Cooking with Class in Santorini: Discovering the Greek Island’s Unique Gastronomy

 

As we bid farewell to our charismatic Greek cooking class Sous-Chef, Daniel, he shared parting culinary wisdom with a twinkle in his eye:

“Use your imagination and everything is possible. And remember – you needn’t measure – you must feel the taste.”

We’d come to the elegant, highly-acclaimed Selene restaurant on sun-drenched Santorini, Greece. We would spend the day learning about the island, its Cycladic neighbors, and their unique produce, cheese and wine. We would then try our hands at some of Selene’s trademark recipes and as a reward, savor what we’d prepared. As we strolled out into the Santorini sunlight after our cooking class and lunch, utterly relaxed, with creatively-stimulated minds and taste buds, we reflected on what an exemplary day it had been.

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Savoring the Sunset at Greece’s Meteora Monasteries

 

“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

As we looked out into the sea of dramatic rock formations being gently highlighted by the lemon chiffon-colored setting sun, our Greek host George asked the five of us to observe two minutes of silence.

Up until then, we’d been oohing and aahing about the monasteries perched atop the sheer rocks, perpetually clicking our cameras’ shutters, and continuing conversations started while dining together al fresco with our new Greek and Italian traveling companions.

Now the moment was more serene and contemplative. I noticed the birds dancing in the sky, high above the monasteries’ terracotta rooftops. My attention was drawn to the contours of the rock formations, and the gentle gusts of wind, tickling my cheeks. I was again reminded of how lucky we were to be in such a special place, and I understood why the name Meteora means ‘suspended in air’ in Greek.

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Hiking to Greece’s Majestic Meteora Monasteries

It is a perfect marriage of nature and of manmade beauty. Crowning the tops of otherworldly rock formations are Eastern Orthodox monasteries, some constructed more than 700 years ago. Built by monks who were trying to escape persecution, there were once more than 20 monasteries. Over the centuries, however, weather and neglect took their toll, leaving today’s six active monasteries, several that are closed to the public, and others in ruins.

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Photo du Jour: The Meteora Rock Climber – Greece

 

“It’s not just a question of conquering a summit previously unknown, but of tracing, step by step, a new pathway to it.” Gustav Mahler

Look carefully at the top of the dramatic, finger-like rock formation, and you’ll see a tiny human silhouette.

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Santorini in Black & White

bw white church santorini

A mere mention of the name Santorini conjures images of turquoise domes, crisply-painted white walls, and a sparkling azure sea. Perhaps it is a sin to present this Greek gem in black and white, yet I appreciate how it opens the eyes to lines and textures often overlooked when the island is otherwise presented in all its glorious pastel hues.

Iron railings become more prominent than the jewel-toned walls behind them.

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Exploring the Mysticism of Greece’s Byzantine Icons: Profiling Iconographer Dimitrios Moulas

In a two-room workshop that is dwarfed by the surrounding massive Meteora rock formations, 38 year-old Greek iconographer Dimitrios Moulas demonstrates admirable focus towards his subject – an icon that will soon represent Jesus Christ. With a delicate paintbrush in hand, he carefully draws fine facial hairs. After a few moments have passed, the hairs have been transformed into a wispy mustache. As I quietly watch the process from behind, it seems as though the artist’s and subject’s eyes are locked upon one another, in an intense gaze.

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Culinary Diplomacy Through Spanakopita in Meteora, Greece

For the past five nights, we’ve been staying at a quaint guesthouse overlooking the mystical Meteora rock formations in northern Greece. Six mighty monasteries sit atop the unusual rocks. Some of the structures date back to the 14th century.

As if things couldn’t get any better, our hostess and Greek mother for the week has been surprising us with culinary treats from her kitchen: salads drizzled with olive oil, homemade French fries, omelets with slices of traditional sausage, candied figs, milk custard pie, and, drumroll… the spinach and feta cheese pie known in Greek as spanakopita.

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Photo du Jour: A Greek Orthodox Icon – Kastraki, Greece

A Greek Orthodox icon is drenched in sunlight in the Greek village of Kastraki, not far from the famous Meteora monasteries. Spring is in full swing in this beautiful part of southeastern Europe, with a bounty of roses, mint, mulberries, and (almost-ripe) cherries awaiting a picker. In the image, you’ll also note representations of the flags of Greece and the Byzantine Empire.

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