Greece has always been a crossroads between East and West. In Northern Greece (Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace) the regional food and cooking mirror the shepherd’s traditions, with local Greek cheeses and Greek yogurt playing an important role in the traditional Greek Diet. Savory pies, which keep and travel well –convenient to itinerant herdsman– are a major part of the local cooking. Pickled cabbage and peppers in every shape, heat level, and preparation are other common northern Greek ingredients. The cooking of Macedonia and Thrace has been immensely influenced by the million or so Greek refugees who emigrated en masse here after the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922. With them came the flavors of the East and the aesthetics of a more urbane, sophisticated cooking style, peppered with more than a few French influences. Dishes we take for granted today, from moussaka to saganaki and more all arrived with the Asia Minor Greeks.
The Peloponnese is home to a cuisine where extra virgin Greek olive oil, one of the region’s most important products, flows in generous amounts in all sorts of Peloponnesian regional food, especially bean stews and vegetable dishes. Pork is a specialty here, too. Kalamata olives, world’s most famous, hails from the Peloponnese. In Ionian island cooking, the Venetian influence palpable in the countless Italian-sounding dishes (bianco, bourdetto, polpetes, etc.), the penchant for pasta, and more.
Aegean cuisine is simple. Chick peas and yellow split peas, filling vegetables fritters, pan-fried greens pies, oven-roasted goat and grilled fish are some of the classics of Aegean cuisine. Aegean cuisine culminates in the cuisine of Crete, mother of the Mediterranean Diet. Crete’s regional food is unique! Wild greens are paired with everything from meat to fish to snails to legumes in a multitude of simple, nutritious, delicious dishes finished with excellent extra virgin olive oil. The island also produces myriad cheeses and famed thyme honey, and vegetables that are exported all over the world.