From Hippocrates to her kitchen, Maria Benardis shares the forgotten wisdom that saved her life.
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Go back to ancient Greece.” The words came to Maria Benardis in answer to a prayer. Deeply ill, her body plagued with precancerous cysts and mind burdened with anger from childhood physical and emotional abuse, she turned to God for help when modern medicine failed her. “You’re just going to be sick all your life,” the doctors had shrugged, citing her family history of cancer. Frustrated but undeterred, Benardis pushed forward—by turning to the wisdom of her Greek ancestors. “What were they doing in ancient Greece, and why were they so healthy and living beyond 100?” she asked herself. “Why can’t I live beyond 100 and be healthy?” Taking matters into her own hands, she combed through piles of books and ancient texts for answers, acquainting herself with the likes of Hippocrates and Aristotle, Archestratus, and even Pythagoras.
She found them in what the ancients knew to be the cornerstones of health: how we eat and how we think. Adopting ancient ways of doing so, she sought to repair both diet and mind. Today, over a decade after the start of her self-healing journey, she’s completely cured— and thriving. At 49, she’s rosy-cheeked and bubbling with energy. She exudes a light and youthful charm, a kind of unabashed openness that can disarm any heart. A chef, author, and founder of cooking school Greekalicious in Sydney, Australia, Benardis has dedicated herself to reviving and sharing the ancient Greek wisdom—in the kitchen and in daily life—she credits for her recovery.
Lost and Found There’s a lot to be learned from the ancients. Even without modern technology, Benardis says, the ancient Greeks “had the intuition to work out things we’re just finding out today.” Though much of their knowledge has been lost, Benardis wants to bring it back. It’s fitting, then, that her journey began at the church of Saint Fanourios, the patron saint of lost things in the Greek Orthodox religion. Deeply unhappy and strapped with illness, Benardis traveled from her home in Australia to Greece in 2004 for the first time since her childhood, hoping to reconnect with her family and the place where she’d grown up. On the island of Mykonos, she happened upon the tiny, whitewashed church. There, she prayed to God for guidance.