There’s no doubt that Greece has much to offer in terms of traditional dishes: moussaka, spanakopita, youvetsi, dolmadakia…baklava. Then there’s the fresh produce, endless amount of olives, and, of course, the most delicious feta cheese in the world. Although Greece is surrounded by water and a fair amount of its land mass is comprised of islands, fish isn’t as bountiful in some areas as one might think. At least not the kind of fish that we’re used to (that is, salmon, tuna, swordfish).
If you’re going to travel to Greece and plan on eating seafood, you’re going to have to be slightly adventurous (unless you’re like me and eat this type of stuff already). I’m talking squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and – surprise! – sardines. Those of you who think that sardines are those little fish that come packed tightly together in a tin can clearly have never seen fresh sardines. Oh, and fresh ones are not overly salty at all. In fact, they’re kind of amazing.
Although octopus is my go-to when I’m abroad, I couldn’t resist ordering the sardines wrapped in grape leaves when I saw them on a menu in Petra, Mytilini, the island where my family comes from. The sardines were each about as long as my hand and came in a neat little row with all of the heads facing the same way. Each had been grilled with its grape leaf wrapper just enough that the leaves had a bit of a char on them. I will admit that they were a bit messy (I had to cut each open, de-bone it, and then get some grape leaf and fish onto my fork at once), but so totally worth the effort. The sardines were some of the freshest fish that I had ever had and the grape leaf added a refreshing and earthy layer of flavor.
Moral of the story: when you travel, eat what’s local and traditional to the area you’re in and take advantage of the types of foods that aren’t available to you at home. Oh and if you’ve never tried octopus or squid, you should do that too.
Chrysanthe is a recent graduate of Smith College who loves the summertime for taking leisurely walks in the evening and wearing sundresses and sandals every day. She enjoys ending the day with some cold beer, a good book, and the occasional double feature at the drive-in movie theater.