THE HISTORY

Modern dietetics considers the Mediterranean diet as a way of life that gives longevity and good health. Most of the researches, however, which have been internationally conducted, refer to Crete as the best and most characteristic example of Mediterranean diet. After it has been discovered that the inhabitants of the island exhibit the lowest death rates, especially regarding cardiovascular diseases and cancer, they began to search the nature of the diet that provided (and still provides) Cretan with these exceptional health privileges. It became evident very soon that it is a story lost in the deepness of time. In other words, it is not a result of the research of some scientists, but a biological experiment that lasts for some millenniums!
The history of the Cretan diet begins very early, even before the Neolithic age. Science, however, has no evidence but only very serious indications about what Cretans ate 5.000 years ago. Since the heyday of the Minoan culture (4.000 years ago) things begin to become clearer. The findings of archaeological excavations reveal that ancient Cretans, the Minoan people, consumed almost the same products that a modern Cretan consumes. In the Minoan palaces the large earthenware jars used for storing olive oil, cereals, pulses and honey have been found. In the various pictorial evidences we can see the incredible world of Cretan plants and herbs.
As centuries passed by, Cretan cuisine concentrated the knowledge and experience transmitted from generation to generation, so that the Athenian, Greek author of Roman years informs us about two exceptionally complicated and tasty pastries made in ancient Crete with grape-juice syrup and honey, nuts, sesame and poppy seeds. In the Byzantine years, Cretans maintained their habits and the cuisine of urban families is agreeable to complex meals offering an exquisite taste. The rural population continues to exploit nature and its products. They constitute the foundation of the fine Cretan traditional cuisine. Greens, pulses, cereals, olive oil. They could cook their products in many ways making them tasty and delicious. This habit contributed to their success in surviving under extremely unfavourable conditions, when the island was gradually conquered by the Arabs (824-961), the Venetians (1204-1669) and the Turks (1669-1898).
The most important change in Cretan diet took place when the products, mainly tomato, which came from the New World, begin to spread on the island. On the contrary, in the rich arsenal of the Cretan garden products one more was added...Conquerors may have changed, but the soul, religion, language and... Cretan cuisine did not change at all! This continuity created a tradition that proves precious today, since the international scientific community often refers to both Cretan cuisine and the miracle of Cretan diet!


 

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