July 16-17, 2011, Karanou (Municipality of Platanias, Chania/Crete)

Saturday, July 16

8:30 Registration

9.30 Welcome messages from Ioannis Malandrakis, Mayor of Platatanias, and the organizers Mariana Kavroulaki & Stavroula Markoulaki, president of Historical, Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete.

Session I Chair: Kostas Moutzouris

10:00 The importance, for archaeology, to study the fauna and the flora on excavations in Greece in order to address a more complete study of ancient diets.
Anaya Sarpaki Dr. Archaeologist / Archaeobotanist & Melpo Skoula Dr. Βiologist/ Botanist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna at the TUC

10:20 Tastes from seeds in prehistoric Greece: seeking continuities and discontinuities in archaeo-botanical data.
Sultana Maria Valamoti, Αrchaeologist /Assistant Professor, AUTH

10:40 “Lucullian meals” depicted in the mosaics of ancient Kissamos.
Stavroula Markoulaki, Ph.D Αrchaeologist

11:00 Questions and answers

11:20 Edible Wild weeds in Venetian Crete (Poster).
Kyriaki Panteli, Social Geographer

11:40 Coffee / Mountain Tea Break with a parade of Cretan cheeses, local preserved meat, home made bread, olives and more.

Session II Chair: Stavroula Markoulaki

12:00 Botanical Diversity in the Cretan Diet.
Melpo Skoula, Dr., Biologist / Botanist- Anaya Sarpaki, Dr. Arcaeologist/Archaeobotanist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna, Technical University of Crete – Costanza Dal Cin D’Agata, Biologist, Park for the Preservation of Flora and Fauna, Technical University of Crete

12:20 Wild leafy greens in the “Cretan diet”.
Costas D. Economakis, Agronomist, former Senior Researcher ΕΘΙΑΓΕ

12:40 Ten Edible Native Grasses and their Involvement in the Diet of the Present-Day Inhabitants of Eastern Crete Today.
Antonia Psaroudakis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding / Technological Institute of Crete, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics (speaker) – Petros Dimitropoulakis, Technological Institute of Crete, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics – Theofanis Constantinides, National and Capodistrian University of Athens, Department of Biology, Department of Ecology and Taxonomy – Andreas Katsiotis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding – George Skarakis, Agricultural University of Athens, Department of Crop Production, Agricultural Experimentation and Laboratory of Plant Breeding

13:00 Laban, jameed, kishk, and more: yoghurt and yoghurt-based products in the Levant.
Carol Palmer, Ethnobotanist / Director of the British Institute in Amman, Jordan

13:20 Questions and answers

Lunch on your own

Session III Chair: Anaya Sarpaki

18:00 The Cretan diet on the edge of nutritional epidemiology since the 1950s. Are there more secrets to reveal?
Antonia-Leda Matalas, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens

18:20 Dietary Change in Crete.
Tourlouki Eleni, Public Health Nutritionist – Christos Lionis – Foteini Anastasiou- Evangelia Ladoukaki – Maria Antonopoulou – Ioanna Tsiligianni – Nikos Tsakountakis- Kornillia Makri – Demosthenes Panagiotakos

18: 40 The Cretan Diet and its Position of Nutritional Education in the Prevention of Childhood Obesity.
Joana Petraki, Dietitian / Nutritionist

19:00 Questions and answers

Pre-dinner drinks and beverages

20:45 Dinner Buffet for Registered Guests. The people of Karanou will bring food and recipes to share.

Sunday, July 17

9:00 Sunday morning trip to Omalos plateau.

Learn how to make staka, the traditional local butter.

Session IV Chair: Katerina Tzanakaki

17:20 The myth of Cretan cuisine in Anatolia.
Fusun Ertug, Ph.D Archaeologist / Ethnobotanist

17:40 The population exchange and Cretan cuisine are alive and well in Izmir.
Özlem Yaşayanlar, Translator/ food –blogger

18: 00 The relationship between the Cretan kitchen, food memories and identity – some observations from a Cretan food blogger.
Maria Verivaki, English teacher at MAICh / food blogger

18:20 The rizitiko music genre and Cretan nutrition (Rizitika as a fifth component of the Cretan diet).
Antonis Mavridakis, Psychiatrist – Psychotherapist

18:40 Questions and answers

Session V Chair: Jennifer Moody

19:00 The Cretan vineyard: one of the most ancient vineyards.
Antonis Dourakis, Owner of Dourakis Winery / President of the Winery Network in Chania-Rethymnon

19: 20 Transformations and reviews of the role of table wine on the modern Greek table.
Alexandros Sakkas, wine writer/ wine critic/ wine educator

19:40 A king from rags and patches.
Mary Frangaki, former TV producer; alternative tourism business owner.

20:00 Questions and answers

20:20 Jennifer Moody, Dr., Archaeologist, and Mariana Kavroulaki, independent researcher of the History of Greek Food and co-organizer of Symposium will conclude the work of the conference following the presentations, discussion of the papers and recommendations of those attending the conference.

21:00 Farewell dinner: From austerity to feast; Cretan cuisine tells its stories.

UPDATE: For a  peek at the topics being covered at the Symposium, please take a look at the  abstracts here.



Four weeks ago, we arrived back in Athens, after being gone for 3 months. This time I’ve brought  several tons of olives and cheeses, herbs, books and I managed to forget half my clothes.
What I miss while here:
The view from my sister’s kitchen window




And the view from my balcony



Writing under the olive tree very early in the morning


Weekends in Karranou

Wandering around Chania’s old town



 and harbour



I miss the sea….


… always the sea.

And I miss the lazy summer noons

The first autumn rain

The smell of the herbs

My mother and my sister

Sunday morning chat over a cup of coffee

 The old women, who brought me food gifts saying: eat, in order to remember Chania.

Knowing that my friends are either a short drive or a phone call away…
…. always my friends.
Yes I miss my summer home.
However, I am back…
I am back in the swing.
But eating with friends lift my spirits. Oh yes, my Athenian friends….


Apaki is smoked pork meat. Zelokoumpe or zylokoumpi is a goat or sheep cheese.

Vinegar or lemon juice or fig juice is used instead of rennet

Lentils (fakes)

3 cups lentils

6 cups water

½ cup olive oil + 1tbs

1 medium onion chopped

15 baby onions

4 garlic teeth chopped

3 medium green bell peppers cut into pieces

2 tbs tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp grated orange peel

salt and pepper

3 tbs red wine

Rinse the lentils under running water and set aside to drain. Place the peppers and the baby onions in an olive oiled pan and roast them. Place the lentils in a casserole, add the chopped onion, cover with water and cook for 15 minutes. Add peppers and onions into the lentils, stir in the garlic and olive oil, season with salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and add the tomato paste, the bay leaves and the orange peel. Cook until thick (adding some water if necessary). Stir in the wine, remove the bay leaves, season with pepper. Serve hot or cold.


This pasta is one of the many recipes for thrahana that are found in Greece. It is made with flour, leaves of white beat, onion, garlic, leek and white fennel and comes from Chios island.

Stir in 2 cups trahana in 4 cups boiling water, add 2 tbs olive oil and cook about 10 minutes (add more water if necessary, to make a thick soup). Then add ½ cup strained yoghurt, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and stir. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve.





What has happened to the traditional cooking knowledge? A few days ago, I found some photos from earlier this summer of the 10th Agricultural August – Land and Culrure Fair. The Fair took place at the Venetian harbour of Chania and was framed by rural and food products and few samples of popular artifacts of Municipalities of Chania, Cretan businesses and women’s Agrotouristic Cooperatives.


Now, the question is about those food products which were made by women farmers and Cooperatives. Indeed, a lot of quality food products were available at their kiosks:

loukoumades and small pies (kalitsounia) made with a variety of stuffings,




small semi-sweet cheese pies (lyhnarakia)


gorgeous thin cheese pies from Sfakia sprinkled with honey





honey, raki, rusks, semi-sweet breads



cheeses, olives, olive oil, wines, dried pasta,



 fried pastry sweets (xerotigana), spoon sweets etc., etc.

