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Greetings from Athens, Greece! It’s Sunday night and I’ve been in this beautiful city for a few days now. Unfortunately, most of my time has been spent indoors listening to research (more on this to come), but I do have some fabulous food experiences (and thoughts) to share. I’m in serious note-taking mode (from listening to speakers for over 8 hours per day), so I decided to type today’s post bullet-style:
-The plate photo is from my breakfast (not brunch) buffet. Each day, vegetables, olives and olive oil are served with breakfast (I love, love, love it!). At this hotel, breakfast also comes complete with an amazing view of the Acropolis, which I haven’t been to yet but hope to visit tomorrow.
-Culinary traditions here are integral to Greek culture. Olive oil is not just an ingredient; it’s a part of the fabric of every day life. Greeks consume 20 liters of olive oil per person per year (think of what just one 2 liter bottle of soda looks like). More on this to come as well.
-Staples of the Greek Mediterranean diet include olive oil, olives, wine, wild greens, vegetables, fruits, whole grains (especially wheat and barley), beans, nuts, and potatoes. Fish, yogurt and cheese are also consumed, but less frequently, and Greeks who do eat meat “fast” from it 180 days per year for religious purposes.
-Last night I ate one of the BEST dishes I’ve ever had in my entire life (if you read this blog you know that beans are my very favorite food, and I was in heaven!). It was called revithada, clay baked chickpeas in a sauce made with tomatoes, onions, lemon, olive oil (of course!) and spices. It was by far the best bean dish I’ve ever tasted - I could have eaten 2 liters of that alone! It was served with wild greens dressed with pomegranate vinaigrette, whole grain bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (of course!) for dipping, eggplant, and peppers grilled in olive oil (of course!) and orange sorbet - no olive oil here but a well known Greek culinary expert and restaurant critic told us she had just been to a restaurant that served ice cream topped with persimmons, citrus fruits, and yes, olive oil (of course!). She said it was delicious by the way. Each ingredient in this meal was local, amazing fresh, and unbelievably flavorful, and while my Greek and Italian meals have included similar foods, the eating experiences have been entirely different.
Oh, I have so much more to share, but so little down time. Lucky for me, this conference includes field trips. Today we traveled to Nafplion, on the Argolic Gulf coast (about an hour from Athens) to visit an innovative Greek winery (more on this to come as well). We saw fields of olive, pistachio, and almond trees along the way and experienced Carnival (Mardi Gras/Halloween, the day before the first day of Lent) when we arrived. The second photo is a float from the celebration.
Tomorrow I look forward to sharing pics from my early morning trip to the Central Market in Athens (I can’t wait!). Until then, kalin’ychta (good night)!