Globalization, Diet and Lifestyle



University visit

In early March six university students and their instructor spent a week with us in Lakkia. The schedule prepared for them, the places visited, and the guest visitors we had in the evenings will be described in a later document. On their arrival, David gave this talk to the group.


Welcome to our organic farm in Lakkia, a village with just one shop surrounded by small farms, but conveniently located for the airport, the city of Thessaloniki, archeological sites and museums. From 2005, we – Christine and David Willis – have hosted students from your College under their credit course Nourishing Wisdom – mindfulness and social change. You will be accommodated in the family farmhouse where David has chickens and grows fruit and vegetables to organic standards. Christine is a ceramic artist who teaches the value of lovingly prepared, slowly savored Mediterranean food, incorporating the international travel experience called the Slow Food Movement – living better and being more productive by marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. A feature of past visits has been keeping a diary to keep track of your experiences and reflections. This paper provides some background information to help you make the best of your visit.



In The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thomas Friedman tells us that the defining symbol of globalization is the World Wide Web which unites everyone. The defining measurement is speed of commerce, travel, communication and innovation. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country of the world with its own set of rules, but it sometimes leaves the less good players brutalized or left behind. If globalization were a sport, it would be the 100-meter dash, over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day. And if you lose by just one-hundredth of a second it can be as if you lost by an hour. This is the tough, stressful world in which you are going to earn your living and raise a family.

Lifestyle and globalization

Friedman visited the Lexus luxury car factory in Japan producing 300 sedans a day, made by 66 human beings and 310 robots and that experience defined a world intent on building a better Lexus, dedicated to modernizing, streamlining and privatizing their economies in order to thrive in the system of globalization. The olive tree defined everything that roots us to the warmth of family life, the joy of individuality, the depth of private relationships, as well as the confidence and security to reach out and encounter others. For most people, corporations and nations the right balance between the Lexus and the olive tree has not yet been found. One purpose in inviting you to join us is to experience our lifestyle. We feel very much connected to the world and enjoy the benefits of globalization without the stress.

The problem is not new but the rules are new

Throughout history humanity has faced this problem of trying to find a balance between sustenance and security and enjoying the good things in life that we all work for. The previous era of globalization was built around falling transportation costs and it had its success stories and victims. Today’s era of globalization is built around falling communication costs and probably started with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are still in the early stages where dog eats dog, fast eats slow, and there is a mad scramble to be one of the top dogs. To be successful in this business environment will probably require sacrifice of the good things in life – sacrifice of the olive tree. For some it will be exciting and they will prosper. For others it will be hell. There are alternatives and Christine and I are living one of them. We hope that you will come away from your stay with us with food for thought on the kind of lifestyle that you would like to create for yourselves. 

What is new today

What is new today is the degree and intensity with which the world is being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and the number of people and countries able to participate and be affected by it. Daily foreign exchange trading in 1900 was measured in millions of dollars; in 1992 it was $820 billion a day. By April 1998 it was up to $1.5 trillion a day and still rising. Companies can locate production, research and marketing in different countries but still tie them together through computer and teleconferencing. Services such as medical advice can be traded globally. With modern technology it is often possible for the individual to live in a rural setting while still being part of the globalized market place. Christine and I have the benefit of both the Lexus and the olive tree by living in Lakkia.



In Western society, cancer is the second greatest killer after coronary heart disease. Research suggests that poor diet, poor lifestyle and stress contribute significantly to their onset. In Proof Positive: How to Reliably Combat Disease & Achieve Optimal Health Through Nutrition & Lifestyle by Neil Nedley, M.D. we learn that it is possible to reduce coronary heart disease risk by 90% and cancer risk by as much as 80% through the right diet and lifestyle. For the vast majority of us, our health is primarily dependent upon two factors: what we put into our bodies; and what we do with our bodies. A simple word that encapsulates both of these concepts is ‘lifestyle’.

The nine leading causes of death are largely related to lifestyle choices

We recognize the necessity of proper care to get the longest life and best performance out of our automobiles. When will we realize that proper care also gives our bodies the longest life and best performance? The nine leading causes of death are largely related to lifestyle choices and are preventable. Many deaths due to infectious diseases are caused by an immune system that is weakened by a poor lifestyle. How we live day by day determines whether our immune system works at peak levels. Three of the important ways to help our immune system are diet, exercise and stress control.

