is a sourdough loaf often with the destination in the name (metsovitiko, ioanniotiko, pindou) and polisporo loafs are typically a wholegrain mix of wheat, barley, rye, oat, corn or rice flour. Sikaleos breads, on the other hand, are made with sesame flour. All are perfectly complemented by local marmalades and honey, or a drizzle of olive oil and cheeses and cold cuts.
Greek yogurt that sets the standard
There’s yogurt and then there’s Greek yogurt, which isn’t just deliciously silky and smooth to eat but also inextricably linked to the centuries-old livestock farming tradition of Greece. It’s rich in nutrients, easily digestible, high in protein and an excellent source of calcium and other minerals like phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.
Traditionally, making yogurt was a way of preserving sheep’s and goat’s milk in Greece. If you’re in a mountain village, you may find your yogurt served in a clay pot, covered in a thick skin, and your Greek breakfast table might offer yogurts with different fat contents. Dish yourself up a serving of Greek yogurt and choose whatever topping mix you want from honey, spoon sweets, cereals and fruit & nuts and you’re good to go.
Honey that’s guaranteed to sweeten your day
Greek honey is so often the difference … not just in yogurt but in sweets and other dishes, too. Greeks have had a lot of practice, of course, given the accounts of honey-making in ancient times. Homer and Hesiod wrote of wild bees in caves and trees and excavations at Knossos and Phaistos in Crete have uncovered minoan-era gold jewelry decorated with bees holding a honeycomb and clay hives dating to 3400 bc. Today, honey is found in every Greek kitchen and is a key export, with up to 16,000 tons produced around the country every year.