The vegan diet, which is now a huge trend across the world, has deep roots in traditional Greek cuisine, experts say.
By Heini-Sofia Alavuo
As people around the world become more environmentally and ethical concerned, it’s no wonder people want to take action.
Vegans do not eat any animal products, such as meat, dairy products, honey, or eggs. They also want to avoid animal exploitation in products or items, such as animal tested makeup or leather accessories.
For many, veganism is not just about diet, but a way of life that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals.
According to new scientific research, veganism is an effective way for people to reduce their environmental impact on the planet.
Greek journalist wanted to know to what extent the Greeks took part in this trend.
The traditional Mediterranean diet includes many vegetarian options, as meat was not always available in the past.
Over-consumption of meat is a rather new phenomenon, and mass production – especially of sheep and poultry, is only growing steadily in Greece as well.
What is also new is that meat and dairy products are currently the most imported products in Greece, due to the growing appetite of its citizens for these products.
Veganism is by no means a fad new diet – many religions and spiritual paths, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, encourage us to adopt a diet that is primarily plant-based.
And in Orthodoxy itself, its Lenten fasting period essentially calls for devotees to follow a vegan diet until the great feast of Easter. This means that Greek food contains a lot of vegan options.
Veganism has become a very popular lifestyle choice over the past couple of years in countries like Germany and Finland. However, this is still such a new trend in Greece that there is no reliable data available here yet.
Vegan food in Greece: “We have to rethink what we put in our body”
Greek journalist talked to Vasia Ntoulia, filmmaker in Athens, about veganism in Greece. She has been a vegan for seven years, lives in London and other places abroad, but currently remains in her home country.
Ntoulia says she couldn’t imagine being a vegan or vegetarian while living in Greece before, although she was never a true meat lover.
“In Greece we have had, at least until recently, a Mediterranean way of eating and it is very easy to find good quality local products.
Everything changed when she moved to London. She says, “The eating habits there were completely different from what I was used to, so I started to question a lot about this problem. “
The filmmaker began researching and learning more about food production and what we end up eating.
As she explains, “I couldn’t ignore it. My main reason for going vegan was the production processes of the meat and dairy industry, its environmental aspect, and the way we eat is not sustainable.
When Ntoulia came back to Greece and tried to explain her new diet and lifestyle to her friends, they couldn’t really understand her. “They understood my choice in London but not at home.
“I can’t compare the production here to that of the UK, US or other parts of the world; Unfortunately, the globalization of the food industry has also affected Greece, ”she laments.
She recalls that Greece has indeed experienced a reduction in the availability of local products in the early 2000s due to economic development.
“We almost destroyed our agriculture, it’s funny to find today tomatoes from the Netherlands, in Greece. It’s just not natural.
Ntoulia says the reason she talks about these things is because the whole production process is flawed right now. “Even if you’re a vegan, you can still eat poorly. We need to rethink what we put in our body in general.
“Our steps on this earth must be gentle”
So what is vegan life in Greece like? According to Ntoulia, being a vegan in Greece is easy. “We have all of these amazing and tasty fruits, vegetables, legumes and seeds that you can find everywhere, usually at very low prices unlike other European countries.”
For her, the difficulty of being vegan in Greece is not to find something to eat, but to fight against the attitude of the Greeks towards veganism.
She thinks the hardest part is changing people’s opinions about veganism and making them understand that being vegan is more than eating carrots and lettuce.
Ntoulia hopes that this mentality will change soon. “I think that it helps a lot that a lot of tourists are vegan these days, so that a lot of new vegan spots, restaurants and organic (organic food) stores are open.”
Athens offers plenty of choices for local vegans, but she says the best place for plant eaters is Crete. “Cretan cuisine is very vegetal and you will find many vegetables and fruits here that you will not find anywhere else in Greece.”
“When people ask me why I’m vegan, I remember a saying I heard from an old man who talked about nature and humans,” says Ntoulia. “He said, ‘Our steps on this earth should be gentle. “
She thinks her words sums up the idea behind veganism pretty well.