Island of Ancient Food

By Diane Kochilas

Updated on January 13, 2021

certainly never would have been able to savor the range of the island's specialties—a cuisine rooted in the staples that, since the Neolithic Era, 10,000 years ago, have nourished Crete's inhabitants: olives and olive oil, wild greens and herbs, fava beans and other pulses, grains (especially barley), snails, fish, a little game, some cheese, and always, wine. Paximathia, the twice-baked barley rusks that evolved as a way of preserving bread—and which are one of the island's oldest foods—and rustic goat's-milk cheeses have changed very little since the writings of Homer. (Crete was also the source of that now-meaningless catchphrase "Mediterannean diet", derived originally from a case study in the late 1940s under the direction of epidemiologist Leland Allbaugh, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.)

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