However… these were products that fulfill the interest of outsiders who have an apriori notion of cretan cuisine and represent only a small part of the rusks, homemade cheeses, pasta etc. that differentiate the food from region to region. What has happened? I wonder. Do women make food products that are already well known and make good profits? Or is the loss of traditional transmission of knowledge from mothers and grandmothers to daughters and granddaughters? Of course urbanization broke part of the link between mothers and daughters and modernization led to a loss of many chararceristics of traditional cooking, especially those regarding utensils, methods and eating behaviors. On the other hand, cuisines of Cretan agricultural regions still rely heavily on tradition, though allow room for many innovations.

Looks like those women of 35-50 have lost a part of the culinary memoir. Are their mothers the connection to a way of cooking that is gradually being lost? When they are gone the link will disappear as well? I wonder….

A CRETAN PRE-WEDDING PARTY (Κρητικό προγαμήλιο γλέντι)

Here is what was served at a ‘before wedding’ party which was held in Karanou. The party was given by the groom’s family one week before the son got married. The wedding ceremony and the after wedding party (gr. glenti) were given at Athens.
The groom’s family is wealthy and the party was really crowdy, around 1000 people.
The food was the traditional for the weddings in the region of Chania.

When we arrived the ‘snacks’ were out: groundnuts, xerotigana (fragile fried pastry sweets coated with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds);


semi-sweet bread and rusks;

graviera cheese and honey;


They symbolize the sweetness of marriage and wish the couple good luck and fertility.

To drink: raki, Coca cola,  the local soft drinks: gazoza and lemonada, beer and red wine for the main course.

First course:

small pies stuffed with greens (kalitsounia), olive oils preserved in lemon juice, slices of tomatoes and cucumbers, fried lamb liver.


Main course:

boiled goat, kid goat and lamb;

very hot pilafi (medium grain white rice cooked in animals’ broth) sprinkled with white pepper and served with homemade strained yogurt (rice also symbolizes fertility and prosperity);


 tourta (pie stuffed with lamb and myzithra, the local fresh white cheese);


 baked kid goat and potatoes;


 tomato and cucumber salad;

and the roasted lamb heads were also so good!

 Then fruits and ice cream.

Then dances. According to tradition the bride’s family danced first, followed by the family of the groom, then friends of the bride and friends of the groom. When these dances were over, men and women begun to come up to the stage to dance or joined in the chorus of a song. At weddings and celebrations Cretans often shoot in the air with their guns. This marriage was not the exception.
Accidents from stray bullets have become so common that many musicians refuse to play in certain areas. The endemic gun- ownership and shooting is traditionally regarded as part of Cretan culture and pride and remains widespread on the island though it is an expensive and dangerous habit. Today Crete has the highest ratio of guns per head in the European Union.


 This place has stolen my heart.


Karanou is the village where my father was born and lived until his twelfth birthday, and where my sister and I spent a part of our childhood’s and teenagehood’s summers….

When we were free spirits playing in the olive groves…..

 finding paths in the oak forest and sharing secrets with our friends.


In this land nature amalgamates with the dream and memories and makes the village the sort of place that a child remembers for the rest of its life.


Moreover this magic land is highly fertile: olive groves, chestnut trees, fruit trees, grapevines, wild herbs, wild greens, vegetables, legumes grow in great abundance. In past wheat and barley were cultivated as well. Thus wild green, vegetables, legumes, cereals, olive oil, snails, black and semi- black bread, rusks, goat milk and goat cheese and lots of fruits had been the central part of the daily diet of the inhabitants until the early 1990s. A little fish (often dried), meat on days of religious celebration, weddings and baptisms as well as on every Sunday, one or two glasses of wine with the food, were also included.

Unfortunately, this diet has been changed in the two last decades. Younger people eat frequently and in large amounts animal base products, they seem to have replace the moderate use of wine with lots of tsikoudia and beer and they get less and less exercice. The change has already affected their general state of health. Overweight, heart attacks, cancers are not uncommon among them, while the older people live up 100 years.

The photo here is of my grandparents’s house.


Four are the characteristics of it: its age (it was built in 1876), its position (it sits on the top of a rocky hill and yes, the view is amazing), its ovens and the wine cellar.
Wine production for home consumption is a traditional activity in this area. This is the reason why wine cellars are a must-have for the houses. The wine is stored and aged in wooden barrels.


