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“Since the day bread was first made in Greece, it has been imbued with sanctity, mystery, magic and superstition. Eating a special star-shaped bread called fanouropsomo will help your wishes to come true or help you to find lost treasures. A pregnant woman traditionally hides a crust under her pillow to ensure a healthy baby.

Many other beliefs surround the mystery of the rising of leavened bread. Make your bread with holy water blessed on Good Friday and it will be sure to rise. Women who are known to have me heri (the touch) with bread, those women who can always make it rise, are regarded with a degree of awe approaching that of a witch doctor or a voodoo lady. And many people of tradition believe that a true virgin will always be able to make the bread rise. In other cultures bridal virginity is attested to by the white wedding gown, or a stained bed sheet, or the secret wisdom of a Gypsy shamaness. But in rural Greece the fiancee is put to the test when the boy brings his intended home to meet his mother. If Mother is in doubt about the girl’s virtue she will greet her politely, then say “come, let’s make some bread together”.

Bread baked by the pious for donation to the church, known as prosforo, must be imprinted with a special stamp that reads Jesus Christ Triumphs (you can buy these stamps cheaply at any housewares shop, or for substantially more at any souvenir store). These are round loaves weighing as much as ten kilos. They are blessed by the priest and then cut into pieces and distributed to the congregation.” CRUSTY VIRGIN p.53 from World Food Greece

Greek food has well and truly permeated the culinary culture of our land; souvlaki, Greek salad, dolmades, feta – yum! It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and head to the romantic Greek islands in search of sun, fun and scrummy al fresco eating with a gorgeous Greek God of your very own!

So if you’re planning a Mediterranean odyssey any time soon, or just keen to learn more about the delicious foodie opportunities afforded to you by your local Greek restaurant, get your hot little hands on a copy of World Food Greece. The latest installment in this Lonely Planet series dedicated to galloping global gourmets, World Food offers tips on ordering and eating like a local, defining ingredients, preparation methods and etiquette essential to a totally rewarding dining experience.

A pocket-sized guide, as blue as the Mediterranean Sea, World Food Greece gives you the low down on the specialties of this gastronomic heaven from bread to olives to wine and a special focus on the top 16 cheeses produced across the land. A chapter dedicated to ‘celebrating with food’ covers all the main food focused holidays including Easter and Lent, while chapters on regional variations will fill you in on what’s cool in Crete and beyond.

Of particular interest is the Shopping and Market section which not only prepares you for fresh food purchasing on your travels, but is a handy guide for those of you interested in navigating the delicious produce found in the local Greek community shops and markets on your own doorsteps!

Eat Your Words, the section that incorporates a handy pronunciation guide, a selection of very useful phrases and a great English/Greek Glossary will cover all your food related conversation needs and then some. While the Greek Culinary Dictionary will help you decode even the most daunting menu items.

SheSaid’s most useful phrase? dhen tha ksa-na-pi-no po-te – I’m never, ever drinking again!

By Sally Schofield