The Truth about the Mediterranean Diet... I know, I was there!

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My mother used to give me some lira and would ask to bring home two loaves of bread.  1 1/2 would make it back.  Why?  The bread had just been baked at a local oven and it was steaming hot.  It had a golden crust and tasted something between a baguette and San Fran sour dough.  Slicing some fresh feta or yellow cheese, adding some olives and tomatoes, and with the fresh bread you had breakfast, lunch or dinner or a snack.  Drizzling honey on the steaming bread or swathing it with a homemade fruit spread made it heavenly...

Having had a Greek mother qualifies me somewhat to speak about this subject.  (Which has nothing to do with architecture except the builders of the Parthenon no doubt thanked their patron goddess Athena for giving them wisdom and the olive tree.)

But even more important is that I lived in Turkey and Greece until graduation from high school.  So I've LIVED the Mediterranean EVERYTHING.

My mother and father had these arguments: 'Fish is better for you than meat' -- Dad didn't like that, being from Texas.  He would tease her with this: "Take oregano, olive oil and lemon away from Greek cooking and you have nothing".  Very true.

So this is the first clue: Olive oil and lemon juice especially (Endre are you listening) are consumed in nearly every meal.  

Med peeps DO NOT USE BUTTER except in sweets.  We will get into that later...

Olive oil is used in frying eggs, lamb roasts, on all salads always, frying thin cut lamb chops, beef, etc.  Not used for sweets. 

Lemon juice is sprinkled on all salads and soups.  Oregano goes on just about everything: Salads, soups, meats, boiled vegetables, etc.  Not used on sweets.  I am not sure about the regenerative power of oregano, but use it anyway for good luck.

Olive oil has GOOD cholesterol.  After going off to college and cooking a bit at home I realized that more olive oil on everything is NOT a good idea.  I slowly gained weight as this oil DOES have fat in it.  But it is good for the heart, etc.  And amazingly: It is chock full of antioxidants as well!  Read here about the benefits of this wonder oil.

Lemon juice is a great source of antioxidants.  Great for the blood and body.  To this day I squeeze lemon juice in every cup of water and tea I drink.  This is the easiest way to keep up with a constant influx of antioxidant.

Mom and Dad would take a drive at 6 am on Sundays and go out to the villages.  They would bring back fresh vegetables, black organic bread and eggs.  We would devour 5-6 eggs fried (in bacon grease -- ahem.. Dad did the cooking) for breakfast.

The meats: mostly lamb and young lamb.  Very little beef. Fried in olive oil the most yummy.  Rarely ate pork, once in a while in roasts.

The better white meat: FISH.  My uncle ate a fish every single day of his life.  He bought fish fresh on the waterfront.  He lived to about 93.  He swam as much as possible, walked everywhere and was a lean fellow of slight build.  Kept him going.  And of course all the olive oil, lemon, etc.

The medical community insists on eating fish for all of its benefits.  Bake it, fry it, boil it.  Whatever.  Add olive oil and lemon and oregano!! maybe some basil and onions too...

Notice that red meat beef was not something we ate on a routine basis.

As kids we ate the FRESHEST FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.  There was a greengrocer on the ground floor of our apartment building.  The most AMAZING tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, green peppers, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, just about everything.

The seasonal fruits were incredible: apricots, plums, tangerines, oranges, watermelon, melon, pomegranate.  WOW.  We od'd on fruit.

We preferred fruit I think to just about any other sweet tasting food.

Do you remember when fruit roll-ups were introduced in the U.S.?  We had the original in Turkey.  Apricots were dried and then pressed into sheets.  We devoured that stuff. (see below left)

Produce was trucked and carted in from surrounding towns, farms and villages.  There was no gassed food from long distance hauls.  Totally organic with cow manure fertilizer.

NUTS and LEGUMES: The Mediterranean is famous for pistachio, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, garbanzo/ chick peas, melon seeds even.  They tasted amazing slightly seasoned with sea salt.  You could buy seeds and other fresh vegetables from street vendors.

There was a bit of wine, beer and ouzo imbibing but people would get tipsy, not plastered.  It was considered bad taste and a social no-no to get wiped out.  Red and white local table wines was typical in most restaurants.  Very very little hard liquor.  The ouzo was mixed with water into a milky concoction.  It tasted like licorice.  I hated it.  ha. 

People in the Middle East and the Mediterranean WALK a LOT.  They walk everywhere.  They don't typically jog or go to gyms.  They bike ride, they hike, they swim.  The older cities especially are conducive to walking.  Many parks and shady streets.  We lived on a street with mulberry trees!!

The kids played all day OUTSIDE.  We ran, we jumped, we rode bicycles, etc. Do you know how much energy is used in keeping a ball in rotation for hours?  Soccer is the regional sport.  Soccer players never stand still for long.  They are always on their feet.  It is one of the most aerobic activities you can do.  Many years later I was studying ancient Greek vases with soldiers and athletes depicted.  Here is one.  Check out the thighs of these guys (this photo is for Barbara): 

We had little or no TV.  Three channels I think into the early 70s.  So we rarely stayed indoors.  We were always on the move it seemed.  I had a paper route in Izmir, Turkey!!

