RKS Travel: The Evolution of the Greek Hotel Breakfast and the Devolution of the Author

I was 12 in 1971 when I escaped a cloistered suburban setting in Montreal with an adventurous mother on the Auntie Mame level. Riding scooters to the Acropolis of Lindos on Rhodes, taking a fishing boat to the next village chased by leaping dolphins, being invited to parties and weddings by Greek islanders and seeing very closely a world that no longer exists in Greece except perhaps in isolated mountain regions or on a sparsely populated island.

Bravo to the Sweet Home Boutique Hotel in Athens for offering loose leaf tea which made me feel very at home. Super friendly staff at breakfast as if they were welcoming you into their home for breakfast. Photo: Robert K. Stephen

As a young man in those days long ago I was a food eating machine. Growing like a bad weed attending a private boy’s school in Montreal that had you playing sports so as to drive impure thoughts from your head. And I was a hungry and voracious creature burning up with a breakfast desire to fuel myself up with bacon, eggs, milk, waffles, pancakes, cinnamon buns all of course home made! Ooooh a Western Omelette Sandwich Montreal style! And put this poor eating machine in Greece in 1971 facing a nightmare of a lack of a proper breakfast!

Sparkling white wine at Daios Luxury Living Hotel breakfast. You will often encounter sparkling wine at 5 star breakfast buffets in Europe. Photo; Robert K. Stephen

OK then chuckle away and say what a little porker! I was not a porker but a legitimate starving pre-teen. How could Greeks be the founding block of civilization be eating Feta Cheese, olives, rusks and a Greek coffee for breakfast! Sounds Spartan to me! And I did not then eat Feta cheese or drink coffee.  In no way the fault of the Greeks but not my fault for requiring a calorie boost.

I survived on Greek bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Greek bread is awesome when it was fresh but give it a day and it was a rock. Probably safe to call it “natural”.  So, find a good baker and strike early in the morning while the product is super fresh. Buy local fruit and slather bread with Greek jam and honey and hope for the salvation of a Greek dinner with “bizarre” foods like stuffed vegetables, fried octopus and squid, lamb, goat, mezze with tomatoes, cucumber, pickled octopus with a shot of ouzo. Lunch was more bread with some cheese and a huge serving of “karpussi” (watermelon). Thank the Gods on Mount Olympus for an always satisfying Greek Dinner however different it was from Canadian suburban fare!

This photo and the one above are from the buffet breakfast at Athens Inn: Photo Robert K. Stephen

So after a visit or two to Greece in the 1970’s it wasn’t until I was in Greece again in the late 1980’s that the Greek breakfast had evolved to a North American buffet in the hotel framework. Here were eggs, (boiled, omeletized and fried), high fat and decadent Greek yogurt coming in at 12% fat and some pastries!

Many years later back in Greece I reflect on my famine and have no shame on my early teen behaviour! Yet I am not the voracious teen monster who in a good mood you want to refer to as Forest Gump on Adderall. So in September it was off to Greece.  Number 8 visit to Greece.

I booked some 5 star rated properties and a couple of lesser starred properties. The hotel breakfasts have undergone a revolution. If they were in 1971 what they are today I would have saved myself from a Biafran nightmare! Slap me in the head but French Toast in a breakfast in Athens with Norwegian maple syrup available for a pour over (with a big Canadian Maple Leaf on it), eggs galore, cheese and so much watermelon.

I could be property specific on 4 hotels/resorts I stayed at but the end of the traditional Greek breakfast imposed on tourists best suited for monastic types seems well deceased. As a North American or a Central European you will not suffer. I love a couple of slabs of Norwegian smoked salmon (wild caught) draped over a Koolorakia in Thessaloniki’s “Daios Luxury Living” hotel.

Houston there is a bit of a problem and that is my appetite today is not that of a ravenous and deserving young man. I want a simple piece of bread, a bowl of high fat yogurt with some honey dripped over it. I can relive my past and pork out if need be but breakfast of yesteryear I could eat at home in 1971 is nothing today but a liability to process hours later.

So to sum up it all as a tourist in the Greece of today you may be subject to a post 1970’s enhanced hotel Greek breakfast. You may be absolutely delighted with it as there is often an attempt to add local pastries and dishes to a breakfast buffet giving it regional character. It would seem the Greek hoteliers appear to enjoy adding local delicacies, condiments and dishes to hotel breakfast buffets. The bizarre fact is that what may have satisfied me 35 years ago for breakfast has lost almost all historical relevance.

What are the common elements of these 4 different hotel breakfasts I had in Greece this September? Firstly a good selection of local fruit in season which in September includes watermelon, oranges and grapefruit. A selection of fruit juices particularly orange juice. High fat Greek yogurt with toppings such as Greek honey and cherry preserves. Eggs and Feta cheese. Usually a few sweets and lots of good fresh local bread. Expect sliced meats too. Breakfast ordinarily will run from 07:30-10:30.

So expect this “new” modernized breakfast should you be staying in a hotel in Greece. Some 50 years too late for me! And I’d be just as happy with an old-fashioned Greek breakfast. I suppose I have travelled full circle.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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