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The Greek gastronomy of the Mediterranean

What flavour is the Mediterranean?

In the late 1950s, the American physiologist Ancel Keys conducted the famous "Seven Countries Study". It was an exhaustive study of the dietary culture of the Mediterranean. The conclusions of this project were truly surprising and created a new term, the so-called “Mediterranean diet”

It was scientifically proven beyond a doubt that the ancient gastronomic habits of Mediterranean peoples had contributed decisively to the phenomenon of greater longevity and well-being. The inhabitants of the Mediterranean region shared a secret created from the sun and the sea: the food they ate. Over the centuries a wise and efficacious diet developed, which proved beneficial for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many others.

The Mediterranean dietary model, which not only continues to survive but is indeed experiencing new prominence, is grounded in the gifts of the earth. Cereals, legumes, fruits, honey, and vegetables are laid out on the table on a daily basis. Excellent dairy products accompany the meal. Fish is served in a thousand different ways. Meat is consumed sparingly, as are animal fats like butter. The primary role in Mediterranean cuisine is played by pure olive oil. The entire cornucopia of flavours is matched with good wine.

The importance of the Mediterranean diet in maintaining human health is so substantial that in 2010 UNESCO included the Mediterranean dietary tradition in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. So we do know what the Mediterranean tastes like. It is the flavour of life itself.

“The first foundations of the home are bread, wine and oil”

This is a widely known Cretan expression, which is usually given as advice to newlyweds. Within it is contained the basic philosophy of the Mediterranean culinary tradition. The fact is that these three items - bread, wine and oil, have, from the dawn of time, been the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet.

Products prepared through the processing of cereals play a crucial role on the table. Farro wheat, barley, einkorn single grain and durum wheat have been used since ancient times to make a variety of products. Bread, fried yeast pancakes served with honey, baked unleavened bread baked in the hot sand (or ‘hovoli’), and yeast breads are just some of the ancient cereal based products.

The wine of the Mediterranean is not just a product, it is a cultural artefact. The Dionysian character of Mediterranean culture developed around the consumption of wine. The meal is a sacred ritual, a celebration. The symposium, the ancient Greek custom of imbibing wine in the company of friends, gave rise to philosophical works such as Plato's Symposium, the Symposium of the Seven Wise Men by Plutarch, and the writings of the Deipnosophists of Athens (“The Philosophers at Dinner”). Wine is an essential ingredient of Mediterranean culture.

Olive oil is the true gold of the Mediterranean earth. Its colour varies from light golden green to deep cypress green. Each region is famous for its own oil with very distinct characteristics and its own unique flavour. Olive oil has been recognized worldwide as one of the most beneficial products for the overall well-being of the human organism.

The Mediterranean – a sea of imagination

The wonderful products of Mediterranean region can be combined to create uniquely flavourful dishes. The age-old knowledge of ingredients is often accepting of external beneficial influences. Everyone knows the Greek salad, called “choriatiki” (meaning “peasant salad”), which has the tomato as its basic ingredient, a trademark of Greek cuisine. The tomato did not travel from Latin America to the Mediterranean until the 16th century AD. But it won the hearts of a people who have proved to be open to new ideas.

With creative flair, the Mediterranean constantly refreshes its rich tradition. With a firm foundation and great imagination it has created a culture of sublime flavours. Ordinary people with a smile on their faces, women with a storehouse of knowledge and creative cooks of the high culinary arts are constantly enriching the colourful palette of the Mediterranean table. Under the soft Mediterranean sun an encyclopaedia of cultural flavours, colours and aromas is being constantly added to.

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