A few places in the world are called “Blue Zones.” The term refers to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. Tilos is among these.
There are a great many theories as to why the people of Tilos and some of the surrounding islands have such longevity, diet, which is light on the consumption of meat, environment, social interaction. They eat a lot of legumes and have a couple of glasses of wine a day. Choose your own glass size.
I talked to a chap well into his eighties who had lived the majority of his life in America although he was originally from Tilos. He had returned to the island basically to die as he was in very poor health and bedridden. After six months he said he felt somewhat better and was able to get up and move about. Slowly but surely he improved and became healthier, he said. He had moved back to Tilos about fifteen years earlier and now he is, for his age, a picture of health. I asked him what he thought the secret was. He said that in the mornings he drinks Greek coffee. This is not crack of dawn style morning either but a more leisurely when you feel like it morning. I am not a lover of Greek coffee because of the sludge in the bottom of the cup but I suppose you could filter it. With his coffee, he has typically goat’s milk, yogurt, and or cheese and fruits. He might have herbal tea instead as well as his coffee, whole grain bread, and local honey. He would then go out and work in his garden.
It should be pointed out that a lot of the food on the island is locally produced and organic. He would generally have a late lunch followed by an afternoon nap. He said that he had a friend nearby who would come and share his bed from time to time. As he said he’s not really that old. These quiet leisurely late afternoons produce a heart-healthy routine enjoyed by long-lived cultures and creatures throughout the world. They greatly reduce the risk of heart disease. A light dinner of bread, olives, vegetables and wine is followed by evening visits with neighbours and a bedtime of around midnight. The result is that many Tilosians live long and healthy, with fewer instances of cancer and heart disease than other races and very few cases of dementia or depression. They cook, garden, walk, drink wine, enjoy sex, and socializing well into their later years and are 10 times more likely to live past 90 or even 100 than people in most other countries.
Tilos has a few “top longevity foods:” feta cheese, lemons, and herbs like sage and marjoram that Tilosians use in their daily tea. They don’t tend to subscribe to the normal Greek love of eating goats and lamb or mutton. The Tilosians do eat some goat meat, but not often.
I have a theory that the tea is especially good for you, Greek mountain tea which is basically sage probably has health-giving properties.. Does it make you wiser? I ask myself. If it does perhaps I need to drink more of it. Of course some people put the extended life span down to the slightly higher levels of background radiation locally, a subject on which I don’t feel qualified to speak. There are springs that you can bath in with slightly higher radiation levels than normal but who can tell. Strip off and go out after dark to see if you glow to be on the safe side.
Others have suggested that periodic fasting as practised by the greek orthodox church, holds the secret to longevity, (Drew Price The DoDo diet) Only trouble is the desire to eat passing strangers, or is that just me? In my opinion the amount of exercise has to play a part. Luckily there is still an absence of readily available Ubers. In addition to exercise, getting adequate rest and a good night’s sleep also seem to be very important for living a long and healthy life. Its got to be good for you.
Just because I love Greek big beans I decided to throw in a receipt for the more adventurous of you. What you need half a kilo of butter beans (soak them in water overnight if you get them fresh but you don’t have to if they are tinned) 2 onions thinly sliced I try and make an effort not to include the tips of my fingers. 2 zapped tomatoes 4 garlic cloves peeled (good way to peel them is put them in a jar with a top and shake vigorously. 2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with a bit of water, some people prefer ketchup but there is too much sugar, not to mention salt, for my taste. 3/4 cup olive oil I know its expensive, (not if your in Greece but then better let a Greek do the whole thing) Parsley Salt and Pepper to taste What you do. Soak the beans overnight, the longer, the better. Of course don’t bother if they’re tinned. Preheat oven to180C. Drain and rinse the beans and boil in water for about 40 minutes to an hour, until they are soft but not mushy. Of course if you are using tinned beans you can do them straight off the bat. To make the sauce you Sauté the onion in a bit of olive on low heat until soft and add the garlic cloves whole. If you want a stronger garlic flavour you can mince the garlic. Add the mashed up tomato, the tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper to taste and about ¼ cup olive oil. Let it simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Once the beans have boiled, drain them and put them back into the pot, (for fresh beans) otherwise straight from the can, add the sauce and mix gently. Pour the mixture in a pan and spread evenly and then pour about another ¼ cup olive oil over the beans and bake for about 40 minutes until beans are tender. Accompany with feta cheese, good bread and of course wine. You might not live forever but it will be as good as or even better than if you did.
(Alan Durant, 2021)