Here is her story, in a nutshell: Demeter was sister to Zeus. One day, while picking wild flowers, her daughter Kore was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld. Demeter searched the land for her daughter, so distraught that she neglected to make things grow. The people implored Zeus to find and return Kore before they starved to death. In the meantime, Demeter stopped to rest at the town of Elysium, where she was treated kindly.
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.
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 article first appeared in Grainews.)