Eat ‘til you die.
Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire
The ultimate focus of the documentary our group has been filming was on the food of Cyprus, specifically the meze.
A meze is a massive meal. Think of a feast, a Thanksgiving meal and a cookout, then throw in all the food from the freezer and you have the idea of a meze.
By some accounts, it started as a means of feeding visitors by bringing out all of the local foods (usually equaling to 20 or more plates) for them to taste.
Many Cypriots enjoy a meze at least once a week. It’s best done in a large crowd, as it gives you a chance to spread the food around.
Since being in Cyprus, I’ve been able to enjoy three mezes. The first was at a more modern restaurant. This is where I was able to try things like octopus and fried celery leaves and all of the food was pretty fantastic. The second meze was our group meze. It was more traditional Cyprus food and was so very good. We all felt overstuffed after leaving...much like I understand you are supposed to feel at a meze.
My last meze was a fish meze. Not being much of a fish eater, I was having a hard time selecting food. So, a meze it was. This was a good choice, because it gave me the opportunity to try a multitude of foods and flavors.
Another important point of the meze is the company. A full meze takes around three hours, part of which is just downtime to give your stomach a chance to shift for the next plate.
This is something that is often lacking in the American approach to food. We fail to just sit and enjoy one another’s company; something the Cypriots fully understand. While we might think that it’s crazy to sit there for hours, or that it’s a waste of time or money, they don’t see it this way. Of course, they also make money on the mezes; very little is ever free in life. :)
The most important part of the meze, the part that is a large combination of all the others, is the experience. It’s the whole thing, it’s the food and flavors, it’s the company and group socialization, and it’s eating until you are so stuffed you feel like you will explode. As one of our interviewees once said, “You eat ‘til you die.”