Directly fired wood –ovens (made with bricks or clay) are very common in the mountainous and semi-mountainous villages of Chania. However, the house has one of the largest in the area: its diameter is about 2,10 m. The entrance is above a double fire – place which is used as a source of heat, for roasting or for cooking in special occasions.


Both cooking fires are used simultaneously for the most ambitious of meals.

The second wood –oven is under the exterior ladder and has been built poorly, just in one day.


Its baking capacity is for one 40 cm baking pan. Its construction is simple: flat bricks were used for the floor and an igloo -shaped basket (gr. kofini) was covered with 3 different mixtures of clay (a:clay, lime and straws, b: broken bricks and clay, c: mixed clay with lime). Three- four days later, a large fire was built in the oven to dry it and burn the basket. After that, it was ready to cook for the first time. None-the-less, it lasts a good 30 years.

The third oven is an electric one.


It cooks fast and is also necessary when the weather is windy and there is danger of fire. I think it’s an italian patent. It allows for some pleasures like small pies, stuffed vegetables, baked poultry or meatballs on a bed of sliced potatoes and zucchinis.
For the meatballs I used 800 gr minced meat (200 gr lamb, 300 gr pork, 300 gr beef), 250 gr stale bread, soaked in water and perfectly squeezed, 1 large onion finely chopped, ½ cup chopped tomato, 1 tbs red vinegar, salt and pepper.
The nature really offers a wide array of perfect options for flavoring: thymbre, thyme, oregano, fennel.
I chose to add leaves and flowers of fresh thyme.



 I dipped one of my hands in red wine while shaping the meatballs.



The aroma was fantastic!


And this is my shelter next to the front yard, made from the branches of two tall and strong turpentine trees (Pistacia Terebinthus). Under these trees I played many of my childhood’s games.


Their shade is perfect for morning coffee, writing and reading or spending relaxed time with family and friends.
By the way, the nuts of turpentines are almost ready for harvest.


If they are roasted, they can be used in village bread.

Wild blackberies are almost ripen…


 oregano is almost dried…


 but we patiently wait to have walnuts,




 and quinces….


 in late September.

Refreshments 3. BIRAL, ΜΠΥΡΑΛ

I watched a music festival last night. Some high school students organized a three nights rock festival in Chania (Two Festival) and school groups around Greece threw their voices expressing their anxieties, aspirations and expectations. And there were some great voices, indeed.


Here is the cantina for the service of festival’s visitors. Orange juice and carbonated soft drinks: coca cola (of course), carbonated lemon and orange juice and biral, though these are not the only drinks available. There was also beer. Alcohol consumption among teenagers is an emerging problem in Greece, however during this festival most teens drunk refreshments and water.


Biral is a carbonated soft drink available since 1928. At that year a Cretan immigrant to USA returned to his village and at his back yard he created his first carbonated drinks.

For a kid born in the 50s or 60s few things were so delicious as biral. This brown colored refreshment is made with caramel and has a sweet childish taste. Now I find it too sweet, but when I was kid I adored it. Anyway, it is a perfect drink to go along with salted sunflower seeds and summer (open air) cinemas. Yes, during summer the Greeks go to open air cinemas and while watching the film they chew sunflower or pumpkin seeds and drink biral.



Basil, Theophrastus‘ and Dioskorides‘ ocimom (ώκιμον), lat. ocimum basilicum. The word basil comes from the Greek word vasileus (βασιλεύς)= king because it was believed to have grown above the spot where Constantine the Great and his mother Helen discovered the Holy Cross. And the King of Christians is Jesus.

The plant is originated in tropical Asia and needs sunlight and warmth to flourish. Many varieties are cultivated in Greece, with small or broad leaves. Among them, the curly small leaved basil with the intense aroma is used raw or cooked and the broad leaved variety, which is called also “Italian basil”, is used for dolmades.

