Cretan Diet

If customs have endured the passage of time and remained unchanged despite the development of alternatives, then these have met all the needs and there is no reason to change them. This has been the case regarding Cretan gastronomy, which, despite the long-term presence of various conquerors on the island, has remained unaffected and original.

The Cretan diet is not just a variety of dishes laid on the table. It comprises a whole philosophy of life and represents the lifestyle of the Cretan people. In the Cretan culture food plays a central role.

The unique Cretan Diet is a healthy and tasty diet with centuries-old recipes and modern creative versions, which are always cooked, of course, with the same top quality pure products of the blessed Cretan earth. This diet is not just a variety of dishes presented on the table; it embodies a whole philosophy of life, the quality way of life of the Cretan people.

At first sight one could say that Cretan cuisine is simple, including only a few specific dishes. This is true since the secret of Cretan cooking lies in the simplicity of preparation and of the use of only few ingredients, which are plain, precise, clear and, most important, genuine and natural.

This applies to the entire island with only very few variations in each area. Naturally the Cretans developed their diet based on the produce, which could be supplied in the area they lived in. Such produce guaranteed the locals both the basic and complete nutrition, which today is recognised as being essential for the proper development of the body as well as for a long life span.

Principally, all over Crete people eat various species of wild vegetable, which grow in mountainous areas, either as salad or simply boiled, topping it with local olive oil and natural lemon juice. However, people not only collect wild vegetable, but also the famous snails, which are either cooked with tomato sauce or fried, “boumbourista”, that is with rosemary and quenched with wine. Most products needed for proper nutrition come from stockbreeding, which has flourished in the mountainous areas of Crete since ancient times

Sheep and goats supply both the famous meat, which is also the basic dish of the Cretan menu, and dairy products, of which the island boasts a large variety including excellent milk, various cheeses such as Myzithra,Graviera and Feta as well as the unique ‘stakoboutyro’ (butter from sheep and/or goat’s milk) which is used for pilaff. Apart from sheep and goats each family living in a village also breeds domestic animals such aschickens and rabbits, which provide them with eggs and meat on an everyday basis. Undoubtedly, the local olive oil adds to the special flavour of all Cretan dishes.

Together with stockbreeding the production of olive oil represents one of the island’s main sources of income. Olive oil is used for cooking and as a dressing for salads, fresh vegetables and pulses, which in combination with the local barley rusk and a few olives often make a complete dish for the Cretan.

The famous Cretan ‘dakos’ is simply this – a delicious and nourishing combination of fresh local products including barley rusks, grated tomatoes, feta cheese, oil and salt. As a dessert the Cretans once again prefer home-made sweets consisting of ingredients of their own production: cheese pies made from Myzithra and brown fried pastry with honey.

Sources: Municipality of Rethymno, Regional Unit of Rethymno, Prefecture of Crete, Cretan Quality Agreement

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