Crete: Earth & water of the Gods
“Oh my god! What was that! No king of the world has ever eaten a better pie”, wrote the great professor and philhellene Michael Defner when he tried the Sfakian pies in 1918.
When we talk about a healthy Mediterranean diet, we are talking about Crete. When we refer to rich soil, we are referring to Crete. Fertile, proud, hospitable and wildly enchanting from the first moment; this is the “leventogenna”, as the locals typically call it.
Sunny, almost 300 days a year, has deservedly conquered the record of the “brightest” area in Europe. However, it is not only the climate of the pole of attraction for visitors, but also the rich vegetation that it has with unique plants that thrive in these soils. Exotic fruits and vegetables that you do not find in Greece, in Crete succeed and bear fruit. It is no coincidence, after all, that the Cretan diet has now been established as the highest quality in the Mediterranean and has become known for its contribution to life expectancy around the world. According to research (1960-1986), Cretans have one of the highest rates of longevity, reaching 90 years of age, while at the same time there has been a lower number of deaths from heart attacks, cancer and other diseases due to their diet, compared to other places that examined in the survey.
But what is their secret? The answer is not one-word; basically, it could not be. There is a whole ritual, routine, philosophy or whatever you want to say it, behind the Cretan diet. First of all, no one eats alone. Food is a pleasure and contributes to family ties, just like in the old days, it is a place of meeting and discussion. Food is also a feast, and each feast has its own characteristic dish. For example, pork celery is served on the feast of St. Demetrius, while for Easter the lamb with stamnagathi, or lettuce or artichokes is chosen. Greens in general are never missing from the Cretan diet, not even on official holidays.
Special mention is worth and should be made for the woman, the simple mother, grandmother, great-grandmother who firmly laid the foundations for the nutritional wealth of the island. She managed to marry different ingredients and offer them as the finest meal. And it is exquisite, because it was made mainly with love and passion! These secrets are passed down from generation to generation. Thus the tradition was preserved, and even today recipes with deep roots in time are sought, tried and distinguished in our hearts.
I do not think we need to say much about Cretan hospitality. Anyone who has been found in a local house will understand what it means to welcome and taste! Goodies from the Cretan land are offered generously. Herbs with healing properties, such as love, arismari, aloe, sword grass, malotra, thistle, marjoram and burdock are among the best known. What else does Crete bring in abundance and benefit health? But, of course, olive oil. Pure, virgin and with an intoxicating aroma that travels you. Apart from that, however, Crete is famous for its honey, vegetables, seafood, meat, fish, wild greens and of course for its raki, or otherwise tsikoudia.
This is how Cretans live! With these “humble” ingredients that they put in the pot, they succeed and last a long time. Healthy climate, special geomorphology of the soil, bright sun, delicious food, running water and primitive values compose the paradise – Crete – the island, which according to mythology chose to be born Zeus, the father of Gods and people.