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Greek food in its rawest form

How Athens Central Market modernizes without losing its authentic flavor.

Fish in the Athens Central Market. (Milos Bicanski/GlobalPost)

ATHENS — At the Athens Central Market, the air rings with the cries of traders hawking their wares. “Red mullet, fresh red mullet,” they call out to passersby. “Hello, my friend! Fresh meat, good price!”

The current building housing the city’s main fish and meat market, known as the Varvarkios building, was completed in 1886 and refurbished just before the Athens Olympics in 2004. New sanitation and refrigeration units were installed for meat traders to upgrade the market to European Union standards.

But inside, life continues much it has for more than a hundred years. In the fish market, the floor is slick from the water sprayed by traders to keep the fish cool and glistening. In the meat market, long tubes of intestines hang from hooks over piles of pig feet. It’s food in its rawest form.

Many of the stalls in the Athens Central Market are family-run businesses that have been passed down for generations. Fanis Korakis is the fourth generation to work in his family’s store, Spyros F. Korakis Ltd, which was founded by his grandfather’s uncle in 1926. He works with his father and will one day take over the business.

But many of the people working in the market — and many of the customers — are immigrants, from countries like Albania, Pakistan and Egypt. Although the wages are good — many make more than a teacher, for example — the hours are long and the work dirty. Korakis said most Greeks aren’t willing to do the work anymore.

The market has been a center of Athenian life for more than a hundred years. But increasingly, new American-style shopping markets have appeared in the city’s suburbs, changing the way Greeks shop and eat.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/europe/090615/athens-central-market