The question I often get is, “Why does the food in Greece taste different, better than over here”? My simple reply is that the best Greek cooking is simple, relying on local, fresh and seasonal ingredients. The simplicity of the dish is allowed to shine when this maxim is practiced. Practically anyone I know in Greece that cooks, will patronize their local “Laiki Agora”, literally translated to “People’s Market”.
Laikes Agores (the plural form) are found throughout Greece, in every corner of the land and in almost every town and village. If there isn’t one then the town will likely host a weekly “Pazari” ( taken from the word bazaar) or a central market. At a Laiki you can shop for local fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs and cheese, yogurt, an array of olives, local honey, herbs, teas, spices, local Tsipouro or Raki, wine. olive oil, butter, dried legumes, pasta, sausages/salami. You will also find the odd cantina/food truck selling food for vendors and patrons who may want to grab a bite.
You can also find non-food items like kitchenware, clothing (of various degrees of quality), linens, tools, plants,toys, g-strings, etc, etc! The Laiki Agora has been around since the day’s of Eleftherios Venizelos, who introduced the Laiki as a way of assisting local farmers and artisans to sell their goods to the locals.
The Laiki will consist of both “producers” and “professionals” who sell their goods: producers would be local farmers, apiaries and then the professionals are folks who buy product and then re-sell at the Laiki. The Laiki is not just a rural occurrence as you will find it in operation in the neighborhoods of Greece’s largest cities like Athens and Thessaloniki.
These Peoples’ Markets operate on a schedule, that is to say the Laiki sets-up in your town, village or neighborhood on a set day, once a week. Tables, counters, kiosks and tents are arranged in a designated area closed to traffic from the early morning to just after noon. At that point, vendors pack-up and either sell their goods through their own channels (pick-up trucks, storefront) or travel to another town nearby that may have its turn hosting a Laiki.
The closest comparison I can give you is that our local farmer’s markets are much like the Laiki. When in Greece, the Laiki sets-up on Tuesdays in Nea Kallikratia where usual vendors show up, the usual customers and everyone has a preferred vendor to shop from. We have our favourite farmer who sells juicy, meaty and sweet tomatoes. We buy Feta cheese from one specific vendor. I like the Tsipouro from this fella from the neighboring town of Agios Pavlos. You catch my drift.
As someone who travels to Greece almost each year, it is interesting to see where some of the other tourists shop for food items: most will hop into the supermarket but it’s nice to see some of the more acute tourists shopping for some fruit, yogurt or buying local honey from the Laiki. I love visiting the Laiki: people watching, hearing the shouts of the vendors touting their product, listening to the haggling and bartering, watching the produce change week by week and taking lots and lots of photos of this Greek institution.
When visiting Greece, you should make time to visit a Laiki during your stay. Ask the locals when the Laiki occurs in your town, village or which neighborhood in the city is hosting one. Below are some links that can help you plan when and where to visit a Laiki throughout Greece. The links are not complete, there is no one website with a calendar of all the Laiki Agoras.
If you have a link to the calendar for other Laikes Agoras not listed below, please add in the comments section.
Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki
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