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Jun 9, 2009 08:45 AM

It's not Mediterranean--it's GREEK!

This has been tugging at me for a while now. The trend of calling foods "Mediterranean" is a worrisome trend for me since I've noticed that much Greek food is falling into this category, thus further pushing the "real" Greek cuisine even further into hiding.

Why are companies doing this? What prompted this exact post was a commercial I saw last night for the new McDonald's 'Mediterranean' salad. So, the commercial has greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, crumbled feta. This to me is a Greek salad, no? I've also seen this on salad dressings and frozen pizzas amongst other things when it very clearly is Greek, I've even seen 'Mediterranean souvlaki'!

So why not call it a Greek salad? What is keeping everyone from wanting to market things Greek? Is there a stigma out there about Greek food? Not well enough known to the general public? What's the story here? I guess this is in some cases the same as saying 'Southern' foods.

As a proud Greek, I am baffled and as stated above disappointed that our fantastic cuisine gets relegated to the Mediterranean basket every time. I'd like to hear fellow Chowhounds' thoughts on this.

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  1. In Canada, it seems, "Mediterranean" is a euphemism for Lebanese.

    2 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Here in Cleveland, there are several "Mediterranean" stores that sell Middle Eastern food and nothing Greek.

      1. re: John Manzo

        Or the "Mister Greek Mediterranean Grill" :-(

      2. My theory is that most of the Mediterranean countries have similar dishes using the same (or similar) ingredients only in various amounts and utilizing different methods... so in the minds of some marketing agents it's all lumped togather. Shouldn't be, but that's what I think.

        1. Maybe the salad can be doused in Ranch dressing instead of just olive oil, so it's not really a Greek salad. I have no idea. Maybe the heads at McDonald's were hoping that if people saw Mediterranean salad they'd think "Mediterranean diet" and instantly assume it's a great healthy option.

          1. As a fellow proud Greek I am also disappointed that the only Greek food you can get anywhere are gyros and moussaka at the diner. I could never figure out why Greek restaurants aren't as prevalent as Italian-American ones.

            7 Replies
            1. re: edwinasam

              Ironically the best authentic Greek food (read the stuff yiayia made) that I ever had was in an upscale resto in San Francisco a few years ago now - Kokkari Estiatorio. Although similar dishes are found in Toronto, the quality is poor; not much choice beyond the standard, mediorcre, gyros and souvlaki. As for the Mediterranean reference, Greeks need to remember that their history has influenced their cuisine. Think Turkey, Italy, Africa, the Balkans, etc. Greek food can be considered Mediterranean, but Mediterranean is not necessarily Greek.

              1. re: edwinasam

                Here in Birmingham (Alabama, not England), we're blessed to have a large Greek population with lots of Greek restauranteurs. Sure, there are the diners you mentioned with the obligatory menu items, but several restaurants here boast traditional Greek fare. LOTS of lamb, pastitsio, dolmades, and loads of fish and keftedes are on the menu.

                1. re: sheilal

                  sheilal, I'm about an hour and half away from Birmingham.. some of my friends and I are on the lookout for really good locally owned places to try. Do you mind recommending a couple of the local Greek restaurants you've mentioned?

                  1. re: grnidkjun

                    If it's greek-style fish you crave, go to the Fish Market on the Southside of Birmingham. It's pretty casual, but they have wonderful fish options. The greek salad is great and they offer a West Indies salad which is impossible to find anywhere else in the city. They also have a market where you can buy greek food stuffs and a great wine selection.

                    If you're looking for a variety, I really like Nabeel's in Homewood. It's very, very casual, and they too have an attached market. I've never had a bad meal there. Everything is very tasty - Youvetsaki, Pastitsio, Avgolemono. Be sure and try the baked feta.

                    For a fast-food kinda place, try Purple Onion (the original in Southside is the best). Best. Gyro. Period. The falafels are great as well.

                    For fine dining, really the only option is The Bright Star in nearby Bessemer, AL. It's been owned by the same Greek family for decades. It's quite the insitution.

                    There aren't tons of Greek items on the menu, but what they do offer, they do it fabulously!!!!!!!!!

                    1. re: sheilal

                      Thank you.. I've saved this info and sent it to one of my friends as well for something different to do. :)

                2. re: edwinasam

                  We have a wonderful Greek restaurant-actually two but owned by the same guy. Its very good, very authentic tasting. ( I had a friend all throughout school several years ago who was Greek and even had her very own authentic ya ya and yaya was just like the one you see in My Big Fat Greek Wedding-seriously!!! LOL). Anyway, Id had a lot of her family's dishes and they were beautiful! I think everyplace should have more ethnic restaurants. All you pretty much see anymore is chinese and mexican-love them both a lot but thats pretty much it :( Thankful for the Greek restaurant we have here and they do offer a wide variety of just greek foods and their spanikopita and souvlaki is wonderful! Im not normally a big fan of baklava bc of it being so sweet but it was freakin fantastic! I am so glad the internet is available to find excellent dishes as well. My husband (a true irishman) loves ethnic foods as well and when we found the greek places here in NC Ohio, we found a treasure! Their gyros are even wonderful-in fact, thats what I made for dinnner tonight. Just have to finish off my tzatziki for them and have dinner with my hubby :) he loves them and they are wonderful-not as good as the real stuff but they are good!

                  1. re: angiemcgrane

                    "All you pretty much see anymore is chinese and mexican"

                    I guess that depends on where you are. I live in an urban area which, of course, has had some ethnic immigration over the years but nowhere near as diverse as the restaurant scene might imply. By way of "foreign" places, I can think of - Afghani, American, Argentinian, Armenian, Bangladeshi, Brazilian, Chinese, Cypriot, French, Greek, Indian, Iranian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Malaysian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Russian, Spanish, Syrian, Thai and Turkish.

                3. As far as McDonald's is concerned, I'm sure they're jumping on the "Mediterranean Diet" bandwagon. A McDonald's customer might well have heard that Mediterranean food is good for you so "Mediterranean Salad" has a positive connotation while "Greek Salad" might well have a neutral or negative one. Not saying that's right, but I am sure the Mickey D ad people get paid a whole potful of money to come up with the best words to push the most product.