Thursday, August 17, 2017

a brief history of Santorinian gastronomy

Selene Restaurant in Santorini
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Santorini’s quiescent volcano, rich history, organic architecture, unique landscape, awesome sunsets and breathtaking beaches – these features combined have turned this Aegean island into one of the most celebrated holiday destinations in the world.

But let’s not forget its wondrous produce: Thanks to the vines, barley, fava, wild capers, cherry tomatoes, white eggplants, gourgettes, livestock and game, which have fed the islanders over the centuries, Santorini today draws gastronomists from all four corners of the earth. And of course, one mustn’t ignore the islanders’ culinary ingenuity, which has resulted in a great array of dishes bursting with flavor and which leave nothing unexploited – tomato balls, fava puree, meatballs, soups, pilafs, omelettes, the list is endless.

Fava (Lathyrus clymenum L., a legume native to the island) is remarkably versatile – it lends itself to salads, soups, pasta dishes, casseroles … However, for me, the quintessential Santorinian flavours are to be found in the cherry tomato salad, the “katsounia” (a kind of cucumber), the caper leaves, and the fresh cheese, prefably eaten at noon at Armeni.

Today, gastronomy conferences, culinary and winetasting events, winery tours, cookery classes and exhibitions take place on Santorini, which, together with its wineries and wine stores, open markets, delicatessens, restaurants and tavernas, have firmly established the island on the global gastronomy map.

To the visitor, I would suggest eating a “malitini” sweet cheese tartlet at Easter, a fried tomato-ball in the summer, and a plate of fava with wild capers in the winter, as well as attending one of the many local feasts (panigiria) held to celebrate saints’ days and other special occasions, each with its own unique dishes.
I love the fact that the cuisine of Santorini is constantly evolving and not just drawing the attention of visitors to the island, but influencing Greek gastronomy in general.

For example, the way the country’s chefs have fallen in love with the fava and the cherry tomato and its sommeliers with the Santorini wines. Back in the Middle Ages, Venetian traders exported the island’s Vinsanto wine throughout Europe and across the Mediterranean region, and today history is repeating itself as Santorini wines, especially the white varieties, can be found all over the world.

I heard the most apt comment about Santorini and its cuisine in Selene, from a lady who said that the food was “orgasmic”.

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