History of the Gyro – Greece’s Popular Street Food
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When people think of Greek food, certain foods come to mind. Gyros most certainly top people’s lists and a trip to Greece isn’t complete without enjoying this food at least once. But once you eat your first gyro, one will definitely not be enough! Have you ever wondered where the gyro actually came from? You might have noticed that other cultures have a similar type of sandwich, which makes people wonder if they have a common origin.
Here’s a look at the history of the gyro in Greece:
What is a Gyro?
The name “gyro” comes from a Greek word that means “round.” The food is named for the rotisserie that houses the meat. Slabs of meat, such as beef, pork, lamb, or even chicken are seasoned and packed against a special spit. The meat cooks as it rotates and is then thinly sliced to make the popular sandwich. Traditional Greek gyros include slices of meat, tzatziki, chopped onion, chopped tomato, and sometimes even fries. These ingredients are all encased in a round of pita bread.
Although you may find some slight variations, this is largely considered to be the most traditional version. However, the fries are optional. In Athens, there is a version of this sandwich known as “kalamaki.” All the elements of the sandwich are the same except the sliced meat is replaced with souvlaki.
What Are the Origins of the Gyro?
The history of the gyro has actually been debated for years. Food historians believe that the gyro actually arrived in Greece in the early 1920’s as refugees from Asia Minor, mainly from Constantinople (now Istanbul) and Smyrna (now Izmir). Many of these people had Greek ancestry, and they brought the tradition of the gyro with them. Some legends indicate, however, that the first gyro handlers in Athens were actually of Armenian decent.
It was fairly common for these refugees to open small shops, mainly in Athens, and that helped increase the food’s popularity. As the people of Athens caught on, the dish started spreading to other areas of Greece. Eventually, Greeks who began leaving Greece for other countries, such s the United States, brought the food with them and the tradition continued in countries such as the United States and Canada.
No matter where they came from, it is clear that the gyro is now embraced throughout the world. For example, Americans love the Greek gyro so much they actually celebrate “Gyro Day” each year on September 1st! If you would love to make some of your own gyros, be sure to check out our unique Greek gyro recipes here.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston