During our time in the Greek islands we really focused on food. The Greek adore food and their passion for it can be tasted in their cuisine. This demonstration of love brings families together every day.
In recent decades processed foods have started to make inroads into Greek households and the family dinner moved away from health and happiness to being overfed, but undernourished.
There is one lady in Crete determined to bring back the Cretan diet. And she is doing it from the very house she was born in. From the very oven her mother cooked in. And inspired by the very same love she remembers growing up with.
I was lucky to be on Crete with fellow bloggers, staying in the most gorgeous Greek villa provided by HouseTrip.
We had marvellous views overlooking the ocean, a dreamy swimming pool and a cosy lounge room perfectly made for chatting and laughing late into the night.
The Crete Food Tour
When I had spent the day in Chania, Crete in October 2013, during our stopover on a Mediterranean cruise, I knew I wanted to return. The food was phenomenal. So this time around I decided to spend as much time as possible focusing on food, and that started with a local food tour.
Fellow bloggers and I had used Viator to book this tour in Crete. While the tour provided a great overview of Chania and allowed us to sample of some of the local cheeses and pastries, I have to admit some dissatisfaction – I finished hungry! A food tour should never have you finish hungry, right?
My favourite part of this tour, however, would have to be the Loukamades. Do you remember when we descried those to you in our Greek food posts? They were still just as heavenly.
The Cooking Class
Disappointed in our food tour, I went with some trepidation to our second Viator booking. With me was Sophie from Wonderful Wanderings (we’d previously met in Belgium), Jennifer from Moi, mes souliers and Amanda from MarocMama,
But as I walked into the warm, humble home of Maria, I could sense I was in for a treat, and Crete was about to restore my faith in its cuisine.
The class took place in Maria’s kitchen around a small wooden island. She let us know what we would be preparing and invited us to help her. There was no set menus or strict procedures. The food was rarely measured, it was freeform cooking. The type of cooking that has been repeated hundreds of times, but still involves as much love as that very first time.
I started cutting up the zucchini while the other girls worked on rolling dough, peeling potatoes and chopping mint.
Throughout the process we got to hear about Maria’s life and her passion for food. We heard about the old times as well as recent stories. She not only instructed us on Cretan preparation, but showered us in history. She created a craving within. Not just for the smells that were radiating from her 50-year-old stove, but for a deep, intimate knowledge of the region.
But I know you had to be there to really understand that desire to learn more. Instead you want to know about the food, right? What is the Cretan diet?
The Cretan diet is not just a variety of dishes placed on the table. It encompasses a whole philosophy of life and represents the lifestyle of the Cretan people. It is considered to be the original Mediterranean diet and is highly nutritious, assisting in prolonging life and helps to prevent various modern diseases that affect millions of people every year in the West.
The dishes we prepared and devoured:
Zucchini and Greek Cheese Pie
This pie consisted of layers of potato, zucchini, Greek cheese and mint. This was then placed in the oven for an hour and, quite honestly may have been my favourite dish of the night. Simple and delicious.
You cannot go to a Greek dinner without a Greek salad and Maria made this look so easy. She did this one by herself within a few seconds like an afterthought.
Lamb chops tossed and cooked in an egg-lemon sauce that added a lovely fresh zing to the lamb. This was served with some greens, much like kale or lettuce, but slightly bitter.
These little beauties consisted of homemade dough and then were filled with different ingredients – cheese and spinach or just cheese. A delicious little snack that I could of happily eaten for days. I may or may not have devoured much of the filling before it made it into the dough.
Plain cheese triangles can also be drizzled with honey to make a dessert.
What a delicious Greek meal! We sat and chatted with Maria further over dinner devouring as much of the dishes as we could fit in.
It was a simple, happy meal and the company really completed the evening. If there were one thing on Crete I would recommend it would be cooking with Maria in her homey kitchen, in her cosy home.
I learnt a lot more than just food from Maria and I gained a much deeper insight into Crete from the time spent in her kitchen.
The other days I spent in Crete driving around the island, visiting beaches and walking through the markets would not have been the same without the historical insight and food knowledge I gained that night. It’s amazing how food can bring you so much closer to a culture than simply walking the streets. And that, my friends, is why Crete is all about the food.