About Greek taverna Posted by Ourania on Mar 28, 2018 in Culture, Customs
Food is is one of the most important elements of Greek culture. As a Greek living on Greece, I am interested in the Greek American eating habits, and particularly in the type of food the menu in a Greek American taverna consists of.
After watching some videos and reading the menu of random Greek American tavernas (“GA taverna-s” in this post), I decided to write a post about the food experience in a typical Greek taverna (“GR taverna-s” in this post) in my country.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to make clear that I don’t intend to judge anyone or to state that GR tavernas are better. Actually, I find the effort of the Greek owners of GA tavernas to maintain and to promote the Greek culture, remarkable. Besides, as I have never dined in a GA taverna, I don’t want to make assumptions nor generalizations. There are differences even between the tavernas in Greece: a taverna in an island of massive tourism is not the same as the taverna in a small or remote village. I just want to point out a couple of differences between the GA and the GR tavernas.
#1. Some information on the dishes
GR tavernas do not serve food such as humus, tubule, felafel and lamb souvlaki. Felafel and humus are very trendy at the moment and are found in street food restaurants in urban centers. The equivalent of humus is fava soup or puree (φάβα is a type of legume) and can be eaten in any GR taverna.
#2. Belly dancing performance
In Greece, belly dancing is performed only in Middle Eastern, Turkish or Egyptian restaurants, as it is not a Greek dance.
#3. Traditional Greek dances
After watching many videos, I suppose that one is not very likely to see traditional Greek dances in a GA taverna. About a GR taverna, this is also the case. Is there a way to know if the music and dance are traditional? Yes. Any composition with drums, keyboards and bouzouki accompanied by dancing is not traditional. I would say it is just a “tangle” of sounds and steps.
Syrtaki, the most famous Greek dance, is not a traditional dance but a choreography made for Zorba the Greek. It is very nice to watch and the music is nice to listen to, if the instruments are not electronic.
#4. Plate smashing and “opa!”
Yes, plate smashing is still popular in Greece but not in a typical taverna. People smash plates in a μπουζουξίδικο, the famous bouzoukia.
“Opa!” (“Ώπα!”) is an interjection expressing different emotions, depending on the context. The “opa!” that foreigners know is another tourist “attraction” and we do not use it so much. To put things into perspective, imagine being in an American diner in Greece, watching men in boots and cowboy hats making acrobatics with a lasso, screaming “heehaw!”.
#5. About the taste
Most of my students tell me that they don’t know if the food they had in a GA taverna was original or if the food tastes the same and has the same quality as the typical Greek food. About the quality of food, there is good food and bad food in any country. About the taste, I always assumed that it is difficult to find good Greek products outside Greece and I changed my mind only after I had the best feta cheese in my life in Massachusetts. Moreover, traditional Greek cuisine is simple and most recipes consist of ingredients found in America, although olive oil is expensive and would probably not be an option, so I don’t see any reason why the food in GA tavernas would not be good.
As always, if you have comments, feel free to post them! Γεια σας!
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