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When you plan a visit to Greece, you'll soon see the influence of Ancient Athens on the local food culture. As well as when it comes to discovering the ancient architecture, diving into the beautiful Ionian Sea, or heading to see some of the many cultural sites that the country has to offer.

We are also willing to bet that at least part of why Greece is so beloved is because of its food and drink experiences. If you only know Greece as the land of olives and feta cheese, then think again. Because modern-day Greece has a rich and diverse range of food to offer visitors, with much of the inspiration for today’s Greek food scene dating back as far as ancient Athens.

But how did ancient Athens inspire Greek food culture, and how might you experience that today? We are going to dive down through the ages to find out!

What is Greek food culture?

Standard Greek cuisine is based on the typically accepted Mediterranean diet. Thought to be one of the healthiest diets in the world, this is based on a triad of wheat, wine and olive oil. However, Greek meals are a little more complex than that, often being based around legumes, fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as locally caught oily fish and honey.

What influenced Greek food?

Greek food has not always simply been known as “Greek food”. Greece as a country has been lived in by many different people from all over the world since ancient times. In fact, popular Greek dishes often have their origins in other cultures - such as Ottoman cuisine, which draws from such diverse and delicious cuisines as Persian, Arabic and Byzantine. Greece is also very close to Turkey, and the Turkish influence on Greek food is inextricably linked to modern Greek tastes. The East and West have both had a hand in what you eat today when you travel to Greece, making Greek food unique.

What did the Ancient Athenians eat?

Named for the goddess Athena, Athens was the most influential and important city in ancient Greece. What Athenians did was embraced and copied by not only other parts of Greece but the wider world. As well as inventing democracy, Athenians were hugely influential to Greek food culture. A typical dinner in Ancient Athens would be rich in wine, but would also include foods such as eggs from hens and quails, oily fish, olives and figs. Many of these foods are still a staple in modern Greek diets, as is other popular ancient Athenian fare such as bread, cheeses, and seasonal vegetables. Even today, restaurants in Athens often offer food based on seasonality - while this was entirely necessary in ancient times, nowadays it is done in order to offer the freshest and most delicious food to locals and visitors alike.

How did the Ancient Athenians eat?

While the Athenians were not the only Greeks, nor the only ancient peoples, to turn eating into a social event, they certainly popularized this. While for many eating a meal had been practical, the civilised lifestyle attained by the ancient Athenians meant that they saw mealtimes as a time when they could come together and eat in a “proper” way. This includes rules regarding how wine was served, as well as a lively discussion about the events of the day. Food became something one enjoyed for physical and intellectual nourishment - as Plutarch said, “We do not sit at the table to eat, but to eat together”.

Nowadays, it is common for this to be the case in modern Greek homes. Eating a meal together is often seen as the perfect time to relax, discuss, and spend hours luxuriating over delicious food. While it might not be an everyday event, it is something you may experience yourself in twenty-first-century Athens.

What food is Athens known for?

Visiting Athens or other parts of Greece in the modern era, you can taste the influence of the ancient times that came before. Of course, olives and olive oil are a mainstay of Greek food culture and must be sampled when visiting. Famous Greek dips are also often served, such as taramasalata (a fish dip made with roe), tzatziki (a dip composed of cucumber, yoghurt and garlic) and melitzanosalata (a dip made from aubergine). While these are only side dishes, they create a symphony of flavour when served with other Greek foods.

Moussaka, a bake created with minced lamb and aubergine, is often found in Greek restaurants, and is a classic that originates from the ancient Levant, but is now considered to be a Greek dish. And you will not be disappointed by Greek desserts, as flaky baklava with honey and almonds is widely eaten throughout Athens and beyond.

As you can see, the basic tenets of a Greek diet were founded in ancient Athens and have continued into the present day - so while you may not be able to travel back in time, your palate certainly can.

Experience Greek food

A visit to Greece can be one of the most fascinating and immersive journeys you can take, whether you wish to see the great city of Athens or one of the smaller islands such as Kefalonia or Corfu. Wherever you go in Greece, make sure to make the most of the iconic food culture by enjoying some incredible food experiences.

With Tabl, it is easy to learn more about Greek food culture and embrace new flavours. You can challenge your palate with a bizarre food tour, or keep it simple with cruise and lunch. Or, if you are feeling really adventurous, take a cooking class and learn how to create some delicious dishes yourself.

Whatever you choose, you can become part of Greek food culture and learn more easily. Or maybe just find your new favourite dish!

The Influence of Ancient Athens on the Greek Food Culture

It may be surprising to realise just how much ancient Athens has impacted current Greek food culture, as well as food culture all around the world. Whether this is by popularising the use of olive oil or making mealtimes more of a social event than a practical one, modern Greece has a lot to thank ancient Athens for.

If you want to experience Greek food now, and perhaps even learn something about its ancient roots, then don’t forget to check out the many food experiences in Athens, available with tabl. There is something for everyone, so take this opportunity to discover more about Greece and its varied and delicious food.

Popular Restaurants in Athens

Along with both modern gastronomy and contemporary methods, dining out in the Greek capital is a sheer delight. Read this article Popular Restaurants in Athensfor more information

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