As if to demonstrate, and in that magical mode of serendipity that seems to go with the langourous life in Crete, there is a shout from outside the taverna. Georgi's dad Pavlos has just walked down the mountain from his home in Mathes, maybe 6 or 7 kilometers, and asks if Georgi wants bread from the baker. Pavlos will buy a 2 kilo loaf and walk back home. Pavlos is 86. Of course, his friend Jiannis could have got the bread. He cycles up and down to Mathes every day on an old sit up beg bicyle with Sturmey Archer gears, but Pavlos doesn't like to take advantage. "He's an old man after all" - Giannis is 88. At this point we finish our chat because Georgi is going to get some food for Pavlos to take back with him. A yiouvetsi, (lamb cooked with greek noodles) some lentil soup and a bowl of xorta, another of the magic ingredients of the Cretan diet. Xorta is a dish prepared from mountain greens: often cooked from 3 types of wild plant that grow freely on the mountainside and in the olive groves it is served with olive oil, lemon and oftentimes potatoes. "Since my mother died", says Georgi "my father doesn't bother much cooking for himself. I don't know what we'll do when he gets old".
AFTERNOTE: NOVEMBER 2007
The younger generation in Crete have, it would appear, been completely seduced by the blandishmnts of the fast food culture imported from the US, and figures for youth obesity in Greece (including Crete) have soared in the last few years. Greece climbed into the second most at risk category in 2007 due to an ongoing love affair with junk food and over consumption. The Cretan diet and the dietary habits and observances discussed in this article are becoming a part of a long history of civilisation buried beneath the gloss and scum of late capitalist mores.
On a brighter note both Pavlos and Giannis are still going strong