I got my first taste of what Argo-tourism on a farm just outside of La Habana, Cuba. I’ve been hooked ever since. So when I got the chance to visit Agreco Farms while in Rethymno, Crete, I knew I was in for a special kind of experience.
Food is what binds us. It can tell you just as much about a people and culture as their language can. These type of connections were on full display at Agreco, where the warm staff were more than happy to share their knowledge and passion with me.
From the moment I stepped out of my rental, I had this surreal feeling of, not so much stepping into the past, but stripping the modern world down to its bare essentials: good food, good drink, and good company. Everything on the farm, from the rose petal colored chapel to the farming techniques employed by the staff, helped reinforce that feeling.
We lived the ultimate Cretan experience with the “Be a farmer for a day” tour. We experienced the production process for tsikoudia — the grape-based pomace brandy traditional to the island — as well as the vintage olive oil press. We prepared stuffed vegetables and baked farmhouse bread in a wood-burning oven. We picked vine leaves to make the famous Greek dolmadakia — stuffed grape leaves with rice and herbs — and gathered eggs from the hens to make scrambles eggs. Word to the wise; milking a goat is not nearly as easy as it might appear……and sheep sheering is best left to the professionals.
We learned about age old traditions such as the making and serving of melokarido — a dish made of walnuts and sweet honey. In traditional Cretan weddings, the mother of the groom offers melokarido to the couple to symbolize the sweetness and virility of their new life together.
Our favorite dish was saganaki (baked cheese) with loukanika (spicy sausage) and tomatoes.
At the end of my day at Agreco, I reached down and scooped up a fistful of soil. It may sound strange, but it smelled different, felt different. I knew that everything around me was a product of that soil, of the hard work the people at Agreco poured into it. I took some with me. It’s now the basis for a few house plants I keep. A little bit of the old world I get to come home to.