There are a lot of things we know about Greece, but there are plenty of things we perhaps overlook. Take the Greek salad, for example. There are several ingredients in a proper Greek salad, but I want to bring your attention to just two of them, Feta and olive oil, and some interesting statistics on the two products.
First of all, to put things into perspective, according to the last official census available on-line, the population of Greece was 10,964,020 (2001 census). So, armed with this first statistic, let's take a look at goats.
We know that Greece is famous for producing Feta, but have you ever considered how many goats it takes to supply the Feta cheese making industry? Consider these numbers, taken from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT.), and before you say it, yes I do need to get out more. Here is a breakdown of the latest figures (from 2008) of the number of goats in Greece. It's available for download as a spreadsheet from the site, but if you can't be bothered, here are the interesting bits.
Firstly, the total number of goats in Greece was 4,779,409. Nearly 4.8 million goats! That means there is a goat wandering around for every 2.3 Greeks. Of course, not all of them produce milk. The number of female goats that had kidded was 2,930,556, with another 383,067 females still to produce offspring. Over 2.9 million goats producing milk, now that's a lot of milk! Also, assuming you could line all the goats up from nose to tail, and assuming they are on average a metre in length, and also assuming that they behave themselves and stay still for long enough, the line would stretch from Athens to London and back again (distance between Athens and London is 2389 kms)!
Moving swiftly on to olive oil production. In 2006, the latest on-line figure available, 396 thousand tonnes of olive oil were produced in Greece. Using a handy on-line converter, which provides you with the density of olive oil, this converts to 460,465,116.27907 litres of oil, or assuming an Olympic sized swimming pool can hold 2.5 million litres, then you could fill roughly 184 pools. It's not surprising that Greece produces so much oil when you consider that back in 2006 the number of olive trees recorded was 158,490,012, which works out to be over 14.4 trees for every man, woman and child in Greece.
I think that's enough statistics for now. Whatever you do, don't get me on to the subject of tomatoes or cucumbers. That's a statistical minefield! Anyway, the next time you are pondering over what to order in your favourite taverna, spare a thought for all those olive farmers and poor goats who work tirelessly so that you can enjoy what has to be my favourite Greek dish of all, the humble Greek salad.
It is my solemn duty to inform everyone in the world that there are lots of goats and lots of trees in Greece, and that finding out the exact statistics of said goats and trees is vital. Statistics can be fun, especially where food is concerned.