In the Pelion region of Greece, fishermen would give up their gardens and hunting and move their families to the streets of the local harbor for the fishing season. In Crete, men routinely joined Turkish ships even a century before Crete fell into Turkish hands. Turkish recruiters would also find Greek sailors in the taverns of Pera on Cyprus. There were many small-time Greek pirates in the islands of the Aegean and along the coasts of the Adriatic, in search of small-time victims and whatever food could be stolen. Although these fishermen-pirates could take from the sea, pirate rations were usually a sack of flour, some biscuits, a skin of oil, honey, a few bunches of garlic and onions, and a little salt. These rations would last a month, or until the next raid or port.
Greek fishermen were truly sailors who found a home all over the Mediterranean. Greek sailors could easily be found manning a Spanish, Turkish, or pirate galley. The infamous brothers, the Barbarossas, were Greek or Turkish sailors from Lesbos who converted to Islam and settled in Djerba, becoming pirates who terrorized the western Mediterranean. By 1518, they ruled Algiers until the last brother’s death in 1546.
When you throw that just-caught fish onto the grill, wrapped in grape leaves, you can think of how rich that Mediterranean is with its magnificent cuisines and equally fantastic history. Try the recipe for grilled fish wrapped in grape leaves.