Human interference in Apano Meria (Upper Place) is both a thoughtful and necessary intervention. For many years, many generations, the workers of that land, hunched over the soil, tracking its moisture and other properties, examining the flora and fauna, listening to the wind and observing its every twist, calculating the sun’s trajectory through the sky, have tamed this wild landscape; subdued it without ever disrespecting it.
The cultivation and development of the land, the beekeeping and raising of livestock in Apano Meria, emerged directly from the imperative to survive and are based on knowledge passed from generation to generation on the symbiosis between humans and their environment that can only come from close observation. Many years ago, the inhabitants of Apano Meria investigated, experimented and discovered techniques and means to produce fruit, vegetables, wine, honey, as well as dairy and meat products like cheeses and sausages. The development took place slowly, steadily and efficiently. They tuned into the land and drew their tools from it. This is evident everywhere: from the dryland farming with its terraces and stone walls to the traditional grape-stomping and the pig-slaughter festivals. They did not diminish the landscape. They did not change their ancestors’ techniques merely for the sake of novelty. The few who remain active today, don’t mind the toil nor do they bemoan the difficulties. They go on producing “as they were taught”, making the most of the mountain.
Local products from Apano Meria contains the essence of the place. The taste of its honey is packed with the fragrant scent of mountain thyme those bees foraged. Its grapes and late-summer figs are like living mementos of the feast of St John. A sip of its dessert wine transports one instantly to those little terraces with a view of Tinos, full of tomatoes drying in the sun. Taste the creamy richness of its chickpeas, freshly popped from their pods, and it is as if you can see grandad coming back from the field with the sack under his arm; coming back from the past.
Each product from Apano Meria is a herald of memories, images, sensations and wisdom. It is heritage. It is dowry. It is custom. It is culture. It is the counterargument to the age of genetic modification. It is the product of a total harmonisation of humanity with its environment.
Melina and Anna Maria
Translated by Αlex Andreou