How To Fast For Lent (Nistisima)
For the Orthodox world, Lent began last Monday, and so did the 40 day Lenten fast. In this context, “fasting” doesn’t mean not eating at all, rather it means restricting one’s diet by eliminating all meat, eggs and dairy. Fish and shellfish are allowed. Devout Greeks actually fast for 120 days each year: 40 days before Christmas, 40 days before Easter, and 40 days before the Assumption of Mary. This is fully 1/3 of the year! Because of this, Greeks have developed a whole cuisine of delicious foods called “nistisima” that have no meat, eggs or dairy. As long as you avoid the seafood, these dishes are not only vegetarian, but also vegan. Mama’s Taverna will be serving up only nistisima during Lent, but don’t worry, it’ll be really good!
UPDATE: Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska points out that if you add up all the various fasting days in the church year, there are approximately 180. Half the year! See the comments for details and an interesting link.