Cretan food is regarded as one of the healthiest culinary styles in the world. At Grecotel’s ‘Be A Farmer For A Day’ experience, guests have the opportunity to learn more all the while getting their hands dirty and preparing their own meal at Agreco Farm. trivago Magazine editor, Joe Baur, signs up.
“Drink this. Is medicine.” Dimitris hands me the shot glass; it looks like a thumbtack in his hands. The medicine in question is tsikoudia or raki for short — a clear spirit from twice distilled grapes. Looking at it, I know there’s a sharp, masochistic burn in my immediate future.
You may know its cousins grappa or ouzo. You may also know that when a Greek — scratch that — a Cretan hands you drink or food, you accept, happily, and then you brace for more like a fighter in the ring who knows they’ve met their match. Except instead of getting your face pummeled, it’s your senses that are in for the ride. The aroma of smoked goat cheese, the sweet surprise of thyme honey, and tomatoes erupting with flavor fresh off the vine — all backed by the crisp, fresh air of Crete.
The medicine, also something of a digestif, couldn’t come at a better time. We’re nearing the end of Grecotel’s ‘Be a Farmer for a Day’ experience at Agreco Farm up a narrow, winding road from Rethymno in the idyllic Cretan island countryside where you can hear the slightest breeze. Crops of grapes and tomatoes cut neat rows along the rolling green hillsides with the occasional narrow, winding road slicing through. The Mediterranean, as blue as the Greek flag itself, is always visible on the horizon.
Crown of the Mediterranean
I’m here to learn about Cretan food and culture from the farmers who’ve made this their life’s work. Cretan food isn’t merely another category or genre of food awaiting its flash of foodie popularity. It’s life — quite literally. The Cretan diet — local plant-based foods, breads, cheeses, fruits, and of course, olive oil — is believed to contribute to the longevity of the island’s inhabitants and is revered like religion. I hear more about tomatoes and olive trees than God or the church.
As Dimitris, a Cretan through and through, puts it: “The Cretan diet is the crown of the Mediterranean.”
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