The most healthful diet in the world

Dr Nedley tells us that eating freely of fruits, grains, vegetables, and nuts in moderation, prepared in a variety of ways, offers us the most healthful diet in the world. It eliminates a host of cancer-causing substances, is ideal for maintaining proper weight, it boosts the immune system by making use of vitamins A, C, and E and other very important protective phytochemicals and fiber. Coupling this diet with regular exercise will boost the immune system even further.



The Mediterranean diet

The information below is taken from books on the Mediterranean diet reviewed on our website

Mortality rate from the “Seven Country Study”

(per 100,000 inhabitants) Serge Renaud: The Mediterranean Diet)

Country                 Coronary                     Cancer                        Mortality


Finland                  972                              613                              2169

US                         773                              384                              1575

Netherlands           636                              781                              11825

Italy                       462                              622                              1874

Yugoslavia            242                              394                              1712

Corfu                     202                              338                              1317

Japan                     136                              623                              1766

Crete                     38                                17                                855

Cretans age well because they eat well

The conclusions of studies were that the Cretans age well because they eat well. Among the peoples of the Mediterranean the Greeks have the most balanced diet. With basic ingredients of olive oil, fruit, vegetables, cereals, wine, fish, honey, and herbs – produced with a high nutritious value – the Greek diet is a model for a healthy way of life, well suited to the modern lifestyle. It is the Mediterranean diet, as it was before 1960, that Christine provides for the family and teaches our guests.


Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed tells us that Harry Lewis, Dean of the undergraduate school at Harvard, attended a meeting at which one undergraduate wanted to double major in Biology and English, and cram all the work into three, instead of the usual four, years. After the meeting, Lewis reflected on how the 21st century student has become a disciple of hurry.

A letter from the dean

In the summer of 2001, the Dean wrote an open letter to every first-year undergraduate at Harvard. It was an impassioned plea for a new approach to life on campus and beyond. It was also a neat précis of the ideas that lie at the heart of the Slow philosophy. The letter, which now goes out to Harvard freshmen every year, is entitled: Slow Down. Over seven pages, Lewis makes the case for getting more out of university – and life – by doing less. He urges students to think twice before racing through their degrees. It takes time to master a subject, he says, pointing out that top medical, law and business schools increasingly favor mature candidates with more to offer than an “abbreviated and intense undergraduate education.”

Not too many extracurricular activities

Lewis warns against piling on too many extracurricular activities. What is the point, he asks, of playing lacrosse, chairing debates, organizing conferences, acting in plays and editing a section of the campus newspaper if you end up spending your whole Harvard career in overdrive, striving not to fall behind schedule? Much better to do fewer things and have time to make the most of them.

The less-is-more approach.

When it comes to academic life, Lewis favors the same less-is-more approach. Get plenty of rest and relaxation, he says, and be sure to cultivate the art of doing nothing. “Empty time is not a vacuum to be filled. It is the thing that enables the other things on your mind to be creatively rearranged.” In other words, doing nothing, being Slow, is an essential part of good thinking.

Selective slowness can help students to live and work better

Lewis is as keen on hard work and academic success as the next Harvard heavyweight. His point is simply that a little selective slowness can help students to live and work better. “In advising you to think about slowing down and limiting your structured activities, I do not mean to discourage you from high achievement, indeed from the pursuit of extraordinary excellence. But you are more likely to sustain the intense effort needed to accomplish first-rate work in one area if you allow yourself some leisure time, some recreation, some time for solitude.”


Cooking your own Greek dishes

Under Christine’s watchful eye, you will pick ingredients from the garden, collect eggs from our free-range chickens, make your own bread with organic flour, learn the lessons of appreciation, connection and compassion through shopping at local markets for fresh, seasonal foods from farmers and vendors, cook your own Greek dishes and share your meals with our family – sometimes with an interesting guest.

Visiting places of special interest

By about 10am, after the daily meals have been prepared, we will take you to meet the incredibly warm and welcoming locals, visit places of special interest to the group and explore the city of Thessaloniki with its Byzantine churches and abundant flower, olive, meat and fish markets. There is a large choice of museums and archeological sites that can be reached within a comfortable day trip from our farm house.

