Workshops at Free and Real – Nutrition

One of the things I was looking forward to most about coming to Free and Real were the regular workshops that they organise. It worked out perfectly because I would be able to attend three workshops during my six week stay in Evia: nutrition; mushrooms and funghi; and soap making. The first workshop was on nutrition.

The participants arrived on Friday evening and were immediately made to feel at home. It was impressive to see how Apostolos, Panagiotis and Alex were so relaxed about the whole event – it was clear to see that they’d done this before. Soon the main gathering space at the workshop was full of people of all ages and backgrounds from all over Greece.  I was especially interested to hear how they had heard about Free and Real and why they had decided to attend the workshop. One of the participants, Evi, was a yoga instructor and had worked at Silver Island (more on that incredible place in a later post!), which was a big coincidence because it’s somewhere Vicky and I had dreamed of visiting one day.

The first task of the workshop was easy: eat. Alex had been working hard in the kitchen to create enough food for the thirty-something participants and everyone was keen to sample for themselves what it means to live (and more importantly – eat) at Free and Real.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Sustainability, Greece

After a tasty meal of whole grains and fresh vegetables (the guys eat a plant-based, mainly vegan and raw food diet), Panagiotis asked everyone to introduce themselves and say a few words about why they had joined the workshop. It was a great way to break the ice – and for me to practice my limited Greek skills. To my surprise, I was able to speak for a couple of minutes about my background and how I’d discovered Free and Real – and I even got a round of applause!

After the introductions we were given a brief overview of the days ahead. Everyone was pretty tired and so after that we headed to the yurt site for an early night. Evi had promised those who were interested an early morning yoga session on the beach, so we were all pretty excited about that.

We awoke to glorious sunshine and headed down to the beach for the promised yoga session. It was fantastic and set us up well for a full day of learning. But first – more eating was on the agenda!

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece.

Everyone was given some fresh bread and homemade jams and spreads. Together with a Greek coffee, they went down a treat.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece.

The Free and Real fouxata, a better and healthier version of Nutella (and a legend in its own right), was gone in no time.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Jams, Spreads

Breakfast didn’t last that long – both because everyone thought it was delicious and soon devoured everything, but also because we had a busy schedule of lectures and demonstrations ahead of us. Panagiotis took to the floor and talked about his past as a semi-pro rower, his previous diet, his research and his present diet.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece

It was clear to see how passionate he is about nutrition. I have rarely seen a person speak with such conviction and belief, but at the same time taking a humble and modest approach. No one felt pressured into changing their diets – his approach was: this is what the research says, this is what i do and you should try for yourselves – everyone reacts in different ways.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece.

The presentation was in Greek, but Martin (a French Canadian who was visiting Free and Real for a couple of weeks) and I had Eleni and Maria to help interpret. Discussions were open and encouraged, and there were some good exchanges. After all, promoting a whole grain, vegan based diet is something very different for the meat and cheese loving Greeks.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece.

In the afternoon, Nikos, a local cheesemaker, dropped by to show us how to make cheese without using rennet, an ingredient of many cheeses which is extracted from the fourth stomach of an unweaned calf – kind of gross hey.

The process was incredibly simple. Heat some goat’s milk:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece.

Add some lemon juice to coagulate the milk and some cumin to give it a bit of extra flavour:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

Spoon out the coagulated milk into some muslin:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

Squeeze out the remaining liquid, which I believe is called whey (correct me if I’m wrong!), and mould the nearly-finished cheese using a bowl or plate:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

Remove the muslin and let the cheese cool:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

Nikos told us that he usually covers the cheese in salt and then lets it sit for a few days before eating it. We couldn’t wait though and just dived straight in. The whole process took less than half an hour, and the cheese tasted really good actually.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

After the cheese demonstration we had a bit of time to relax before more lectures from Panagiotis, dinner, more lectures (he can speak on this subject forever I think!)

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Cheese making.

and then a surprise visit to 9 Queens Thermal Spa, a hotel and spa owned by Free and Real faithful Giorgos, which is located in the nearby spa town of Edipsos. After a couple of hours in the 40 degree water I felt very content, but absolutely exhausted. The yurt beckoned, and so I grabbed a ride back and passed out.

The next day, after the usual breakfast, we discussed the workshop as a group, gave feedback and had the chance to ask any remaining questions. I left feeling very intrigued about what Panagiotis was saying – it was a great introduction to the benefits of a healthy diet and I was keen to learn more. One thing I knew for certain – following the diet here was tough for the first couple of days, but after a week I was feeling fantastic – full of energy and very ‘light’. Before everyone went home we took a short ride up to the Telaithrion site – with it’s geodesic dome that has captured the imagination of so many Greeks and others throughout the world.

On the way up we witnessed something I’ve never seen before: a sundog. It made it seem as if there were two suns and was a pretty awesome sight:

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Sundog

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome, Sundog

Once we were inside the dome it was time for Panagiotis to tell everyone about the Free and Real philosophy and the Telaithrion project.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome

And when we made it back outside I had to get a photo with Katerina, who had actually discovered Free and Real because of my previous blog post!

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome

Before the sun went down there was just enough time to get a group photo (credit goes to Kostas Mav for this one):

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome

and as we headed back down the mountain, yet another amazing light formation was creeping over the hills in the background – the perfect end to a great weekend.

Free and Real, Nutrition Workshop, Evia, Agios, Greece, Telaithrion Dome, Sunset

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