Greek Food in America
Up until recent years, Greek food in the United States has not been something you would want to bring back home to Mother Greece. I know, Greek food does not have a bad rap in the first place so why make such a derogatory statement? Because, as a Greek-American foodie, I know the truth and it needs to be exposed. Quite frankly, genuine Greek fare is infinitely tastier than what you’re eating here in America. It really breaks my heart to live this lie but do you know how it feels like to nod with an artificial smile as you tell me how delicious and scrumptious gyros are? It’s absolutely heart-wrenching! But I am here to fix this. You will not be oblivious anymore because some greedy, hairy, long-pinky-nailed Greek with no shred of pride wants to sell you cheap, fake hunks of processed craploaf. The fact is that most hole-in-the-wall gyro joints here fail miserably in comparison to their authentic Greek counterparts, the souvlatzidika (found in every town square in Greece). Although that unsightly, horrid compressed mystery meat-looking mixture is surprisingly fit for human consumption, it is not a real gyro. A real gyro consists of alternating layers of actual spiced meat and fat so that it bastes itself with its own juices generated by the flames of the fire. The first time I had a real gyro in Greece, I literally closed my eyes and my mouth climaxed. No one is climaxing here and everybody should be when they’re eating something as sexy as a gyro! It’s time for the truth.
Even in the chicest of Greek restaurants in Manhattan where the food is refined and divine, it is impossible to eat a real Greek meal because it is ‘frenchified’ by technique or elevated to another level- a level that poorly represents the food of Greece.
Home cooking is at the heart of Greek cuisine. You will not find pretty little sea urchin roe set gingerly alongside a kataifi-wrapped prawn drizzled with thyme- infused balsamic reduction at yiayia’s house. Although I do agree a dish like that is Greek-inspired, it’s just not Greek food. Greek people cannot afford to cook that way during a debt-crisis anyway; God knows they have to finance their nicotine and caffeine addictions! Instead, our food is what is put on the family table daily by our mothers. And trust me, our mamas are not whipping up gyros or souvlaki either. Contrary to what most people may think, Greek food is more than that as it boasts a very diverse culinary tradition. We have the North (Macedonia), Epirus, the Peloponnese, the Aegean and Ionian Islands, Crete and Cyprus. Each region has its own specialties. In Greek cookery, one will find an abundance of foreign influence as well–predominantly Venetian and Ottoman. In my opinion, Greek cooking consists of light, herbaceous, Mediterranean flavors characteristic of the legumes and produce that grow in the region. In addition to that, there is a slight accent of sweet spices from the east, like cloves and cinnamon, along with the tomato-garlicky nuances from the Italian west.
All in all, it’s a perfectly balanced fusion of east and west creating something that is uniquely Greek. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that it is also one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet. I, myself, can literally eat chickpea salad every single day (which I should not be doing around my gentlemen friends, mind me). Friends have also watched me chow down on dandelions and then have asked me to come over and rid of their weeds. My response to their snarkiness: “No wonder little old Greek ladies have the stamina to walk up and down hilly streets to the farmer’s market while American seniors need a Hooverscooter to get to the front door!” So if you know what’s good for you, get a Greek friend and get invited to dinner.
Note – The author of this article is anonymous (Many thanks for your contributions)
Although, this post is mainly talking about authenticity of Greek food in America, I feel the same can be said about other ethnic foods in America too such as Chinese food but if your lucky you may found real places that serve the real deal today (Really depends on location). Bottom line point and message to all restaurant owners out there, keep it real (as authentic as possible) with your food! Me personally, I don’t paying more for food if it’s authentic, fresh and delicious.