Today, the temple is in ruins, but it is possible to walk the stone streets, run your hand over ancient walls and contemplate the importance of farming in Greek mythology. Demeter was more than the patron of farming – it was through her that one was granted everlasting life in paradise, a place the ancient Greeks called the Elysian Fields.
Eventually, Kore was returned to her mother with the proviso that she return to the underworld for part of the year. While in the underworld, it was winter on earth. When she returned, it was spring.
Today, the temple site is surrounded by urban sprawl and the sacred wheat fields have given way to oil refineries, factories and container ports. But stepping through the gates, it is possible to turn ones back on the modern world and walk the same paving stones as thousands upon thousands of pilgrims for whom wheat was more than food, but a sacred symbol of life itself.
At the Acropolis Museum restaurant, I ate a delicious wheat salad but sadly, they would not share the recipe. So instead, my other favourite, a true Greek Salad. No restaurant in Canada had prepared me for the simple marvel of a real Greek salad.
After sampling several in Greece, I have drawn these observations: The vegetables are crisp and chunky, dressed with good olive oil (no vinegar or lemon juice) and topped with slabs of feta cheese (not crumbled or cubed). The peppers may be any colour (including yellow banana pepper). Onion may be white or red and the olives maybe replaced with capers. In one version, the feta was topped with finely chopped pistachios. I have fond memories of Greece, but the taste memories are the best.
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
1/2 cucumber, cut in thick slices
1 sweet pepper, seeded and cut in rings
1/4 small onion, slivered
Kalamata olives (a few per person)
Greek olive oil
Slabs of feta cheese (one per person)
Sprinkling of dried oregano
Toss vegetables lightly with olive oil. Top with slabs of feta. Drizzle feta with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano.
(This column first appeared in Grainews.)