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Mediterranean Picnic
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Mediterranean Picnic

My boyfriend met me at the train station, after a very long day. I had just started college, a whirlwind of frantic activity, leaving me completely drained, and not in the mood to cook at all.

We stopped at the grocery store intent on the evening meal, something without a lot of fuss, and above all no cooking involved.

We drifted aimlessly about for a few minutes. Then I passed the gourmet olives, and suddenly I became inspired. It all came together in rapid-fire succession. Olives: green, black, Greek, pickled, marinated, with feta cheese, with red pepper, stuffed with garlic, the variety was seemingly endless.

We soon added hummus, two kinds, one with pine nuts and basil, and one with roasted red pepper. Pita bread, spinach dip, guacamole, organic yogurt, lemon, and of course some wonderful imported olive oil to tie it all together.

We named it our “Mediterranean Picnic”. We practically ran home, bolted through the door, put the heat on; and shed the coats, scarves, gloves, and boots. Together we attacked the bags, cleared off the coffee table, threw pillows on the floor, and laid out the spread. I lit a candle while he popped the cork on a nice local red.

We popped off the lids of the various containers, and placed spoons in them. I heated the pita bread in a frying pan, making the outer edges crispy.

We placed everything on the coffee table: colossal green olives, stuffed with garlic, crunchy on the outside, spicy on the inside; green olives stuffed with bleu cheese, crunchy and tangy.

Large black olives, marinated with feta cheese; the olives were slightly pruney looking and had a distinctive bitter taste, and the cheese was salty with a sandy or grainy texture.

The hummus was smooth and creamy and had a slightly nutty flavor. Guacamole is not traditional Greek fare, but we couldn’t resist the cool, garlicky, buttery flavor and texture of it.

I poured the Greek yogurt into a bowl and drizzled olive oil over the top, added salt and pepper, and a few drops of lemon juice, making it savory, creamy and citrusy. The spinach dip had water chestnuts in it, making it crunchy, and earthy.

The very excellent red wine served to cleanse the pallet in-between bites.

We were soon immersed in warm summer breezes, and breathing in the salty sea air of the Mediterrean Sea. Every bite was new and different.

Entertainment for the senses, featuring the crisp, crunchy, sandy, salty, creamy, chewy, chunky, cheesy, spicy, and savory flavors of distant and exotic lands.

It was a feast, put in the category of special meals. Something we do only when we are very good, or very tired, whichever comes first…

My love for Mediterranean cuisine was cultivated with my experience of having a husband from Syria. He had six sisters and four brothers. Every evening during my visit, there was a virtual feast of olives, flat bread, salads, casseroles, sweets, and fruits.

I learned a lot from his sisters, but I started to wonder about the history of such food, and found several examples.

First, from a documentary featured on PBS, I learned that when the ruins of Pompeii were uncovered, they discovered the petrified remains of olives and flat bread. The olives still in their shallow ceramic bowls, and the bread on a platter with the cut marks still visible

.

There were other small bowls, the remains identified as organic material resembling grape leaves, olive oil, and cheese. Remarkable….This is conclusive evidence of what people were eating nearly two thousand years ago.

Indeed perfect, olive oil contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants that are not found in other oils. In fact, scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tbsp. of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Additionally, In Plato’s Republic (Plato, greek philosopher, born in 428/27 B.C.E.) I found this quote,“But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal. True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish—salt and olives and cheese— … And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them” (57).

In light of such evidence as I have given, I am inclined to believe Plato in his assumption that by incorporating olives and olive oil into our diet we may expect good health.

As far as peace or old age is concerned, I’m not so sure, but I do believe the diet has been successfully bequeathed to their children.

In any event, if this meal was what ancient Pompeians and wise philosophers ate, then surely it is still as worthy in the twenty-first century. I might also add every bit as tasty and sumptuous today as I am sure it was then.

(There is no set recipe for this meal, you can add or take away anything you like.)


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Great read.

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  about 1 decade ago
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