It’s been a little over two weeks since we arrived in Athens, Greece, for the third and final term of the 2014-15 school year. And we wasted no time delving into Greek culture and all of the mouth-watering food that it offers: we’ve already indulged on gyros, souvlaki, tzatziki, greek salad, and eggplant moussaka! One of the first activities that our students engaged in upon arriving was learning how olive oil is extracted and produced (with plenty of taste-testing involved, of course.)
For our second weekend in Greece, a two-night in-home cooking class was offered to us by Fofi Olympidou, an Athenian with a Spartan husband and a love for travel and Greek cuisine. The first group of students who attended was accompanied by myself and the second group of students attended with fellow StudentLIFE Advisor Michelle Marshall.
On the evening of the class, we ventured outside the city center to a beautiful apartment near the coast to attend a dinner party of sorts featuring five members of THINK Global School and two travelers from Australia. We broke the ice with an assortment of Greek breads and conversation about Greek culture before progressing into the kitchen to make an assortment of traditional Greek foods and family recipes that Fofi was keen to share.
We were lucky enough to have Fofi’s fresh herbs (oregano, spearmint, and parsley) and homemade honey from her bees on the rooftop. We made tzatziki, spinach pies, horiatiki (Greek salad), rooster with Greek noodles (hilopites), zucchini stuffed with meat and rice in traditional egg and lemon sauce, zucchini balls, and the famous dessert of Greek yogurt with nuts and honey. Of note: the casual use of spearmint in recipes and the complexity it adds. Also, the unexpected use of nutmeg in dough and cinnamon in sauces.
The original Mediterranean diet was plant-based with high amounts of vegetables, fruits, and olive oil; moderate use of dairy such as Greek yogurt and feta; fish and seafood; and a low amount of meat. The meal we made was quite the spread and the conversation that unfolded had us feeling cozy and at home, as though we were sitting in a family member’s kitchen.
The more one travels, the more one learns to travel for the experiences and connections. As you circle the world, you learn to enjoy the process and worry less about the grind and checklists. And no matter where in the world you are, even in the early stages when you are just learning how to say your hellos and thank you correctly, nothing compares to a home-cooked meal. Thanks so much to Fofi for allowing us into her home and showing us how easy it is to create a healthy meal with an amazing amount of variety!