What do Greeks eat for breakfast? Well, it depends mainly on their age and the time of the season. For the over-30-something generation, breakfast is something they usually have to postpone as they are running late for work or school. They get a cup of coffee –usually filtered that they call “Galikos” (means “French”) in the winter and “frappe” in the hotter months and off they go.
“Frappe” or “frapogalo” if it has milk in it –although a French word – is a Greek invention. It’s an American-type instant coffee that goes with as much sugar as you like into a shaker and after a good shake it is served in a tall water glass. Then you can add milk, if you wish, and a straw goes piercing through the foam and the ice cubes, so that you can suck it without becoming a real disgusting mess, with brown stains and ice cubes all over you. No “kalamaki” (straw) means -and that’s final- no “frappe”. Or “frappa” as it’s called in street-slang coffee terminology. Anyway, Greeks and coffee is a chapter by itself and we might give it its own blogpost in the future.
As for the morning food, most get a “tost”: two slices of bread with cheese and ham between them, then toasted all together. Some, especially younger Greeks, have adopted more western habits like cornflakes etc. But the real epitome of Greek breakfast can be found outside the house and in any bakery. In Greece, bakeries and souvlaki places keep the country on its feet and going. The typical Greek escapes his home in the morning with just a coffee to get him through the traffic jam without a car crash. He gets to work, has a fight with his boss about being late, the traffic jams, workings hours etc., and then at some point hits one of the many bakeries that every neighborhood has.
There, one can find everything, from at least 4 kinds of bread to croissants – with or without filling- sweet or salty pies and any kind of bread-like contraption filled with whatever you can imagine. And of course sweets, milk, coffees, juices, beverages – even alcohol.
As for the “traditional” Greek breakfast, this is a totally different story. In the old days people living in the villages used to eat a really heavy-duty breakfast every morning.
First of all, before international commerce routes got to the distant mountain or island villages, instead of coffee or tea, they drank milk, mountain tea, sage or linden. Then later on, Turkish coffee and tea were imported and added to the menu. But the real strong point was their morning food. Huge portions of animal fat were added in everything: In Crete it was eggs with “staka”, a kind of extremely fat butter, the first cream to come up when you start churning the milk; in Epirus’s mountains it was pies with everything in them from wild veggies to meat and eggs; and in some places fried sausages or cured meat like “kagianas” or “apaki” on top of everything else.
Hand-kneaded bread –so thick and rich that it was a full meal by itself- and olives with maybe a tomato or a piece of really salty (for preservation reasons) goat cheese, or salt-cured sardines followed later in the day to keep everybody going. Maybe with a little bit of wine…
But these people went everywhere on foot, usually climbing up and down a mountain or two, to get to the ‘office’. Which was usually either a rocky piece of land which they had to dig with nothing more than a hoe, or a boat which they had to into the cold sea to go fishing, drag nets by hand etc. And their next lunch was usually back at home, just before sundown. So it was “extra calories for all” and no worries about diabetes, heart disease or obesity.
So, if you do come over here, go to a bakery in the morning, when everything is hot and just out of the oven and start trying things. It’s really cheap and quick and you can enjoy it while walking around the city.
Or sit and take your time to enjoy a traditional breakfast, with other locally-sourced products like oranges, fruits, juices, marmalades etc. Just remember to get small portions as, if you are not going hiking, mountain biking or kayaking up a cool mountain, but for a long walk or swim in the heat, you will start flirting with a heart attack.
I know, it was delicious …didn’t I tell you so?