The Elusive Greek Breakfast

July 31, 2012
By

Being in vacation mode, I’ll take a break from writing about Greek restaurants outside of Greece and write a few things about the Greek breakfast right here in Greece.

When people write or talk about the Greek breakfast, they often say it is nonexistent or is made up of a cigarette and a coffee. While the Greek breakfast was never a huge meal, except perhaps for farmers, there is a large variety of traditional Greek breakfast foods and recipes from different parts of Greece, which would be a great addition to any hotel breakfast buffet.

For example, you may find local savory pies made with local cheese, homemade Greek fruit preserves, local sausages and cured meats, Greek cookies and bread. 

This is all nice, the question is does the average traveler/tourist Greek and non-Greek get to taste all these yummy local Greek breakfast foods? Unfortunately, for the most part no. Most average hotels will serve you bread, generic cake, pre-packaged single servings of danish butter and french marmalade and if you’re lucky you may even get some croissants (by the way, I have nothing against croissants but surely France may be the better place to get them and not in some Greek village). There are many reasons why Greek hotels are serving this type of breakfast: financial, they think tourists prefer a continental breakfast, they don’t feel that the Greek humble foods are good enough, to name a few.

This is unfortunate considering the rich food tradition of Greece. The good thing is that many hotels are starting to see the Greek “light”. You may notice feta cheese and local cheeses, olives, maybe even some paximadia (Greek rusks) on display, but you still have all the other stuff (pre-packaged cereals, bacon etc).

An important initiative is the Greek Breakfast of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels that seeks to have hotels in Greece serve local Greek breakfasts using local products, providing guidance for hoteliers and developing a network of hotels who are participating and serving a Greek breakfast. The Hellenic Chefs Association is also working hard on promoting the Greek breakfast among hotels and chefs.

However, I haven’t seen much done to actually promote the Greek breakfast to the average consumer. Let’s say you are in Greece, or you are a Greek traveling somewhere in Greece that you have never visited. Do you know what the local breakfast is?

There are actually many hotels that do serve a Greek breakfast or rather Greek breakfast foods, the problem is that these foods are mixed with all the Westernized breakfast items, making it difficult for someone to actually eat a Greek breakfast. And they end up eating the same old thing: eggs, bacon, cereal etc.

So here’s my advice: The next time you are visiting Greece or if you are Greek and in an area you have never visited, read up on what the local products are, at the buffet ask if the preserves are homemade or if the honey is local. If you see some sort of pita (savory pie), choose it over croissants. If you are staying somewhere with no breakfast, go to the local bakery and get some traditional pites there. Taste the local sweets, try some local herbal teas.

The Greek Breakfast may not be obvious, but if you look for it, you will find it.

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11 Responses to The Elusive Greek Breakfast

  1. August 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Θα συμφωνήσω μαζί σου Ελενα πως δεν υπάρχει ελληνικό πρωϊνό στα ξενοδοχεία.
    Στα περισσότερα ξενοδοχεία έχουν το κλασσικό: αυγά, λουκάνικο, ζαμπον, τυρι, αντε και καμια ντομάτα με ελιές και φέτα.
    Να μην πω για τις μαρμελάδες τις προκάτ. Πόσο δύσκολο θα ήταν να έχουν σπιτική μαρμελάδα? Αυτο και σε ξενοδοχεία 4 & 5 αστέρων.
    Εχω βαρεθεί να βλέπω αυτά τα πρωϊνά.
    Τοπικά προϊόντα δεν υπαρχουν ούτε για δείγμα (ουτε στο μπουφέ του πρωϊνού, ούτε στο μεσημεριανό).
    Πρόσφατα πήγα στη Σύρο. Το πρωϊνό στα γνωστά πρότυπα.
    Θα ήθελα να είχε και λουκούμια και χαλβαδοπιτες, ακομα και το ντόπιο τυρί το Σαν Μιχάλη. Τίποτα από όλα αυτά.
    Ισως οι ξενοδοχοι μόνο που έχουν μεράκι, και ιδίως στις μικρές οικογενειακές μονάδες, βάζουν τοπικές γεύσεις του τόπου τους για να τις γνωρίσουν όλοι.

    Νασαι καλά και να περνάς καλά

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      August 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Σε ευχαριστώ για το σχόλιο σου, ελπίζω να αλλάξουν τα πράγματα. Ίσως αν αρχίσουμε και εμείς ως καταναλωτές και τουρίστες να τα ζητάμε κάτι να γίνει.

  2. Anonymous
    September 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I agree that hotels cater for what they think the tourist will eat – its the same everywhere not just Greece. Plastic processed cheese and meat that could never be from a real animal, processed breads etc ugghh!

    The hotel I’ve stayed in had a choice – that stuff! or good bread from a local bakers (fresh every day), feta, graviera, tomato, cucumber, fruit, yoghurt and honey.
    But will a nice greek tell me is this hotel greek breakfast or also ‘at home’ greek breakfast?

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      September 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Well, that used to be areal at home breakfast. Traditionally Greek would eat bread, some cheese, some olives. Nowadays as I’ve mentioned in other posts, many Greeks will eat cereal (the processed sugary kind), breakfast bars etc.

  3. Timothy Gikas
    November 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Great blog theme. I follow your posts from Facebook and use your blog for food ideas and am learning much about my heritage. I am also pleased to learn that over the years I have actually migrated my eating habits to much of a Greek style of eating not because it is fashion but because I simply feel better eating this way. I totally get what you are trying to say.

    One small request. Please include a full description of your food pictures which would include the main food and cooking technique if it is not obvious, the condiments to make the dish special special, and spices used to develop the flavors and visual appearance of the dish. It would be helpful to those of us that did not have the luxury of growing up with Greek cooking to learn what ingredients go where.

    Knowing my grandmother’s cooking I am sure the Greeks did not combine ingredients searching for the next great food fashion statement but rather because it was “better” that way. Humble food or not I am thriving on the stuff!
    Cheers

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      November 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

      Thank you Timothy! I’m glad to hear that OliveTomato is a source of Greek food ideas.

  4. Danielle in Texas
    December 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    We were just in Athens and had a delicious and ample Greek breakfast at the Fresh Hotel. There were varieties of cheeses, yogurt, local honey and preserves, dolmas, potatoes and tomatoes, fruits, and more. We have never been more impressed with a hotel breakfast. Ahhh, I’m craving it now.

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      December 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks for the tip Danielle!

  5. March 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Hello Elena, your blog is so veryinteresting and inspiring. We Greeks know that breakfast is not the biggest meal of our day but it does just that break-the-fast. I must share the most memorable breakfast I had during our travels to Greece. Our family is from Pyrgos Ilias in the Peloponnese. We stayed at the Best West Europa Hotel at Drouva 1, Olympia 270 65, Peloponnese,Greece. The breakfast buffet included the types of food that my mother prepared; yoghurt with a selection of conserves (quince, sultana grapes with blanched almonds, and much more), galatopita (milk pie thickened with semolina and infused with vanilla), tiganites (small pancakes) served with Petemezi (grape must syrup), and much, much more. I telephoned my mother to tell her that the cuisine on offer was like her home made regional cooking. I just had to share this with her. The staff treated us like family. We had such a wonderful and memorable stay. Filakia xx

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      March 14, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Eugenia, Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful breakfast!

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