CRETAN CUISINE THE SYNOPSIS OF MEDITERRANEAN DIET
In recent years, the international scientific community has been increasing its efforts in the quest for the ideal diet in terms of health. Cretan diet lies at the centre of attention, as most studies present Cretan cuisine as the most typical example of high-quality Mediterranean cuisine. Cretans, admittedly, have the highest longevity rate in the world and the lowest mortality rate from conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
The recipe for longevity never tasted any better
In the course of its long history, Crete’s gastronomy has been greatly influenced by the many people who tried at one point or another to conquer it. But if we examine this timeline more closely, we will find that Cretans had a way of filtering every dietary habit and adapting it to their standards, thus adding a special character to it. Century after century, the soul, the language and the cuisine of Cretans has remained unchanged!
This continuity and the ability of the island to preserve its personal character, despite changes and adversities, formed a tradition which is now proven to be particularly valuable. Thus, the international scientific community not only speaks about Cretan cuisine, but also about the miracle of the Cretan diet!
The Cretan cuisine is not considered rich in terms of variety of ingredients. It is a cuisine based on what the Cretan land has to offer. Focus is placed on the art of cooking and the processing of simple ingredients, rather than on using complex and rare combinations of expensive raw materials.
The Cretan cuisine is different from other cuisines because it does not try to mix flavours, irrespective of the variety of the ingredients used for the everyday table. Each ingredient maintains its autonomy, its identity and its flavour. They all co-exist in harmony, highlighting this fine balance that defines the Cretan cuisine and the island in general.
Each region in Crete has its own specialties. Cretans feed on the products of their land: plenty of fruit and vegetables, greens, and legumes. The use of meat is relatively limited in Crete, while cheese holds a special place on the table. Herbs and plants picked from the island’s mountains add flavour to everyday food. As a rule, lunch or dinner is always accompanied with local wine and exceptionally tasty hand-kneaded bread. In general, one might describe Cretan cuisine as an imaginative, creative, and particularly aromatic proposition, based on simple seasonal ingredients, and the art that comes from the love for the land and the attachment to traditional cooking methods.
The Cretan diet is a way of life: plain, simple, with no redundant spices or taste boosters. But, at the same time, it is particularly scrumptious in a natural way, one might say. Simplicity brings forward the ingenuity of the hostess, who wields her age-old experience without strictly adhering to recommended doses.
What counts the most in traditional Cretan cuisine is imagination. Cretans may eat greens or legumes every day, but they almost never eat the same food. The Cretan hostesses continuously invent new ways of bringing out the quality of ingredients through various simple and ingenuous combinations.
A typical feature of the Cretan table is the variety of dishes, which combine with one another to form a tasteful entity. Besides, the main features of Cretan cuisine can be summarised as follows: the products used are strictly local and seasonal. Wild greens are eaten raw or boiled, either as the main cooking ingredient or as an accompanying dish or salad, sometimes used only to add flavour. Meat comes mainly from goats (usually free-range), poultry and pork. Spices are always present, but in a rather discreet way.
The main features of the Cretan diet
Dairy products are an important part of the Cretan diet. Fish and other seafood are considered wonderful dishes, while no other cuisine in the world places snails at such a high place. Legumes are consumed in large quantities, usually during fasting periods, while aromatic herbs are mainly used to make various beverages. The main sweeteners in Crete have always been grape syrup and thyme honey. Finally, when talking about Crete, we cannot leave out what Cretans themselves consider one of their greatest secrets for longevity and good health: Cretan tsikoudia, a strong spirit produced from the grape residue left from the winemaking process. Tsikoudia, accompanied by a tasty snack, as well as the sounds of lyre and lute, can calm any untamed Cretan soul!