If “you are what you eat” than what happens when you don’t eat? In Greece, the economic crisis is forcing a rethink of people’s relationship with food, and the consequences are positive.
The first time I travelled to Western Europe in the 1980s, I was surprised by – among other things – the fact that fruits and vegetables looked so beautiful and at the same time they were tasteless. Their shape was geometrically perfect and their colour as if painters had been engaged in their making. After some years in the then European Community, Greek vegetables improved in shape and colour but lost their taste. Gone were the days one could smell a funny shaped cucumber from meters away. Today most cucumbers are as if they are industrial products. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are 'seasonless' thanks to green houses, with less taste and of course at a much higher price.
A food culture being lost
After almost 30 years of Greece's participation in the European Union, Greece is no longer an agricultural country. Greece depends on food imports. One can find in Greece lemons from Argentina, onions from Egypt and oranges from Morocco. At the same time one can observe everywhere in Athens and other cities lemon trees full of unpicked lemons. While the infamous Mediterranean diet 'conquered' the world it was abandoned by Greeks. Just to get an idea, Greek children were until very recently second in the world in child obesity while US children won the 'gold medal'.
The on-going crisis though seems to have altered the food landscape and eating habits in the country. With an unemployment rate of more than 30% and more than 400,000 children living in poverty, issues related to food have taken a place of acute importance in everyday life. The 'new poor' in Greece are multiplying day by day. One should not be overcome with a feeling of hopelessness as initiatives to counterbalance this situation are also expanding. Family and community ties are re-established and strengthened while a sense of solidarity is gaining momentum.
The response from the community
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