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Monday, 18 July 2011

The Cretan diet off the shores of the island (Η Κρητική διατροφή μακριά από το νησί)

The 1st Symposium of Greek Gastronomy took place in the former primary school of the mountain village of Karanou, Hania. The Symposium focussed on Cretan cuisine from a variety of aspects: archaeological evidence, wild foraged greens, the evolution of the Cretan diet, migration and the evolution of Cretan wine. Together with Fusun Ertag and Ozlem Yasayanlar, our presentations involved the Cretan diet off the shores of the island.

It's often believed that Cretan Turks in the population exchange introduced Anatolia to foraged wild greens, but Fusun Ertug produced evidence to the contrary, of Turks living in areas that were not affected by the population exchange, who live inland, quite far away from the Aegean or Mediterranean coastline, who also use foraged greens in their daily diet.


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My contribution then followed, in which I spoke about the importance of food as an element of a person's identity. (Due to technical glitches, my presentation appears in all three video parts of the Symposium that I present in this post).

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Ozlem Yasayanlar who now lives in Izmir (she is also a food blogger: http://ozlemaki.blogspot.com) made a particularly moving speech (in Greek) about the search for her Cretan roots, as the descendant of Cretan Turks who left the island, never to return to what they considered their homeland, when she tried to answer the question: 'why can a third-generation Muslim Cretan living in Asia Minor, who has never seen the island, still act and live and eat like a Cretan, even a hundred years after the population exchange?'
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On Saturday evening, the local cooks of Karanou village presented a range of the meals that displayed the variety of dishes used in the daily diet of the village, the one that they raised their families on, and continue to cook on a daily basis. You can see the photos of these meals on my facebook page. But even if you aren't on facebook, if you read this blog regularly, you have probably already seen them...
 The cooks of Karanou stand behind their meals at the buffet table
What particularly aroused my curiosity was how similar the traditional Cretan meals I cook for my own family are to theirs, which shows a continuity over the generations, even in the modern globalised world that we are required to live in, in the food of the island, using all the edible resources, both wild and cultivated, available to us, as Fusun's Turkish anecdote proves:
"If a cow and a Cretan woman come to your garden, just keep the cow, because she will eat what she needs and then stop. Get rid of the Cretan woman, because she will remove everything from the garden."
Cretan cuisine is an inseparable part of the Cretan identity, even when it becomes just a memory in the third-generation members of the Cretan-Greek diaspora. As the saying goes: "The first generation leaves, the second returns, and the third looks for its roots."
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