Most people also had no air conditioning!  So the thing to do was to take a promenade enjoying the cool ocean breezes on the waterfront in the early evening.  The cafes would serve sweets, coffee and TEA.  Turks loved tea, or cai.  Guess what tea has in it?  Yes, antioxidants.  People would leave the cities on the weekends and go out of town enjoying village life, even fresher prepared foods at restaurants, the sea, etc.

Actually being outside a lot means you are getting vitamin D from the sun.  The dry Med climate must have also had a bearing on longevity.

I have painted a bucolic lifestyle because that is the essence of the Mediterranean way of life.  It is everything else PLUS the food types.

So, if you've managed to make it this far, you are an official Greek and Zorba salutes you:

I loved living in Turkey and Greece.  It seemed those years were the best of my life.  Like the two happy guys above, life was simple, family was great, food was awesome.  It seemed like it could go on forever...


Oh, yes, I forgot about something.  It is a sweet made with filo dough, honey, sugar and pistachios.  (It is not Armenian, ha ha - see Barbara's comment below)  It is the regional sweet of the Middle East called baklava.  The Greeks and Turks love the stuff with coffee after a nice meal.  But they routinely eat fruits nearly after every meal!  So, have a baklava on me:

Did Mom keep sweets and cookies in the pantry?  Well yes... but we preferred the oranges, tangerines and other fruit in season.  She did not stock soft drinks at all.  Oh, we had a little Tang.  ha.  And Dad could eat a half gallon of vanilla ice cream!! LOVE YOU and miss you, DAD!! ... and MOM.




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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Barbara Todaro 10/02/2018 08:22 AM
  2. Joyce Marsh 10/14/2018 05:54 AM
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Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I live on olive oil and lemon juice. What great memories! Wish I was there right now.

Oct 14, 2018 03:38 PM #42
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

Lemon juice is part of my drinking water every day.  I am waiting anxiously for my lemon trees to be ready again this year.  I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and my folks had a huge garden.  We always ate from the garden (didn't know then that we were eating what today would be expensive "organic" veggies.  Always working on a farm or out playing and running. My mom made amazing homemade bread (she always said how bad white flower was for you).  Thanks for the memories of days gone by!

Oct 14, 2018 04:41 PM #43
Steven Nickens
Elite Pacific Properties Maui - Wailea, HI
R(S)GRI ABR, Maui Real Estate Hawaii

When I went to Italy some years ago I just loved the food. On Maui we are lucky to have fresh food year around. I have oranges, tangerines, avocados, lychee, bananas, lemons and when I have time my vegetable garden provides fresh greens. I get it, eat healthily, or as I always say live like the Italians.

Oct 14, 2018 06:30 PM #44
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

Beautifully written post, I definitely identify with the way you grew up, John. You probably know that it has been proven at the MOLECULAR level that the Mediterranean diet can extend one's life.

Oct 14, 2018 06:30 PM #45
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

My husband and I pretty much eat a Mediterranean diet ourselves. I used to be a big meat eater, but not anymore. I can probably count the number of times I've had a steak on one hand over the past year. Especially when I am in Hawaii, fish dominates everything. 10 minutes on the grill, max.

Oct 15, 2018 12:34 PM #48
Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940

Thank you for a riotous blog.  As a connoisseur of fine red meats, white meats, fish, and wild game...I must say I took note of the spices and methods used and will make an effort to add them to my arsenal.   

Alas...Mother Nature decided to freeze my garden's tail off this weekend so the peppers and tomatoes from it that I harvested green will last about 1 month and then back to the trucked in version.   

We use a lot of olive oil...and butter..and I consume a ridiculous amount of eggs daily!   Little or no white breads or pastas. 

Might need to double up on the lemon and oregano that I already use...but there will never be a little lamb with fleece as white as snow on my table top...ever. Tried it once and did not like it...might have been Mary crying in the background that messed me up. is about time to fix supper and I do have some limes that need used I guess I can rustle something up called the Midwestener Diet ...that is close enough isn't it??  Until next time!! 

Oct 15, 2018 01:17 PM #49
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

More dancing on the beach and the Mediterrean Diet are most conducive to a healthy life!

Oct 15, 2018 01:29 PM #50
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hello Linda, it looks like you have some southern Euro heritage and know what you are talking about!  Best wishes! 

Oct 15, 2018 01:33 PM #51
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

There's nothing like bread fresh from the oven. No bakeries here, but now and then I get busy and bake it myself. I had to chuckle about the eggs and your dad - as far as I'm concerned a fried egg isn't worth eating unless it's fried in bacon fat.