A two-mile walk

The day usually starts or ends with a two-mile walk with views of Mt. Olympus, along country roads where you are more likely to meet sheep and goats than a car.


Evenings provide time for recreation, discussion, reflection, journal writing, and on creative projects related to Christine’s expertise as a ceramic artist.


Our mission

Our mission is to share with others our joie de vivre in making a comfortable living from a small piece of land where David grows much of our food. Christine is a ceramic artist and teacher who gains her inspiration from ancient Greek and Byzantine pottery.

We are citizens of the world

When people ask where we are from, we answer that we are citizens of the world. Mankind is one and we are all leaves of one tree and flowers of one garden.  Only when we all buy into that way of thinking will we attain world peace. Socrates, the Greek philosopher who lived from 469 to 399 BC, said “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” He had the wisdom more than 2000 years ago to state that the only way to live harmoniously with your fellow humans is to consider yourself a citizen, not of your country, but of the world. We are living in the age of a global village but we haven’t yet learned how to behave sensibly in the global village.

Education of the mind, body and spirit

We believe that to be a whole person we need to educate the mind, body and spirit. We keep fit by our daily walks, playing tennis, and swimming. We keep our minds active with bridge and games. Much of our time is spent on our spiritual development. We believe our small efforts, combined with that of others, will create an energy that is larger than we can imagine and will help to create peace on Earth.


My training

I was trained by a folk potter on the Greek island of Siphnos and earned my B.A. in Ceramics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since 1981 I have been creating and teaching pottery in my studio in the Greek countryside.  I am Head of the Ceramics Department at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki.

My work

My work has gone through a number of phases; currently I am very interested in hand burnished pit fired pots and Byzantine motifs. During my formative years my parents took me to almost every museum in Greece and my work is inspired by the pottery I saw. My pottery studio is on the ground floor of our house.

Hand burnished pit fired pots

These wheel thrown hand-burnished pots are inspired by centuries old pottery found in many of Greece’s museums.  Each piece has its own special shape, but follows the definition of form and style created by potters from Ancient Greece. Each pot is fired to 1060ºC and then pit fired in an outdoor sawdust kiln, where the results are unique and unpredictable, then polished with a special wax and enhanced with gold leaf.

Byzantine motifs

Bowls in various sizes and shapes are created using the age old technique of scraffito, etching through colored slip to create a design inspired by pieces found in the Byzantine museum of Thessaloniki.

Special assignments

I undertake special assignments. Mount Athos had an exhibition in Vienna, Austria in 2007 and I was asked to make pieces to their design. In February 2004 I conducted a special seminar – Conflict Resolution with Clay – for Palestinian and Israeli Youth. One of my specialities is making one-off, personalized pieces as a wedding present, retirement gift, etc.


For many years my students and I have participated in exhibitions, both local and national, such as the Anetopoulos Pottery Museum, Volos; the Pan Hellenic Exhibit in Maroussi; the Pan Hellenic Ceramics Festival, Thessaloniki; and the Cultural Center, Pylea, Thessaloniki. It was hand burnished pit fired pots with Byzantine motifs that were the subject of a recent exhibition sponsored by the Thessaloniki Curator of Byzantine Monuments. My dream has always been to exhibit my work in New York and this dream came true in November 2010 when my work was on display at the New York Design Center on Lexington Avenue.

The local rehabilitation clinic

Since 2006 I have been conducting art therapy classes at the local rehabilitation clinic, Anayennisi, where accident and stroke victims have the opportunity of working with clay.

Teenagers with special needs

We work closely with Enthynami, whose focus is on mainstreaming teenagers with special needs.

School children

Each year we have school children visit us for about three hours. They are introduced to all aspects of pottery making from the wheel to the kiln; Various designs and different clays; Pottery making in Ancient Greece through Byzantine times; Hands on work on the wheel and with clay; An art that has deep roots in Greek culture and history; A project that is relevant to what is being taught in the classroom, such as a particular period of Greek culture or history; Our organic farm and the many herbs, flowers and trees we have growing here; Creating their own notebook with the leaves and names of our plants


Pottery camp

Another facet of my life that I love is the pottery camp for kids at the beginning of the summer break. It is a one-week or two-week, in-depth extension of the day visits for children, with the opportunity for participants to learn the potter’s skills and create their own pieces. Children collect eggs from the chickens, harvest fruit and vegetables from David’s garden, plant seeds and make cuttings. They bake bread and learn some of the basic skills of cooking.  They are exposed to the richness and benefits of living the rural life within easy reach of the city.



