Wednesday, 10 October 2007
You are what you eat
I read this appalling story last week regarding increasing obesity and heart disease in Greece as a result of the abandonment of the traditional Mediterranean diet in favour of one inclined towards high-fat and processed foods.
There is no excuse for such a trend, which Greeks for once cannot blame on the machinations of foreigners. What we put in our mouths and allow to enter our stomachs is our choice and our responsibility. No one force-feeds us chocolate, crisps and doughnuts.
Furthermore, as the report makes clear, other Mediterranean countries – Italy, Spain, France – have managed to preserve their traditional cuisines and diets. I can also testify that during my recent trip to Cyprus, Cypriots remain satisfied with their traditional cuisine, which is one of the tastiest in the world.
The quality of local Cypriot produce is high, care and pride is taken in the production and preparation of food, eating is a pleasure, a holy sacrament. Rubbish won’t do; it won’t go down. I remember Auntie A’s baked okra in tomato sauce, Auntie M’s stuffed onions, her cherry tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, so sweet that I ate an entire plateful; and then there was Uncle K’s souvla (barbecue) – a slap-up meat feast, consisting of lamb chops, loukanika (spicy sausages), sheftalia (more spicy sausages), pork souvlaki (kebab) and, Uncle K’s speciality, snails in tomato and garlic sauce.
I’ve never eaten snails before and found them to be exquisite little things – though I did have trouble sucking the slugs Cypriot-style out of their shells and had to be given a toothpick to extricate the flesh, the effeminate French way. I need to work on my suction technique.
Anyway, to show that even 4,000 miles away from civilisation, it is still possible to eat well, like a Greek and a Cypriot, I will from time to time be providing details and photographs of my main meal of the day, particularly when I have the good fortune to savour my saintly mother’s cooking.
Last night, as pictured above, I had louvi (black-eyed beans) with courgettes in olive oil and lemon juice; lots of tashin (tahini paste, lemon juice and garlic); and a couple of loukanika. Delicious. I wish you’d all been here to enjoy it with me.