Athens Public Market and Greek Cheese Tasting Expedition!

Imagine an Athenian streetscape with dogs, and cats stretched out in the summer sun, mid-morning pedestrian bustle, old ladies clutching bags loaded with paper parcels of fish, scooters, and cars buzzing about. Unknown passersby greeting you while weaving through alleys on foot. Market traders shouting out within an overwhelming labyrinth of fresh fish, meat, vegetable stalls, and delicatessens, cured meat, flowers, herbs and spices flashes of bright colors and a rich blend of aromas permeating the air….

This is a typical experience at Varvakios Public Agora in central Athens.

MS325 The Anthropology of Food in Greece: the Mediterranean Diet and More Summer course students had this multi-sensory experience yesterday on their outing to the historic Varvakio Agora, which also included a visit to the Mastiha shop and a Pantopoleion for a delectable Greek cheese tasting session!

The class took to the streets of Athens on a mission to explore the topic of “locality” in food and discuss the EU Regulations for the Protected Designations of Origin for foods aimed at allowing the diversification of agricultural production. They also considered the difference in the value placed on local traditional food products compared to supermarket foods.

First stop: Mastiha shop

Students took a closer look at the Chios Mastiha cooperative in action, observing the unique packaging and marketing of various Mastiha products ranging from beauty creams to chocolate bars. They also tried raw Mastiha (tree sap) which was a first for most!

Second Stop: Pantopoleion

Students explored The Pantopoleion (grocery store), a gastronomy haven which sells traditional food products from all over Greece. They then made their way to the cheese tasting area, presented with a mouthwatering array of Greek cheeses made from goat and sheep’s milk. Students learned about cheese classifications and tried some well-known, and lesser-known award-winning Greek cheeses, ranging from soft sweet creamy Manouripungent Kefalotyri, mature, wine-soaked Krassotyri from Kos,  Manoura aged in wine dregs  from Sifnos , tart and complex Kopanisto, and of course, last but not least, Feta marinated in oregano and olive oil, accompanied by Greek sweet Mavrodafni wine and the pièce de résistance…. award-winning Isis Elixir a fragrant aged vinegar digestive. This experience was definitely the highlight for all!

Third Stop: Varvakio Public Agora

Students observed the vibrant Greek market scene where you can find anything from fresh meat and fish to fruits, nuts, herbs spices, flowers and more, and drew comparisons to the local “laiki”, looking at what products were on offer, how they were presented, the stall set-up and the demographic.


Read more about the Anthropology of Food course!