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The Wonderful Food Of Cyprus

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As is apt for its multicultural heritage, Cyprus boasts cuisine to make your mouth water. From Armenians and Syrians to their Greek and Persian rulers, Cyprus has retained a part of each; even the Lebanese, French, Italian and British influences are not lost upon the Cypriot cuisine. The fact that they have integrated the influences into a culture of their own is fascinating to watch for tourists. The country has an excellent climate for fruits and vegetables, and the people know how to enjoy those as well, so whether it is a Moussaka or raw vegetables, the food is always delicious and always fresh.

Cyprus is a land of the plenty. Most households have learnt to produce most of their food requirements themselves. While the main dishes, or even styles of serving, remain the same, Cypriot foods are bound by seasonal availability and their seasonal, or religious, festivals. Visit the country in September and witness the wine tasting festival where there is free wine aplenty, or tour during the New Year festivities when the ‘Vasilopitta’, the special cake for the occasion, is served…perhaps you could be the one to find the coin in your slice of ‘Vasilopitta’, luck will be abound for you for a whole year, or so they say.

Perhaps the most fascinating style of serving in Cyprus is that of the ‘mezze’. The combination of up to thirty dishes served in small saucer-like plates deserves a worthy appetite. The locals are a hospitable people to the extent of being almost too hospitable. When they serve you a ‘mezze’ it is only fair that you taste everything, so even eating is an art; you don’t want to run out of space by eating too much of one thing.

Of course the Cypriots love their meats, when they are eating them. There are religious fasts that prohibit the use of meats in the food, so those fasting eat vegetables practically half the year with different reasons for the fasts. If you prefer vegetarian foods, asking for it is more than likely going to see the request being obliged in most restaurants and taverns. A few of the favorite meat dishes in Cyprus are Dolmades (minced meat and rice stuffed in vine leaves), Tava (meat, herbs and onion stew), Kebabs (spiced and skewered meat pieces roasted over charcoal fire), try those and there still will be plenty you missed!

The local national drink is, of course, coffee. The kafenes, or the coffee houses, in Cyprus continue to be a men only affair though. The farmers go there before and after work to enjoy a cup as they catch up on the village gossip. Women and children are only allowed on special occasions like when a puppet show or another for of entertainment is arranged there for the villagers. Otherwise, women have their ‘sketo’, ‘metrio’ or ‘glyko’ – all forms of coffee with varying quantity of sugar- at home.