When you’re Greek, the way you are taught to eat as a child shapes you as an adult. Little things your mum tells you, your sister warns you about and your uncle teases you over, stay with you for life. And although myths are what Greek folklore is made of, urban myths aren’t necessarily associated with Greek culture. But let’s be honest, how many times have you heard, “is it true that Greek people…?” at the start of a sentence. Neos Kosmos takes a look at the urban myths wrapped around Greek food, eating and cooking – just like a souvlaki.
1. You have to eat whatever is on the table for dinner.
TRUE: Whatever you mum has cooked for you, you have to eat. Don’t like fakes? Then it’s too bad for you. There is no way you can bargain with your mum about what’s for dinner. After all, she spent all day slaving over the hot stove while you were at school. And if you don’t eat your dinner, don’t expect her to make you grilled cheese on toast. Not Greek mama! It’s hungry to bed for you, right now. It’s all about respecting the food in a Greek family and being grateful for what you’ve been given. Times were hard in the horio, and don’t you know it, because you are always reminded of it… every day… sometimes hourly.
2. You have to eat everything on your plate.
FALSE: No one is forcing you to eat everything on the plate, but there is always a healthy dose of Greek guilt involved. Who has heard the saying “fai tin teliftea sou koutalia, ine i thinami sou”? Translation: “eat your very last spoonful, this is your strength.” You don’t get strength from overeating – you get indigestion. It’s little wonder every Greek pantry is filled with cartons of olive oil, tubs of kalamata olives and a jar of Eno.
3. Dropping a utensil means that you will have a visitor.
TRUE AND FALSE: This is a hard one because no one has ever calculated in what time frame that visitor has to arrive. There is also no evidence to say that they have or haven’t already visited because you dropped your spoon while eating trahana. At some point or another, someone will visit you. But, the very notion of someone stepping through your front door because you accidentally dropped an oily knife is absurd. So, until someone engages in some relatively well-documented research, the jury is out on this one.
4. If you spill Greek coffee while it’s boiling, you will come into money.
FALSE: I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this is well and truly false. That’s all.
5. Greek children don’t know how to cook because their mum cooked everything for them.
TRUE: Most 40-year-old Greek men haven’t the faintest idea how to boil spaghetti because, let’s face it, they’ve never had to. These boys / men are brought up in your typical Greek family where men are the hunters and women certainly are the gatherers. Having said this, they excel in basting the arni on the souvla but unfortunately, can’t darn their socks. Many young females leave the parental home with an idea of how to put together a mean moussaka. Complete with their very own special regional version of bechamel sauce.
* One must point out with the introduction of cooking shows, many men are taking up the habit of rolling out their own pastry to impress their lady friends. But when it comes to the washing up, they’d still rather watch the footy.
6. If you put your elbows on the table and hold your head with two hands, bad things will happen to your mother.
FALSE: Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to put your elbows on the table to hold your head up after a big, fat Greek meal. This action has been going on for many years and it has more to do with bad manners than wishing ill on your mum.
6. You will break Thea’s heart if you don’t eat all your food.
FALSE: Thea’s heart will not break if you don’t eat all her spanakopita. Do not let her force you into eating your food. You will not grow tall. You will not get big and strong. You will get fat. She isn’t even your real Thea, she’s just the next-door neighbour. End of discussion.
8. If you swallow a cherry pip and drink a glass of water straight after, a cherry tree will grow inside your tummy.
FALSE: This urban myth is a worldwide classic, a tale of scaring little children into believing that a fruit tree will grow in their tummy if they swallow fruit pips that they should be spitting out. This is provided the child in question drinks a glass of water straight after, causing the pip to be well fertilized and swell in the garden of their belly.
8. Eat horta and your hair will go curly.
FALSE: This is the Greek version of, “eat your crusts and your hair will go curly.” But is it true? Of course it’s not. Although eating horta will aid in bowel movements and increased energy levels.