The Mediterranean diet as a way of life
In the countries of the Mediterranean basin, diet is a way of life – and cooking is part of people’s everyday culture. The impressive terrain and rich nature of this land has always been linked with a multiplicity of cultural phenomena and, consequently, gastronomy, which is the principal expression of a land’s idiosyncrasy.
Thus, the diet of the broader geographical region of the Mediterranean is today the most famous around the world for its beneficial properties for human health, as well as its gustatory delight, as it includes a wide variety of ingredients, scents and colours. The combination of food quality and flavour has always been sought after.
It is no accident that 2,500 years ago Hippocrates believed food should not only be healthy but also pleasant to taste. He preferred food that was of lower quality but that he found delicious, because he believed that the positive effects on humans due to biochemical processes caused by a quality meal, which also provides a feeling of satisfaction, are of greater importance.
Thus, gastronomy originated centuries ago as the art of preparing rich and delicious meals.
The importance of the health aspect has always been primary as well. Asclepius, a God of ancient Greek mythology and the central figure of the hero-healer arche-type, reflected the entire perception of the healing power of nature, of which nutrition is an integral part and was protected by one of his five daughters, the goddess Hygieia.
Homer also spoke of the relationship between nutrition and health, which was scientifically supported by Hippocrates and the renowned physician Galen in later centuries. The latter was the second greatest physician of antiquity who separated the therapeutic part of health into three sectors: nutrition, medicines and surgery.
The first two had always been integrally linked with nature: nutrition depended on the fruit of the land, while medicines depended on its herbs…and it is no coincidence that these are the ingredients of cooking that have shaped the Mediterranean model and, by extension, the Greek and Cretan nutritional models.