International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Mediterranean Diet on the Decline in its Homeland

Fast food restaurant in Malinska, Croatia

Sad news from the eastern Mediterranean. That region's ancient and famously healthful diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, cheese and olive oil is being eaten by fewer and fewer of the natives. And they're getting fat as a result.

A story in the New York Times yesterday brings us the bad news:

Small towns like [Kasteli] in western Crete, considered the birthplace of the famously healthful Mediterranean diet — emphasizing olive oil, fresh produce and fish — are now overflowing with chocolate shops, pizza places, ice cream parlors, soda machines and fast-food joints. The fact is that the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with longer life spans and lower rates of heart disease and cancer, is in retreat in its home region.

How depressing. Is there no stopping the flood of mediocre, sugary sameness that is drowning the world and pushing up our pant sizes?

Well, I know what I'm gonna do! I'm making Greek food tonight. My kids are going to learn the joys of lightly sautéed greens and the tender chew of bulgur pilaf. Mackerel baked with a light crust of feta. Grape leaves stuffed with a filling of rice, grated pumpkin and currants. Plain yogurt with fresh figs and a drizzle of thyme honey.

I'm not kidding! Greek, southern Italian, Turkish, Arab cuisine. These are world culinary treasures! If the Greeks, Italians, Turks and Arabs alone can't hold back the tidal wave of processed, preserved and packaged foods, I'm going to lend them a hand. Someone has to keep these traditions alive.

That's really what Whats4Eats aims to do: record culinary traditions before they disappear into culinary oblivion.

You want to help too? Keep your own family's food traditions alive. Ask you mother or grandmother to show you how they make your favorite dishes and write it down. Take the time to make those same meals for your children and pass down the knowledge and tradition.

Because I tell you, once it's gone,'s gone.