Oct 15, 2018 08:53 PM #52
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

That sounds like absolute heaven!  So much better eating, living, and a social lifestyle all at once - oh and including all the great outdoors experiences.  What a healthy way to live.  Thank you for sharing - i'm officially Greek now! Just don't tell my Irish ancestors :) 

Oct 15, 2018 09:22 PM #53
David Wright
Benchmark Realty, LLC - Brentwood, TN
Real Estate Refined

 awesome article and thank you for sharing your life's culinary experiences. I agree the Med. diet is the way to go, and I must confess, I don't follow a lot of it, but that is changing.

The big problem we have in the US is GMO foods particularly grains and livestock including farmed salmon. Those I don't touch. I am a big user of fresh cold pressed virgin olive oil and lemons in my water & tea. Oh yes, must have a glass of red wine daily! Thanks again for the post and wonderful ideas to incorporate into my diet.

Oct 15, 2018 09:38 PM #54
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Hello John Henry I am familiar with healthy natural Mediterranean foods. Excellent post!

Oct 15, 2018 10:01 PM #55
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

There is something magical about the “international diet” in general that’s really interesting! Really great post’

Oct 15, 2018 11:02 PM #56
Robin Wells
RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections - Penetanguishene, ON
Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time

Love the area; our favourite vacation place in the world.  And.. the diet!   Our diet is fairly close to that and has been since a radical change a couple of years ago which began with the virtual elimination of salt (at least adding when cooking).  Great post and thanks.

Oct 16, 2018 03:01 AM #57
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

John, I really enjoyed your post, and the food sounds great! I grew up in the south a long way from the coast. Fish was not easy to get, and very expensive. Fish was a luxury for us. We ate what we could get and could pay for. We ate a lot of beef, pork, and chicken. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and some fried chicken were our staples. We had fresh fish maybe 7 or 8 times a year. Frozen fish sticks were the only fish we had fairly regularly. We NEVER HAD OLIVE OIL  As a child and young adult I don’t remember seeing olive oil in the grocery store. When it first appeared in the rural south, it was so expensive very few people bought it. Given our diet all my family should have died young. They didn’t. Of my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles only one died before r80 (my paternal grandfather died at 51 from complications of childhood rheumatic fever). Four lived into their nineties! My mother lived to 94 with a horrible diet. The way homes are built now to be energy efficient, in the south no AC MAKES THEM UNLIVABLE IN THE SUMMER! 

Oct 16, 2018 08:27 AM #58
John Marshall - FORE!
LoKation Real Estate - Cherry Hills Village, CO
Specializing in Golf Course Properties

Great post, I see why your comment on BLIZ post earlier....

"Bill... I don't know why but people on AR prefer to hear about the Mediterranean Diet or horror stories, or my SEO experience more than my architectural work.  I am really depressed....  

It appears my niche is... edutainment more than anything else.  ah well..."

makes you depressed, but do not fear, these are the types of posts that engage and allow others to discover who you really are and connect with you personally, I rarely get comments on my boring SEO posts, but they make the phone ring, these are the types of posts that cannect you with the audience you want to connect to, love it. Now I need to get on to a healthier lifestyle.

Oct 16, 2018 11:19 AM #59
Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana!

John I saw the new pic and thought - who the heck is that!!!! Your love of where you spent your younger years spills through everything about this post! I love it!!  I've always enjoyed this type of diet - my husband not so much, he's a red meat kind of guy.

Oct 16, 2018 04:23 PM #60
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

John, you live in a place with worse heat than I do! I have thought all day about the fish in my diet. I know they aren’t good for you, but I still love the fish sticks. We did have a lot of tuna salad from canned tuna. I now love fresh tuna, but I won’t touch tuna salad (even made with fresh tuna). My mother also made salmon cakes from canned salmon! To this day I won’t touch salmon of any kind!    We did have shell fish, but not very often because of the price. I do not eat much fresh fish to this day. I think it is because we didn’t get very good quality. We were about two hours from the coast, but we did not get good quality fish. You had to be at the coast to get the good stuff. They shipped the best quality to the northeast. There is a good reason for shipping the best stuff out. The fish houses could get a good price with the freight included for good quality products in the northeast.  If they shipped the stuff we got and added freight no one would buy it! They could sell poorer quality to us because of very little freight. I know it is counter intuitive, but it is true. I live about a mile from the open ocean now, but rarely eat fish. Thanks for getting me to think about my fish consumption, and why I eat so little of it!

Oct 16, 2018 10:29 PM #61
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

Wow, great post with a absorbing topic that manages to hit on many points of the Mediterranean diet.  Top tier resource.  

Oct 17, 2018 01:10 PM #62
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

John, I eat certain fish (tuna, grouper, mahi-mahi, snapper) that are grilled or blackened. I live near Calabash NC, Well known for fried seafood southern style! I will eat it every once and a while! My all time favorite meat to eat of ANYKIND is Stone Crab Claws. If I were told I could only have one meat the rest of my life, Stone Crab Claws!

Oct 20, 2018 06:33 AM #63
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