Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cretan Food

The food on Crete is quite wonderful. Being a sun-drenched island has its advantages. Olive trees grow everywhere. Grapes for wine are plentiful (though alcohol will be tomorrow's post). Plenty of grazing animals like sheep and goats provide meat and dairy products. The seafood is fresh and plentiful. What's not to like?

Kefalotyri cheese is made from sheep's and goat's milk and has a nice little tang to it. J objected to it because it was white (he loves orange/red cheese, no matter what the flavor) but eventually tried it. Graviera cheese is also from sheep's and goat's milk and is a little milder flavored. J like this a lot more than the other. We parents preferred the kefalotyri. Both are yummy. Of course, feta cheese is the most popular and we had plenty of that too, though it was too soft for J.

One staple of the Cretan diet is olive oil. Almost everything is made with it. Meats, fish, and vegetables are often cooked and/or drizzled in it. Olive oil also substitutes for butter on morning toast. Most cooks brag about using local olive oil, either from their home town or even their home garden. Home brewing here includes olive oil!

"Extra-native" olive oil

Even soap has olive oil in it!

Baklava has many variants here, all of them tasty. I've enjoyed baklava back in the States but found it rather rich and overly sugary. In the stores, the baklava labels say they are "syrup-based pastries," which is a pretty good description. Here the syrup is lighter than what is used in the States, which helps preserve the flakeyness of the pastry. We had several different types while we were here, often as a little free extra after a meal or a snack. Even if you don't like it in America, it's worth a try in Crete.

Store-bought still isn't as good as from a bakery or restaurant

 The other style of dessert is kataifa, a shredded pastry with nuts and syrup. It looks a bit like a bird's nest but is quite tasty.

Stores have the usual assortment of foods. Here J found something he did like and since we were on vacation we thought we'd let it slide.

I'm sure that Greek bit explains how nutritious the cereal is

One thing they have a lot of on Crete is art. Art is in such great abundance, they are willing to eat some of it. Especially the foreign, i.e. barbarian, art.

Mona Lisa's unhappy fate

One important thing to remember is how generous the portions are in restaurants. Like this plate of meat!

J, you need to help out with this meat!

So many times we'd finish a meal at a taverna and then they would bring out some fresh fruit and baklava for dessert. It was a tough job, but we did our best. If we were really lucky, they'd bring out some raki, which is a dessert wine or aperitif. But that will be discussed in tomorrow's blog.

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