Eating In Crete

24 Apr 2007

We are what we eat. We feed our land and water toxins and it gives it back to us on our plates. There’s more on our menu: a growing list of lethal ingredients in manufactured food and manufactured food directives.

A trip to the supermarket causes a surge of fear that ruins my appetite. Food contains inedible things or claims not to contain them. Food might contain ingredients I fear but the government has decided that it’s none of my business and they refuse to tell me: GMOs, cloned creatures, mercury, bacteria.

No corner of our world seems exempt from the wrath of US agricultural and food manufacturing Giants. The Giants have been collaborating with governments (or coercing them) for decades to shove their junk down our throats. This system is sucking the life out of our planet. That includes us — the sheep they take us for.

The solution is to take control of our safe food sources. Support farmers already working on the case. Fight for access and transparency, halt covert governmental-industry alliances and protect our lifeline — the environment.

There is no box mix to clean up Earth. The traditional Cretan Diet is a frequently noted model for healthy living: see Michael Pollan’s, ‘Unhappy Meals’ (New York Times, January 28, 2007).

The Med Diet craze originated in rural Crete. What we have been fed for decades about ‘The Diet’ is based on product availability outside of Crete (anything that can be packaged and marketed). This rules out 75% of what Cretans eat and how they cultivate food.

The Giants are here now, but the island has not been completely sucked into the black hole of toxic land and food. I’ve said it before: the Cretan Diet is not a diet, it’s a way of life. The complete model is challenging to apply everywhere. Exercise, eat fresh, seasonal, local unprocessed products of sustainable organic agriculture.

Why sustainable? If you have a small plot of land that is your lifeline, you nurture that soil like you would a child. Ditto for livestock and seafood, usually harder to come by. Strip your lifeline of its nutrients and abuse it with toxins and you could be an endangered species.

Due to Crete’s terrain, cow sightings are rare. The preferred sauce for vegetables, fish and meats is OAS: olive oil, acid (lemon or vinegar) and seasoning (herbs or salt). Ratios usually consumed in order of appearance. It’s a stark contrast with western PR on your plate.

OAS has been practiced in Crete thousands of years. It would be devastating to surrender now. Many places in the world could be a model for OAS once we weed out the Giants. It’s not the first time pitchforks doubled as weapons.

Greek salad (horiatiki) means village salad. You eat what the garden gives you. The Cretan Diet is not about recipes or dissecting the healing properties of every morsel you consume, it’s a recipe for living that can be useful anywhere.

Nikki Rose is a professional chef, writer and founder of ‘Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries, travel programs to preserve our culinary history’. She works directly with local chefs, farmers and scientists in Crete to support traditional trades and sustainable organic agriculture. Her published articles and upcoming book focus on these issues and have appeared in Slow Food publications, Athens News and Stigmes Magazine (Crete), among others.
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