The word "Kopiaste" is probably as old as the Greek language itself . In the dictionary you will find the verb Kopiazo , meaning : to take the trouble , to strain oneself . But "Kopiaste" , which is the second person plural of this verb has come to mean : Take the trouble to come ; sit down and share my meal ; come and sit and let us talk .
The worker or farmer sitting near the road-side for his meal will call "Kopiaste" to a friend or stranger who might be passing while he spreads his frugal meal of bread , halloumi , olives and tomatoes on his checked napkin beside him , and it means , "Come and share my food" . Then you will either answer "Kalin orexi" - good appetite - and go your way , or say "Efcharisto" - thank you - and sit with him to share his meal , which he will gladly do , expecting you to do the same if he is passing by while you have a meal .
The man sitting in the coffee shop (Kafenes or Kafeneion) will call to you : "Kopiaste" , to have a coffee with him and talk about the latest news . If you happen to be in a strange village and go to a coffee shop , you will invariably find that someone will approach you , greet you and start asking questions . Before you realise it you will be at the centre of an interesting conversation . Personal questions are part of our etiquette and not just a matter of curiosity . Cypriots love to hear about strangers and strange places and they will in turn be very proud to tell you all about themselves if you show genuine interest .
The child in the village has now learnt to call "Hallo" to a stranger . But the women , when you are taken to their homes will smilingly say "Kopiaste" - come in .You will say "Efcharisto" , and will be shown into the best room and , sooner or later , either she or her daughter will arrive with a big tray , glasses , little forks or spoons and a bowl or individual little plates with "glyko" - confiture . Now if it is the first time that you are confronted with it , you might be inclined to wonder what to do . What you should do and , of course , by now you probably know , is just to take a teaspoonful or one fruit out of the little bowl or the little plate , eat your glyko , and then the hostess will come round again and you take a glass of water , put your fork into it and drink some of the water . If you take a glyko out of the bowl , take your glass at once and hold it under your spoon to avoid the syrup dripping onto your dress . When the hostess comes back for your glass she will say "Iyienete" - meaning "May health be with you" , and you will thank her . A young British army officer was confronted with a bowl of cherry glyko when he first visited one of the Greek families he had met , and thought it was stewed fruit . As he was the only guest he presumed it was all meant for him so he bravely took the little bowl into his hands and tried to oblige his kind hostess by eating the whole lot ! The first teaspoonful tasted good although very sweet as he confessed later . By the time he got to the third he was feeling slightly sick , but smiled bravely while his hostess smiled back at him , holding the tray , waiting . In the end he had to give up and shyly mumble "It is very nice , thank you , but I can't eat it all ." The hostess smiled again , saying "Dhembirazi" - never mind , eat as much as you like . But she was too polite to point out his mistake .
Then you are offered coffee . Usually the so-called "Turkish" variety , with a biscuit , or a koulouri , or a piece of cake . This coffee has many nuances as you may know , starting from "glykis" - sweet , "mallon glykis" - rather sweet , "metrios" - medium , and "skettos" - without or bitter . If you want to cool it quickly or do not like the froth , pour a little water into it . It will not spoil the coffee .
Should you be invited to a meal , again when the meal is served you will be invited to table with a "kopiaste" . Before starting the meal the host will say to you "Kalos orisate" - you are welcome, and you must answer "Kalos sas vrikame" -we are pleased to have found you well .
When drinks are served you clink glasses with "Stin iyia sas" or simply "iyia sas" - to your health and you will answer " Iyienete" - May health be with you .
In this way you will taste many dishes , some that taste familiar , some strange , some very good , others dreadful the first time you taste them . Very often , because you do not know what they are made of , you hesitate to taste them , and sometimes you hesitate for just the opposite reason !
That is why I want to let you into the secrets of our art of cooking .