Tasting the Mediterranean Life

I just spent a week or so in Crete. Although it was a holiday, there was no escaping doing some writing and proof reading for the soon to be released book. “Eating Well for the Menopause” has so many references to the Mediterranean way of eating it was quite a timely trip.

More about Menopause and the Mediterranean way of eating in another post, this is just about my testing it out whilst in the Mediterranean! It’s been a while since I have been to Greece – it was a joy to eat Cretan food in Crete! Maybe my real vocation is a travel food writer – any offers! I would have to get better at taking photos of the food – I guess!

Being on holiday, I am sure I drank wine every day and ate a little more than I needed as we often do on holiday. The food was so delicious, perhaps because many of the ingredients were local and also cooked and served differently to the way I might cook them. I did fully embrace the Cretan foods and traditional dishes available.

I don’t think I have eaten so many tomatoes in a week! Ripe and juicy, a different variety that are grown in Northern Europe I would say with my untrained eye. Lots of olive oil that was so tasty. Beautiful Greek salads with olives and sweet raw onion, tomatoes, fresh and tangy feta with herbs and oil with local breads sprinkled with sesame seeds to dip into the oil and tomato juices left in the bowl.

Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit and freshly squeezed local oranges with thick Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with nuts – either pistaschio, walnuts or hazelnuts. I really noticed the amount of nuts and seeds that were available. Crunchy bread sticks with seeds and lots of breads with sesame seeds thickly covering the crust. Sesame seeds are also used in the traditional Greek Halva and nuts are packed into the desserts like baklava and kaitafi.

Lots of aubergine and peppers in dishes like moussaka or simply roasted with olive oil with some Greek cheese inside. Lots of fish of course, you wouldn’t expect anything less on an island in the Med. Herbs were sprinkled on salads, meat and even the chips – lots of oregano. They were the flavouring in the slow cooked meat stews complete with potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.

Walking in the hills, you brushed past the vegetation and the air filled with the scents of herbs – I am not sure which herbs they were. Thyme, oregano definitely – maybe marjoram. Growing wild everywhere in the dry but warm environment.

This plant rich way of eating, heavy on the olive oil with plenty of seeds and nuts, fruits, vegetables and fish is known to be good for health and longevity. We don’t have to be living on a Greek island to apply the principles – many foods from many cuisines can meet the principles of this way of eating.

Now that the warmer weather is coming, I will be trying to recreate the Greek salad – a trip to the market beckons to find some juicy, tasty tomatoes!

Of course it is easier when the food is tasty and fresh, easily available and cheap. Easier to make the choices I was making when you are on holiday – either you are not cooking at all or if you are it is in a more relaxed way with less of the stuff of life getting in the way. Treating yourself a little to local delicacies and keeping things simple, visiting local markets.

We can find simple and cheap ways to apply these principles which can make a big difference to our health and well-being.

  • Choose an oil like rapeseed or olive oil to cook with – it doesn’t have to be the cold pressed virgin oil, it can be the cheaper options.
  • Canned tomatoes are as good as fresh and can be used in sauces and stews.
  • Investing in some herbs to sprinkle on food can make quite plain foods taste a little more exotic and add to your plant foods as they are rich in some of the phytochemicals that have benefits for our gut microbiome.
  • Canned fish can be a cheaper way of adding fish to your menu – tuna, sardines, salmon, pilchards, anchovies can make tasty meals.
  • Seeded breads and crackers add a little extra plant foods and flavour.

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