When people ask me what Greeks eat for breakfast my typical tongue-in-cheek answer is coffee and a cigarette. Modern urban life in Greece has put a damper on breakfast. Most people rush out the door in the morning, perhaps having sipped a cup of coffee and perhaps having nibbled, at best, on a sweet sesame-covered biscuit or on some plain packaged toast slices and a little cheese.
Typical Greek breakfasts were never the elaborate ordeals that a typical English or American breakfast still is. School kids in big cities often ate a sesame bread ring and a wedge of La Vache Qui Rit cheese on their way to school, bought from a vendor on the corner. Farmers had a more substantial meal, often comprised of a steaming plate of trahana porridge with feta or other cheese, then coffee, and oftentimes a shot glass full of eau de vie, especially on winter mornings.
Sunny-side up eggs drizzled with lemon juice is a typical late morning breakfast in small mom-and-pop restaurants in Crete. Elsewhere, the olive plays its role in early morning nutrition, together with bread and cheese. Some people prefer a sweet start, hence the array of small biscotti-like cookies that are traditional all over Greece. They’re called koulourakia and they might be studded with nuts and raisins, or flavored with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, grape must or ouzo or orange rind.
For some, a late morning cream-filled bougatsa is the best breakfast of all, preferably savored outdoors in sidewalk café, with a second cup of coffee, or, in warmer weather, with Greece’s indigenous iced coffee, frappe. For tourists, thick Greek yogurt and honey, offered up in tiny emporia in the Plaka to hotel breakfast buffets, is the best way to start the day. The holidays are different though. With the kids off and many parents on vacation, too, there is more time to linger about in the morning.
The following dishes are inspired by traditional Greek breakfast treats:
Greek eggs Benedict with preserved pork & barley rusks
The egg has always been connected with rituals and traditions. In the Middle Ages, when the consumption of eggs increased dramatically, the Greek villagers began doing the same thing that the Romans did- breaking the egg in a plate first, so as to prevent evil spirits from hidding in it.
Trahana soup with katiki Domokou, honey & spoon sweets
Katiki is an indigenous cheese of Roumeli, specifically of Domokou, which can be also found throughout Epirus and Macedonia, sometimes bearing the name "tsalafouti." It has soft grainy texture and a slightly sour taste.
Cold yogurt mousse with preserved sour cherry spoon sweets
In Europe, yoghurt is usually eaten with sugar, honey, marmalade, fresh or preserved fruit, for dessert or breakfast. It is also used to make cold or frozen pastries as well as beverages.
Greek coffee spiked with ouzo
Greek coffee is the beverage that the average Greek will drink during breakfast time or after lunch. It can be prepared in four different ways. "Sketos" (without sugar), "metrios" (medium), "glykys" (almost honey-sweet) and "glykys vrastos" - sweet but boiled more then once so it loses most of its froth.