Monday, 14 January 2019

Peas and Potatoes

Greeks don't just eat fatty pork and stewed snails.  Our menu is varied and depends on the seasons, mostly.  I blanch loads of green beans in the summertime and put bags of them in the freezer to use during the winter.  Fresh peas however don't seem to grow so well here.  We rarely find them at the markets.  It is either green beans or okra (ladies fingers).  I love peas so I buy bags of them frozen from the supermarket.  I always have some in the freezer for a quick tasty meal and I freeze bunches of dill as well because there are times in the year when it is not readily found.  Peas and dill go together here.

I always keep aside a handful of peas from the bag to add to curries and stir fries.  A few carrots and a handful of peas give these homemade dishes a pleasing dash of colour whatever else is in them.

So it's peas and potatoes today

Stewed with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and a handful of dill.  I always use fresh grated tomatoes, usually from those I have frozen in the summer.  Frozen peas by the way take far longer than 2 minutes to cook.  

Jamie Oliver puts frozen peas into his dishes at the last minute and lets them cook with the heat from the other ingredients.  None of that here.  They need at least 20 minutes to half an hour.  Did you know peas can be as hard as bullets?  Greek peas can.  No canned peas available, by the way.  That is a good thing.  Tinned peas have a completely different taste.

Good old Uncle Stathis (Baba Stathis) flash freezes his peas and beans within an hour of being harvested, so says the ad.  Full of taste and a bright fresh green colour to all his vegetables.

We eat many vegetable dishes summer and winter.  Cabbage and rice, spinach and rice. beans or okra and potatoes are just some of the favourites.  They are served with bread, feta cheese, maybe a few olives and a glass of wine.  A healthy mediterranean meal

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Greek Epiphany

Epiphany on January 6th is another important  day here in Greece celebrating the baptism of John the Baptist in the Jordan river.  The most meaningful  part of the celebration is the blessing of the waters.  All the island's important people join the faithful in the main church first for a service and then parade together down to the waterfront where most of the island's population wait to watch the happening.

Cafe tables are full and excitement runs high as everyone waits for the priests and VIPs to board the small water taxi which takes them out into the middle of the strait.

The head priest starts the blessing, throwing the cross three times into the sea.  It is attached by a long ribbon and he hauls it back in the first two times.  With the third throw a group of brave men, and nowadays a few girls as well, dive into the freezing sea to retrieve the cross.  The first to reach the cross and hold it aloft is blessed for the following year.

The boat carrying the VIPs is accompanied by local rowers, including two of my grandchildren. My youngest grandson wanted to jump in after the cross this year too but was dissuaded by his mother who was watching the weather forecast and an approaching snow storm. Maybe next year the day will be sunny and warm.

When we  know the cross has been grabbed and the swimmer identified we all drift back to the cafeterias for more ouzo and coffee.  The whole island is out, big family groups all dressed in their Sunday best. We spend much of the time in the cafeteria greeting friends, kissing cheeks and wishing everyone a great year, always with good health.  Once you get to a certain age the first and most important wish for the coming year is good health.  

Blessed water 
My sis in law always brings us a bottle of Holy water from the church. We take 3 sips the next morning before drinking coffee to have a blessed year... Uhummm
The rest of the water gets sprinkled around the house, in the corners and in the car, over the motorbikes anywhere else which might need help from powers above 

January the 6th is also the name day for those called Fotis or Fani.  Next day, January 7th is the celebration of all those called Yiannis (John) and Yiannoula (Joanna).  Agios Yiannis (St. John) is a popular saint.  'A house without a Yiannis will not prosper' is a greek saying. 

We of course have our own Yiannis and spent the afternoon celebrating with him and the family.

And that is about the end of the festive season. Schools open after St John and life gets back to its routine. The next name day is St Antoni on 17th January and then St Athanasios on the 18th.  

Then we start the 3 weeks of carnival.  

And so the celebrations continue  ........ whatever the weather or the state of the economy

Tuesday, 8 January 2019


Greece has been hit by three storms one after the other, Raphael, Sofia and now Telemahos (named after  Telemahos, the son of Odysseus who fought in the Trojan war).

We've had extremely early falls of snow over most of Greece but not in the Peloponnese which is the part of mainland Greece just over the straits of Poros.

Roads from here to Athens were cut off last night by heavy snowfall along the route and even the national roads have had long closures and of course back-up of traffic.

Many schools all over the country were closed today including all the schools on Poros.  Just as a precaution.  The day dawned with temperatures of about 1o C but no snow and only a sprinkle on the mountains opposite. The sun came out but it was 'sun with teeth'.

In Athens the Acropolis and the Parthenon on top were covered in a layer of white.  That doesn't happen very often.

Another storm is blowing in tomorrow with heavy rain but with winds from the south so temperatures will rise a little.

