There’s a lot going on in Greece at any time of year, least of all seasonal holidays. Religious celebrations take precedent, with Easter and Christmas the perfect excuse for a family get-together, and food traditions play a huge part.
Another popular celebration is Greek Independence Day, this year taking place on 25 March.
This national event pays homage to the Greek Revolution of 1821, which celebrates the country’s freedom after many years of occupation. The date is marked with a public holiday in Greece, although since this is off-peak season, it is not widely known for visitors.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the day coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, which falls in the middle of lent. This has some knock-on effect on foods enjoyed during this time, meaning that meat is off the menu.
As with all celebrations, food traditions play an important role. Here we examine some of the most common ones.
If you’re not a local, you can be forgiven for stumbling across its pronunciation! Bakaliaros Skordalia is a national dish and food tradition enjoyed universally on Independence Day. It comprises batter-fried cod, with mash potato and garlic and olive oil dip. Simply put it’s the Greek version of fish and chips!
Some prefer to go for salted cod as a slight variation. This harks back to the days before refrigerators when salt was used to preserve the fish. A food tradition still observed in remote villages.
According to Greek food tradition, it also has religious significance too. It is believed that this celebratory day also marks the occasion when the Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would bear a child.
Soup with orzo
The fine rice like pasta known as orzo is a favorite amongst Greeks. This food tradition is one that utilises all the ‘ok’ foods during lent’; chicken broth (no chicken since meat is not allowed during lent), tomatoes, lemon and herbs. As far as soup dishes go, it is remarkably hearty.
Twice cooked octopus with macaroni
Bringing the Greek love of octopus and macaroni together, this is the perfect dish for lent, doubling up as a food tradition for this national holiday.
The freshly caught octopus is slowly braised in a deep tomato sauce, and served with large macaroni pasta. To top it off, oregano and mastic are added for an authentic flavor.
Food traditions that are passed down from family to family include each person’s take on dolmades. For some these include rice and herbs, for others mincemeat. However, with this falling at lent, the vegetarian version is most likely. Serve with a fresh yogurt dip such as Tzatziki and you’ll never look back!
Food traditions in Greece tend to rely upon locally sourced produce. This includes honey nuts, dates and spices.
Bringing all of these together, patouda is a delightful pastry that is commonly found at this time of year. A Cretan favorite, the sweet is served up with icing, making them a popular choice with little ones.
Wash down with a strong Greek coffee, and you’ll have enough resolve to get through the celebrations in style!
Sometimes, it’s the simplicity of dishes that make them so revered. A popular food tradition around this time of year is Fassolatha – a simple Greek bean soup.
The recipe can be traced back to ancient Greece, yet remains ever-popular to this day. There are many variations of the dish, since it’s open to interpretation. However, it typically tends to include Greek beans, olive oil, lemon, thyme, parsley, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Rustic cooking at its best, it’s a veritable treat for the body, nurturing the mind and feeding the soul.