3 Things That Cyprus Teaches Us
We just left Cyprus. My mom accepted a house-sitting assignment there from a lovely English expat couple. They traveled back to Britain for two weeks while we cared for their villa and 8 cats. The situation was ideal for us. Cyprus’ 70 degrees and dry Mediterranean temperatures were perfect conditions for working up my next book while we waited out the European winter.
I enjoyed my time in Cyprus. There are three things that I think Cyprus can teach us:
Diet: Cyprus is located very close to Greece in the eastern Mediterranean. So close that most of Cyprus speaks Greek and follow Greek traditions. In the must-read article, The Island Where People Forget To Die the NYTimes reports about the incredible life expectancy of the people in the small Greek Island, Ikaria. One of the key components to their longevity is believed to be diet – vegetables from the garden, legumes and greens, and plenty of olive oil. The little meat and alcohol consumed are produced locally. People from this region of the Mediterranean basically feed themselves through subsistence farming.
In contrast, too much of the world has a terrible diet. We eat too much meat that has been injected with hormones. We consume grains that have been genetically modified. We shop at grocery stores that are loaded with processed foods like frozen dinners and sugary cereals. We guzzle sugar-filled drinks like Coke, Gatorade and Lipton Ice Tea.
Too many food options around the world are unhealthy. Meanwhile, eastern Mediterranean diet comes from their local gardens. We should eat like this as well.
Meze Restaurants: My mom and I tried the traditional Cyprian way of eating at a wonderful restaurant called 7 St. Georges Tavern. They served us small plates consisting of many different dishes. Cold dishes carried small servings of olives, artichokes, marinated beets, and pickled capers. A round loaf of fresh baked grainey bread filled a basket. The meat dishes included chicken, lamb and octopus. We washed it all down with red table wine made from homegrown grapes.
My favorite part of the restaurant was its concept: No menus and no limits. Simply the waiter – the chef-owner George’s son – asked if we had any dietary restrictions. After that, delicious small dishes flowed out of the kitchen at a slow pace until we said stop. The Meze menu changes daily depending what is fresh and in stock.
Restaurants with extensive menus bother me. How do I know what is fresh and good? Chefs should know best. At St. George’s, the chef-owner leads guests through the local cuisine. I love this style because I try foods that I’d normally never order. In this case, it was the chicken liver pate which was delicious.
Oceanfront Walkways: Cyprus has miles and miles of a pedestrian oceanfront path. The path runs directly along the Mediterranean. There are no hotels built in front of it. There are no highways nearby. Just a never ending ocean view, and the sounds of the sea. A glorious walk we did daily.
Lovely walking paths like these encourage pedestrianism. They are a public good. Everyday, we saw Cyprians walking along the path, both young and old. I wish there were many more of them around the world.
We are now in Sicily. From here, we’ll hug the temperate coastline until there are signs of spring. We’re convinced that the European groundhog will see his shadow indicating an early spring. Until next time…