A week ago, I was invited to a Cretan village home for dinner. The old lady had killed one of the twenty rabbits she kept specially and served a wonderful Stifado along with Horta, Makaronia and oven-roasted potatoes. Each time I emptied my plate, it was filled again as was my wine glass. These were not rich people, in fact, during this pan-Hellenic crisis, few people are rich but the richness of their generosity and the tastiness of the food was overwhelming.
However, few tourists will ever experience the warmth of such a household or sample the delights of traditional village fare. In fact, many ex-pats living here have never enjoyed such company or sampled their simple but tasty food because they are separated by language and custom. It is not the Cretans’ fault that we Brits do not integrate and so do not sample their culinary delights. We find it hard to make any serious attempt to communicate in the difficult Greek language, let alone the Cretan dialect that is the key to the village world.
Yet everywhere tourists go in or around the resorts, they are assailed by signs saying ‘Traditional Cretan Food’ and ‘all our food is cooked in olive oil’. Tourists could be forgiven for believing that Cretans survive on a diet of chips and grilled meat, be it pork, lamb or chicken. Some tavernas have Cretan specialties on their menus, such as mousaka, stifado and kleftiko yet often serve these dishes tailored for tourism accompanied with…yes, you’ve guessed it…chips.
Few tourists will stop at a local kafenion, deterred perhaps by the gathering of old village men and a false belief they will find no food of any description. They would stop if only they knew what a treasure trove of tasty dishes would be brought forth by the magic incantations ‘raki’ or ‘krasi’. This will very often bring them not only an alcoholic beverage but also a few plates of simple foods like olives, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, bread, pieces of sausage…the list goes on depending on the location. Yet, while the proprietor will manage to communicate that chips with something can be provided, it is unlikely that many tourists will be treated to the delights contained within a huge saucepan simmering on the wood stove. This is not because it is the sole domain of the locals and tourists aren’t welcome to it, but because they are unaware of these treats. Yet treats they are.
Some while ago in England I bought a recipe book of Cretan cookery aimed at the largest possible market and designed to encourage tourists to prepare what they may have sampled whilst on holiday in Crete. This feature of my website aims to supplement these wonderful books with their array of complex recipes by giving an insight into those simple foods that form part of the truly historical and healthy Mediterranean diet and how to find them in the local kafenion.
DO YOURSELF A FAVA - TUNE IN AGAIN SOON.