Returning yesterday on a flight from the Greek island of Crete I reminisced over the events of my trip to visit my mother who has lived in a small village on the outskirts of Agios Nikolaos in the north east corner of the island for the past seventeen years. It was the first time I had been back since beginning a low carb diet two years ago and I was keen to seek out some fresh Mediterranean produce and sample the traditional restaurant meals that I assumed would offer an abundance of low carb fish, meat and local vegetables.
Unfortunately it was apparent that the healthy diet of the Cretan people that Ancel Keys was so impressed by in his infamous Seven Countries Study when he visited in 1960 was no longer on offer. Now overflowing with ice cream parlours, cake shops and fast food outlets, the place once associated with the healthiest population is now experiencing the same fate as other areas of the world.
Considering that the word “diet” actually comes from the Greek language meaning “way of life” it is now apparent that the original “way of life” is in rapid decline and Crete, which was once considered the birthplace of the famous Mediterranean diet can no longer be viewed in the same way.
Still available in almost all of the shops are the many herbs that are native only to Crete such as the Mountain Tea but I found it difficult to find a restaurant that offered Horta on the menu or even a Moussaka that had not been produced en mass in a processing facility.
There was however a hidden jewel in a small fishing village called Pachia Ammos that prided itself in offering a true Cretan experience. The husband and wife owners have been open since 1989 and I was thrilled to try the Horta dripping in olive oil and drizzled with fresh lemon juice as a side dish to a plateful of local grilled sardines in an idyllic setting on the seafront away from the onslaught of tourists clamoring for cola, ice cream, chips and pizza.