Mezze

Mezze

By
Pam Talimanidis
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704869
Photographer
Mark Roper

A Greek meal starts with mezze (or mezzethes), a selection of appetisers that are traditionally served on individual small plates with bread and a glass of ouzo or tsiporo, the local anise-flavoured spirit.

Along the water’s edge on the islands, a line strung with octopus drying in the sun is a common sight, together with those picture postcards shops with rattan seated chairs and little square blue and green painted wooden tables, where a single dish is on offer, maybe grilled octopus or chargrilled sardines, salad and bread. Down the back there is a sink to wash hands and a few barrels of ouzo and retsina, the ouzo served in a peninteraki (50 ml bottles of ouzo) and the retsina brought to the table in an aluminium jug.

In larger towns one finds mezzethopoleion – restaurants dedicated to the preparation and service of mezzethes where one can make a whole meal of small dishes, picking and grazing for hours.

Mezzethes may be as simple as a few batons of cucumber, some anchovies and a slice of bread. But more often, for a family occasion, the table will be laden with plates of grilled sardines or anchovies, fried peppers, eggplant and zucchini, tzatziki, fried cheese balls, stuffed olives, dolmades, taramosalata, melitzanosalata, salads of sliced tomato, cucumber and feta and of course, hearty slices of horiatiko psomi (village bread).

Many mezze dishes have a salty component to stimulate the appetite and encourage the continued consumption of drinks: olives, anchovies and taramosalata are common.

In our village in Greece most families have their own vineyard, or ampeli. It is usually about a quarter-acre of manicured vines, which are tended with the utmost care to produce grapes for making tsiporo. In October the village still goes into production, everyone’s grapes are pressed and distilled, the nights get cooler and much tsiporo is consumed.

The consumption of mezzethes with tsiporo is a lengthy and relaxed experience which is not to be undertaken in a rush. In every village square, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, groups of friends, mainly men, pass the midday hours in conversation around tables laden with plates of mezzethes and peninterakis before wandering off home for a siesta in the mid-afternoon. This is an extremely important part of the community social life.

And in the evening, while the women sit together on their verandas after the day’s chores are done, crocheting, discussing food and families and offering a gliko (a spoonful of preserved fruit), the men will gather at the local café for a game of backgammon, a coffee or a peninteraki of ouzo and a few mezze dishes.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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