Greek families are child-centric, and so much of Greek life--including food and meals--pivots around children. Even the smaller children stay up late and enjoy the last meal of the day, usually salads and sweets, that traditionally doesn’t begin until at least 9 p.m. Greek restaurants, or tavernas, welcome children at all meals. Kids may be interested to know that the Greeks enjoy their luscious sweets, such as honey-soaked cakes and cookies, and can buy sweet treats, freshly made, on practically any street from vendors.
Kids may be intrigued to know that the Greek people traditionally eat four meals a day, beginning early in the morning and ending late in the evening. The Greek tradition is to begin with a small breakfast of a beverage and a sweet bread or pastry. They may pick up a mid-morning snack, a sesame-covered bread ring called a koulouri, from a vendor on the street. The Greeks eat their big multicourse meal, dinner, at about 2 p.m. then take a two- to three-hour nap, during which time most businesses and offices close. Folks start to return to work around 5:30 p.m. and shop or spend time with family until their late evening meal.
Filo pastry, honey and nuts are the bases for many Greek sweets. Greek sweets don’t typically contain the saturated fats, processed sugars or high fructose corn syrups that American foods do. Instead the Greeks take their fats from natural oils, cheese and nuts, and their sweets from honey. Filo pastry is the light, crunchy pastry that characterizes such sweet Greek treats as baklava, galaktobouriko and kataifi, a shredded dough confection soaked in sweet honey or honey syrup.
Children who may turn their noses up at vegetables may enjoy knowing that Greek children have traditionally eaten a diet that’s rich in greens. Spinach, green beans, salad greens and grape leaves are prepared as standalone dishes, or served as edible wraps for rice and meat. A dish of cooked spinach may be drizzled with honey and lemon or beaten into dough to create a spanakopita, or spinach puff. Grape leaves are favorites of many Greeks and may be found on menus at Greek restaurants in the U.S.