Several times a year we host all-day workshops in kiln building, throwing a large Cretan urn, building and firing paper kilns, and pit-firing burnished clay with chicken manure and wood shavings.


On leaving university

After training to be a civil engineer in 1961, I volunteered my services for two and a half years in Epirus, a part of Greece where electricity and roads had not yet reached remote areas. Many was the time when we had to abandon our four-wheel drive Land Rover and walk to a village where many of the families we were helping had mud floors. I worked closely with the district engineer on village improvement projects, paying the villagers with surplus food provided by the government of the United States through Church World Service.


My career

Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, needing an engineer to supervise projects funded by the United States government through their Schools and Hospitals Abroad Program, employed me from February 1964. Six months later, when the new president of the College arrived, I was invited to try my hand as business manger, a position I held until 1971. I then moved back to England, taught at Dulwich College Preparatory School in London from 1971-73 and was Administrator of The American School in London from 1973-78. In 1978, Bruce Lansdale, the Director of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, invited me back to Greece where I worked until my retirement in 2004. 

Education and agriculture

My years as business manager in schools convinced me that education is the most important building block of a successful society. The best way to help a poor country is to assist their educational system so people retain their pride in building a prosperous society themselves. As Acting Farm Manager of the American Farm School, I realized that if a country cannot feed itself on good nutritious food it is lost. It is a tragedy that the U.S. Surgeon General said that of the 2.2 million deaths in America each year, 1.8 million are diet related. I was involved with environmental projects, and started a worm project for turning the School’s manure into black gold. I learned that the heating and cooling of Zurich airport in Switzerland is by geothermal energy and see this as a major under-utilized alternative to fossil fuels.


My cancer

Six months after retirement in 2004 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The following year six good friends of the family died from cancer. The next year, my 40 year-old daughter from my first marriage was obliged to have an emergency mastectomy because of botched tests during her annual check up. This was my wake-up call. I now have completely different priorities in my life, have adopted a new world view and my value system has changed completely. I am conducting my own self-directed Life Long Learning program and now have a burning desire to share insights gained with others, especially young people. I believe that youth can move the world and do a far better job than the older generation of creating the kind of world we all want.


After my cancer I selected gardening as my occupation because it is low stress, close to nature, and provides the opportunity to provide wholesome, nutritious food for the family, guests, and friends. Gardening is my prayer, my meditation and my physical exercise.

Healthy food comes from healthy soil

Healthy food comes from healthy soil. The primary factor in health is nutrition and the nutritive value of food is vitally affected by the way in which it is grown and processed. Producing the best food possible is an essential part of our living the slow philosophy and enjoying a healthy life.

Abraham Lincoln

It was Abraham Lincoln who said “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.” As our society experiences increasingly troubled times, I believe that people in both rich and poor countries will see the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln’s foresight.

Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy has become our foundation stone

Adopting Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy fitted well with my decision to take up gardening following my cancer. My job is to reduce our expenses by providing as much of our food as possible. Christine’s job is to earn enough income so that we can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. We love our lifestyle and I give thanks every day that what is considered a bad thing – my cancer – has actually resulted in my discovering a much richer side to life than just making money.

Learning from the ancient Greeks

I am posting reviews of books on the ancient Greeks on our website. Edith Hamilton, in The Greek Way to Western Civilization, states: “Five hundred years before Christ, in a little town on the far western border of the settled and civilized world, a strange new power was at work. There a light was lit that can never go out, that has indeed never been matched in the centuries since. Athens had entered upon her brief and magnificent flowering of genius which so molded the world of mind and spirit that our mind and spirit today are different. In that black and fierce world a little center of white-hot spiritual energy was at work. A new civilization had arisen in Athens, unlike all that had gone before. It is worth our while in the confusions and bewilderments of the present to consider the way by which the Greeks arrived at the clarity of their thought and the affirmation of their art.”

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