The Mediterranean quest for a healthy lifestyle dates back to the ancient Greeks. Homer wrote about wild herbs growing in the countryside, while his philosophical compatriots sought a panacea (named after the goddess of Universal remedy) to cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. Coast-hugging ancient Greek communities ate plenty of fish, yet little meat as domestic animals were eaten as part of a sacrifice to God. They grew many grains, vegetables and fruit including olives, figs and grapes. Herbs such as thyme, sage and garlic were used to flavor foods. The preponderance of fruit and vegetables was further underlined by the ancient Greek religions of Orphism and Pythagoreanism that advocated a vegetarian diet as part of their purist concept of life. Over the centuries, Mediterranean coastal regions from Southern Italy to Spain developed their own versions of this healthy olive-rich fare. During the 20th century, the Mediterranean diet (that conveniently includes a daily glass of red wine) became famed for its health-giving properties in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet this much-hailed diet is fast disappearing from the region that created it. With the Mediterranean now boasting the highest child obesity rates in Europe, I wonder what went wrong. With daily fruit and vegetables and twice-a-week fish beyond many pockets, modern-day consumers often seek cheap comfort in pre-packaged foods. More than that, a faster-paced working environment has taken its toll as lunchtime snacks at the desk have become the norm. In previous generations, lunch was a more important meal than dinner and digestion was aided by an afternoon siesta. The traditional lunchtime closure, where shopkeepers and other businesses would shut up shop and return home for a home-cooked meal and a little rest, has diminished in the face of international pressure for a frenetic 24-hour pace.
With the thought that you could be aiding your health, here are some places to relax over lunch for under 20 euros:
Not far from Larvotto Beach, Mozza (11 rue du Portier; +377 97 77 03 04) specializes in different varieties of Mozzarella including the sumptuous burrata. Their lunch menu offers a starter, fish of the day and a glass of wine for just 18 Euros.
In the Park Palace Galerie, Valentin (27 avenue de la Costa; +377 93 50 60 00) serves a no-nonsense lunch menu including main course, water and coffee for 17 to 19 euros.
At My Way 2 (7 rue du Berceau; +377 97 70 21 38) near the Novotel, you’ll be won over by the full-bodied red wines by the glass at shop prices that accompany the simple daily-changing menu (main courses around 13 euros).