I’ve finally found a country that I want to visit as much (if not more) than Italy: Greece. There’s something about it being the birthplace of democracy that makes me want to walk the ancient streets where freedom was forged.
Plus, the food’s not shabby; I’m a huge fan of Mediterranean food. Olives. I could eat olives all day. My dad would shudder in horror, but I love them. And all kinds. Give me one of those olive bars you find at grocery stores with about 15 different varieties, and I’m as happy as a pig in slop.
Try the World.
Have I mentioned that I love food? I subscribe to Try the World food boxes (one of my first was Italy). When I received Greece, I figured it was meant to be.
Some of the goodies I received: spicy pepper paste with feta cheese, breadsticks with Kalamata olive paste (you know I was all over that), tzatziki spice mix, Kourambies biscuits (think light, buttery cookies covered in powdered sugar), pasteli sesame sweets, rosemary-infused olive oil, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves, and trahana pasta.
I can attest that the spicy pepper paste is amazing with ground sausage on zoodles (or regular noodles). I think I ate the biscuits within minutes of opening the box. And the sesame seed bar. And the breadsticks…don’t judge me. It’s like Christmas when it arrives. Some of the stuff was especially useful for my Greek meal.
You can’t experience Greece — from a distance, at least — without tasting chicken souvlaki. Basically it’s grilled (and sometimes skewered) meat that’s spiced and served with tzatziki sauce (see ^ useful!). I paired mine with some Mediterranean salad.
I actually just use Read the World as an excuse to eat out more often. What I didn’t know when my sister suggested this new Greek place is that it’s one of the top Greek eateries in the city. Very popular. And deservedly so, I found out, after feasting on one of the gyros with a side of Mediterranean salad and some of the best fries ever (one day I’d like to go on a fry and burger tour and just try out all the varieties — Jason, if you’re seeing this, come back to the U.S. so we can do it. With Bonnie and Matt). As a bonus, I shared a tiropita, a cheese-filled puff pastry. If you feel like you need to be slightly healthy, get the one with spinach (spanakopita).
The Greek Festival.
Because this Read the World was months in the making — happy summer to me! — The Greek Festival serendipitously crossed it’s path. The food was amazing. There were these huge skewers of meat that they were just slicing pieces off of. The green beans (fasolakia) might have been my part. They were stewed with garlic and tomatoes. I’ve been thinking ever since about how to recreate them.
What Greece Has Taught Me:
Greece has had a tumultuous history. A collection of independent city-states warred fiercely with each other, only uniting to confront a bigger evil. It reminds me of squabbling siblings who beat up on each other only to turn around and defend each other to an outsider. It’s a love/hate relationship with those crazy Hellenes. Greece has also taught me that…
- Greece was the birthplace of democracy. So much of modern Western culture began 3,000 years ago with it: The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece.
- Regardless of its democracy, only the upper social strata in Greece were actually free. Slavery was a very common thing in Greece and throughout the known world. For centuries after its fall, Greece lost that freedom that made it so unique: : Greece: A History.
- Philosophy was one of the gifts of ancient Greece. Many of the greats — Socrates, Plato, Aristotle — perfected the art of debate that so many use today: The Republic. For all of Plato’s brilliance, he seemed to be against almost every form of government, democracy included.
- Freedom was so important that men sacrificed their lives for it with a song in their heart. The 300 Spartans who died at the Hot Gates were only one example of this sort of selflessness: Gates of Fire. The Greeks’ ability to withstand Persia made it possible for the Hellenistic culture, and democracy, to spread to the rest of the world.
- The great Greek civilization might have fallen a few centuries after the birth of Christ, but the indefatigable love of freedom hidden within the men and women never died. It was awakened throughout different moments in history, especially when Hitler invaded: Spies of the Balkans.
- When Greece was occupied, that ancient Greek heroism was reawakened, and the people resisted German occupation with a fierceness rarely seen in the world: Natural Born Heroes. A fierceness that played no small role in Hitler’s defeat in Russia.
I always considered freedom synonymous with America. I know that’s American ego and all, but I never cared because I’m proud of my country, flaws and all. I had no idea how deeply that love of freedom is ingrained into the Western psyche thanks to the Greeks. For that alone, their heroism and humanity, I give them thanks.