The Cretan Diet


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Cretans used to eat more sheep and goat meat than beef or pork. Small-scale livestock farming and the particular relief of the island called for flocks of smaller animals, usually grazing in mountain pastures. Traditional livestock farming would be nothing special if it weren't for the abundance and nutritional value of the indigenous herbs on which the flocks feed. That's what makes their milk and meat so tasty, and their owners so proud.

Andikristo is a quite remarkable tradition of roasting lamb and goat meat, mostly followed in mainland Crete and rooted in the shepherds' roasting methods while they resided at the mitata. The meat is first generously sprinkled with salt and then roasted for hours and hours opposite (andikri) an open fire. It is a particularly healthy roasting method, as the long cooking time drains the meat of most of its fat. However, it does require a quite skilled roaster. White meat is as popular in Cretan cuisine as sheep and goat, coming mostly from domestic animals, such as rabbits and chickens.

Apaki and siglina  - specialty smoke-cured pork cuts - and vinegar sausages make for excellent tidbits in the Cretan menu. What makes their flavor so unique is the very particular curing method, which involves smoking the pork over herbs, and thus infusing it with all their wonderful aromas. The procedure evolved out of the necessity to naturally preserve meat and consume small quantities during the year so as to never run out. Creative Greek cuisine is increasingly using apaki instead of imported Italian and Spanish cured meats.

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