The history and tradition of meze in Greece
According to the researchers’ records, the politikos meze is a thoroughly romaic and masculine invention. The name has Persian roots, but the philosophy of the meze is politiki (from the city of Constantinople).
Late every afternoon, hundreds of Romioi returning from their work would get off the barges at the piers of Constantinople. On their way home, they would stop, in groups, at some kapileio, kafene or bakalotaverna, where on a piece of oil paper, on a small casket (not even a table), a few small tasty bites prepared by the kapelas or the bakalis would be waiting for them: a little parsnip or soutzuki, fresh bread, a few dried beans with oil lemon or flatbread, a piece of cheese, a piece of salted sardine or anchovy, a little cool cucumber. Together with a little glass of raki or ouzo, to get the food down, like this, for a few minutes, while standing up. Here’s the meze, just born out of the bourgeois need for a snack until it’s time for the family dinner and for a brief relief from the stresses of everyday life, so that their life doesn’t end up being a home-work and work-home life only.
Between one bite and two sips they analyzed the social issues of the city, the political situation, the weather, and more. The meze became the occasion and together they became the cause. Gradually, these establishments, more Romaic and less Jewish, established the meze on a more systematic basis, the bakalides pickled fresh fish themselves (every tavern had a barrel full of salted sardines), fried mussels, matured casserias and pastrami, and expected regulars clients now not only in the afternoons, but at all hours. Social and talkative, the Polites welcomed the meze into their homes as well, as an entity separate from their traditional treats – the dumplings, buns, cakes, and pies with which they accompanied coffee and tea.
Although Turkish households, that were not used to alcohol due to the prohibition of the Koran, were slow to welcome the concept of meze, they inevitably succumbed at some point to raki (which was made secretly in almost all provinces), which in turn needed its accompaniments. The small shops in the city’s bazaars were flooded with Citizen Turks enjoying their raki with their meze, relaxed by the secularization of the state imposed by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) in the 1920s.
The politikos mezes was originally always cold, from the refrigerator, or at room temperature, and was served on religious, family and name celebrations, as well as on Sundays. With the meze, the hostess of Constantinople of any social class showed her dignity, and she had to have a ready-made marinated anchovy or salted sardine, russian salad, garlic, taramosalata, to accompany the endless chirping with her friends, to surround the intimacy between friends and relatives. There is no celebration without the introduction of a meze.
Top in art and taste and pride of the Constantinople woman? The stuffed tomatoes and peppers with oil, which require not only time to prepare but also skillful hands.
The second part of the meze is the salted food, without which there is no meze table. The good landlord of the City would instruct his trusted fisherman to pickle 2-3 kilos of fish (mackerel, anchovy, sardines, etc.), so that his wife would have them ready and available for the meze of the big celebrations.
Greek Meze Experience, For Two
Taste the local experience of greek “meze”.