Nowhere will you find a better example of the Mediterranean diet than in Greece. Any traditional Greek dish can be listed under the heading “Mediterranean diet”.
Fruit and vegetables used in Greek cooking are fresh, locally grown, often in the family’s garden. Eggs are free range, olive oil of the best quality, fish caught the day they are served. Pulses dry beans and lentils are made into delicious hearty soups. The family may own sheep or goats, using their milk to make traditional Greek cheeses and yogurt. Meat, usually lamb, is eaten for special occasions. The Greek housewives prefer to set off early in the morning for the colorful street markets where they carefully choose fresh and most flavorful fruit and vegetables as well as fresh fish.
Herbs and spices, growing wild in the fields and on the mountain sides, are used for flavoring and taste so much better than salt.
Olive trees, sacred to the Greeks, flourish and so much use was made of this wondrous tree. Olive oil and olives were a staple of the Greek diet in ancient times, used in every Greek dish. Olive oil in ancient times wasn’t used for its virtues but rather because of its abundance and it happened to taste absolutely delicious.
Vineyards cover a large area of the Greek countryside. Greece has become well known for its fine wines, perfect for accompanying Greece’s wonderful dishes.
Sheep and goats were kept, their milk used for making cheese, and wheat was grown, used to produce flour for bread. Herbs and spices, growing wild in the fields and on the mountain sides, were used for flavoring, not salt. Again, not because the ancient Greeks knew that too much salt was not good for them, but because that was what they had. Herbs were all around them and they tasted so much better than salt. Herbs brought out flavors and enhanced the taste.
Greece is surrounded by the sea. Fishermen would set off daily to fill their nets with all the sea had to offer. Fish was eaten many times a week either grilled or made into mouthwatering Greek fish soup, still made to the same recipe today. On returning home, the fishermen sat together to enjoy their catch along with a loaf of bread, a handful of olives, maybe a juicy tomato cut into quarters, along with an onion sprinkled with oregano, and a dash of olive oil. They would wash it down with a glass of red wine, made from local grapes or a glass of Retsina (wine flavored with resin collected from pine trees.) Today’s fishermen still do the exact same thing with the same food and the same wine.
This then is the Mediterranean diet, the Greek diet. It was eaten in ancient times because it was all there was. It is eaten today because it tastes so good, all the ingredients are readily available, and it is one of the healthiest diets in the world!
The everyday Greek diet has not changed much since ancient times when Greeks lived off what they could find, what they had, and what they could grow in the often stony dry land. Ingredients and cooking methods have changed very little since ancient times. Every mouthwatering Greek dish carries with it a small piece of history. Not only was Greece the cradle of civilization; it was also the cradle of the art of cooking, Greek cooking.
Today in Greece anywhere at any time you can find Greek traditional dishes all made from ingredients that amount to the Mediterranean diet: fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh seafood, and olive oil used in just about every Greek dish. Spicy cheeses made from sheep and goat milk and nourishing soups made from pulses, fassolada (Greek bean stew made with dry white beans, known today as the national Greek dish), or lentil soup, both seasoned with local herbs and spices and full of protein and fiber. Tomatoes play a major part in Greek cooking. They are used as the base for the delicious tomato sauce used to cook the lathera dishes comprising of ocra (okra), green beans, or any other vegetable, cooked in the sauce with a generous amount of olive oil and seasoned with fresh herbs.
Food is not to be eaten standing up or on the go. It is to be enjoyed and savored, sitting around a table, sharing with family and friends.
Meraki is in Greek means something made with pride, from the soul, with love, and with passion. This is how the Greeks cook, with passion! With their soul! The Greek diet, the Mediterranean diet, is not just a diet to the Greeks but a way of life. It is not by chance or coincidence that people from the Mediterranean live long, healthy lives. You are what you eat!