Basil is used in the traditional cuisine of Ionian islands and Western Crete, though the sweet and aromatic fragrance seems to be more popular in the past than it is today. Today, the plant is mainly grown for its aroma. Pots of basil appear on the windowsills or verandas, bushes of basil are growing in gardens just like the past, but basil has lost much of its importance in food. However, it is still used over grilled vegetables (Ionian islands) and in the filling for dolmades and stuffed vegetables joins the parsley, wild fennel, and mint (Ionian islands, Western Crete). In coastal areas on the northern Chania and Rethymno (Crete) it is sprinkled over Greek salad as an alternative of purslane. Tomato, cucumber and onion slices topped with fresh creamy myzithra cheese and basil leaves, seasoned with highest quality olive oil and few drops of vinegar, together with some fresh bread, make a perfect, light summer meal. As summer is always a good excuse for pasta dish, raw basil is used as a final garnish in an uncooked tomato sauce.

Until the end of 60ies basil was added at the middle of the cooking of several yiahni (snails; broad beans; potatoes with or without bulgur), or orzo dishes and at the end of the cooking of a tomato sauce that was spread over fried potatoes or vegetables. The leaves of the curly basil chopped into an omelet garnished with fresh tomatoes gave a wonderful flavor and the stuffed leaves of italian basil became the most delicate and aromatic dolmades. It is amazing that basil is less used in modern Cretan cooked dishes because its strong aroma is counted disadvantage, when the industrial type of Ligurian pesto becomes fossilised in daily cooking.

Some maintain that basil leaves should be torn, not be cut with a knife, because metal causes browning. In fact browning is caused both by cut and torn as a result of oxidation by enzymes in the basil itself. However oxidation can be avoided by cutting it at the last minute and consuming it as quickly as possible.


75 washed large basil leaves

2 cups medium grain rice

1 medium tomato, peeled and finely diced

1 small zucchini, grated

2 large onions, grated

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 tbs wild fennel, finely chopped


freshly ground pepper

juice of 2 lemons

virgin olive oil

2 large potatoes cut into thin slices

 Wash the rice and put it in a bowl. Add tomato, zucchini, onions, parsley, fennel and olive oil, as much as you like. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Boil some water and soak the leaves for less than a second, then rinse and lay them on the work surface. Place a small amount of rice at the end of each leaf and fold over it, so that the rice is partly covered.

Fold the two sides of the leaf into the middle and roll the dolma toward the other end. Cover the base of a pan with the potatoes and tightly arrange the filled basil leaves in circles. Sprinkle with lemon juice pour over some olive oil and water to cover. Use a large plate to press these very small dolmades, to prevent them from coming open. Cook over medium heat until the rice is soft and the water has been absorbed. Serve hot or cold, with fine extra-strained yogurt if you like.

Refreshments 2. PEPITADA

To this very day there is a habit among islanders of chewing the seeds of melons and watermelons, after the fruits’ flesh have been consumed. Until late sixties, pepitada, a Jewish Sephardic milky – looking beverage made with melon’s seeds was also familiar to Greeks Christians of Rhodes, Chania (Crete) and Thessaloniki. It is worthy of notice that Chania had an old established Jewish Romaniotes community, not a Sephardic one. However, pepitada existed among Christians of Chania as tonic refreshment.

Pepitada is a Ladino word meaning ‘made from fruit seed’. The Sephardic Jews drink it when the fast of Yom Kippur is broken and before eating again. Apart from a tonic drink for braking fast, pepitada is a wonderful refreshment for hot days. Ιt is a pity that pepitada is not made anymore by Christian Greeks.


2 cups melon seeds. You can also use pumpkin seeds.

 4 cups water

½ cup sugar orange flower or rose water or almond extract

Wash the seeds until they are cleaned. Drain well and sun dry them for 2-3 days. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast them until golden. Remove from the oven, let them cool and crush them in a mortar. Put them in a muslin bag, tie up tightly and place the bag in a glass pitcher filled with 4 cups water, for 36 hours. Keep the pitcher in the fridge. Every few hours give bag a few squeezes. The moisture from the bag will change the colour of the water. The last day, squeeze the bag tightly to remove all its liquid into the water. Set the mixture over low heat, add the sugar, stir and cook until the sugar is melted.

Flavour with the orange flower or rose water or almond extract. Serve pepitada chilled in small glasses.