1st Edition

The Metamorphosis of Greek Cuisine An Ethnography of Deli Foods, Restaurant Smells and Foodways of Crisis

By Nafsika Papacharalampous Copyright 2023
    232 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is an ethnography of the metamorphosis of rural foods and traditional dishes and of the making of cuisine and identity in contemporary Athens.

    In the wake of the financial crisis in Athens in the mid-2015s, forgotten rural foods of the past are transformed into luxurious artisanal foods, while traditional dishes appear reinvented in fine-dining restaurants, after decades of darkness. How, and why is this all happening in a city of poverty, hardship and economic crisis? Through sensory descriptions and thick ethnographic material, it follows the Athenian affluent middle class in upscale delis and goes inside fine-dining restaurant kitchens, discussing the complex combination of cuisine, tradition, memory and identity, revealing the cultural logic and social aspects of cuisine. It demonstrates how cuisine emerges from very different, often contradictory social spaces, not only as an intellectual and aesthetic endeavour of chefs or as a revival of foods and foodways that link the country and the city, but also as interlinked with embodied memories and embedded in social relations and commensality.

    This book will be of great interest to scholars and students in Anthropology and Food Studies.



    1. An anthropologist’s journey in a city of ashes

    2. The smell of the Greek rural


    3. Delis of distinction

    4. Inside Hara’s kitchen

    5. The case of the Greek Olive Oil


    6. A fine-dining cuisine of need

    7. The taste of the Greek past

    8. Tales from Athenian Restaurant kitchens


    9. Epilogue: Rural Remedy



    Nafsika Papacharalampous is a food anthropologist and chef. For the last decade she has been researching Greek cuisine, traditional foods, restaurants and markets, focusing on identity, memory, the senses and cultural heritage. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the SOAS Food Studies Centre. Nafsika is also a chef and consultant for artisan food companies, restaurants, museums and food organisations, and the curator of culinary experiences around Greek food. She holds an MA and a PhD in the Anthropology of Food from SOAS, University of London, and an MBA from the Athens University of Economics and Business.

    "Richly described and trenchantly theorized, The Metamorphosis of Greek Cuisine rewards the reader interested in understanding contemporary Greece in crisis through the lens of food and the senses. Papacharalambou’s thick description of Athenian restaurants and delicatessens pays off in providing a sense of some of the key cultural currents as Greeks struggle with the centrality of rural identity and sociability to their contemporary lives. Written in a clear style that makes it accessible to students and scholars alike, it makes for an important addition to our understanding of the centrality of food in everyday life and at moments of crisis."

    David Sutton, Professor of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University

    "This wonderfully engaging book answers a fundamental question in the present moment – what happens to foodways after a crisis? Do we go back to "normal" or have we made substantial and long-lasting structural changes in the food system?  The book carefully discusses some of the new networks and institutions, grassroots initiatives that grew during the years of hardship and financial crisis.

    This is an evocative account focusing on the actors who are creating a new Greek cuisine. Papacharalampous’ deep insights are grounded in the participants side of participant observation, in that she served as a line cook in restaurants for nine months, as a worker in a shop and a chef/writer in a bistro kitchen for several months."

    Richard R. Wilk, Distinguished Provost's Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Anthropology, Indiana University