Greek skiers are very happy campers this winter

Monday, 7 January 2019

Early 2019 in Pics

A peek into January ... so far

Crocheting in front of the television

From chilling out to drinking up

I found some 2018 Beaujolais
Last year the beaujolais available in the supermarket was over a year old.  When beaujolais ages, which it apparently doesn't, they send it to greece where they'll drink anything with a french label.
Actually that last statement is totally wrong in this neck of the woods.  Locals will only drink local.  They know where it has been grown, who looked after the vines and how and what was added, or not added, to the barrel afterwards.
I'm sure Athens is a different kettle of fish.   A more 'sophisticated' society

The whisky is a good  Scottish single malt brought to us by our english neighbours who arrived for Christmas in the middle of our 'north pole' winter.   A couple of times over these last few weeks I have noticed that London has higher temperatures than us.

They also brought whisky and some good english cheddar for Vaso.  She told us about the whisky, with the enthusiasm of a connaisseur, that it was the one of the best.  

The master of the house (daughter's house) crosses and then cuts the New Year loaf.  

First piece for the Virgin Mary, 2nd for the house and then the family members from oldest to youngest.  The one who gets the coin has a lucky year.  We have so far cut two family loaves, 2 New Year cakes and yesterday the last which was a 'tourta' (cake with cream and filling).

K says the coin should be used to buy incense to burn under the family icons.  Yeh, right.  That was what his mother did.  The coin in the bread now would hardly buy chewing gum and certainly not incense.

New Years lunch.  Or part of it.  The tradition here is to cook pork with greens and thicken it with an egg and lemon sauce.  This is lamb.  Thanks to daughter and son-in-law we also had a very tasty roast duck and  pumpkin soup.  These three dishes have become a tradition for our New Years day dinner

Snow clouds come down low over Galatas and the mountains opposite

Enjoy yourself as you intend to continue for the rest of the year. 

On New Years day my mother-in-law told me you should not wash your hair, nor sew nor knit because you'll be condemned to keep on doing it for the whole year!  Yeh!~

The men party as they mean to carry on...........

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Crime Wave!

Vaso has been robbed.  She has been very apprehensive these last few months after watching endless news stories of the elderly in Athens being beaten for a few euros and attacked in their own homes,  She puts a padlock on her gate when she's inside the house, not that it would keep out any serious robber.   And she watches very carefully who goes up and down our dead-end road, who they are and whether they check out the house as they whizz by.

We always reassure her that Poros is not Athens and she is safe living up here in the wop-wops all by herself, as she has for the last twenty years.  

But  robbers came in the middle of the night and took away 4 hens, a rooster and a big (female) turkey.  Naturally she was very upset and wanted to tell us all about her troubles, analyse this heinous crime and lay out her suspects for us to chew on.

She's sure there were two them with a big sack. It wasn't a dog  or wild animal because there was no trail of feathers and carnage.

But she came on the wrong day to get all our attention.  We had been 'robbed' too!  K had just been up to check our land and olive trees at the top of the island.  'Someone' had been up there with a truck, fixed up the road, 'pruned' the olive trees and hauled away the wood.  

'Someone' went to a lot of work.  Wood is an expensive commodity at this time of the year.  It wasn't long of course, in this small community, before he found out who was behind it all.

Vaso and K sat there with steam coming out of their ears, voices getting louder and more vehement with each stabbing accusation.

Vaso doesn't know the identity of her chicken thief but she has a few offenders in mind.  She can't prove anything but K hopes he can.  He has confronted the head of the gang, the wood cutter and the truck driver and been to police to file a complaint.  The wood has gone, squirreled away or already sold but he's pushing for them to clean up the land and plant new trees.  The old ones unfortunately have been 'pruned' almost down to the ground and an old spreading carob tree has been left looking like a xmas tree on the day it is chucked in the rubbish,  Such a pity. 

He could sue them for destruction of property and loss of income from the trees but it would probably take five years for the case to come to court.  
Easier for them to compensate by doing some work on the land. 
Except for the 'mastermind',  This smart arse  owned land up there once upon a time.  He sold it 20 years ago but knows that it is an isolated area.  He blames the wood cutter who cut the wrong trees but they are all the 'wrong' trees.  None are his to cut.  They must have made almost a thousand euros out of the wood.  Around here olive wood is considered the best for  firewood.

Vaso is ill and snuggling up in her bed in this freezing weather.  It was her name day on New Years day and we called her but are waiting for her to recover to go up and have a few glasses of raki with her and discuss this terrible business once again.

We are in the grips of storm Raphael.  Snow is covering the hills around Athens and we heard it was snowing on the next island of Aegina.  I keep peeking out the window hoping to see a snowflake here.   It is very early in the year for such bad weather.  Climate change!

Actually I see this is a second storm named Sofia. She'll be hanging around for a few days. We've got enough firewood, olive wood but not our own.  Hope the raki holds out!

Monday, 31 December 2018

The Eve

New Years Eve 
Here we go again, but at least not in our house.  The cooking and eating will be happening in my daughter's house, and they'll be doing the washing up.  Thanks Elli and Kyriakos.
And they'll be doing New Years day lunch.

Carol singing day again for small children who come knocking on the door trilling this day's song and banging metal triangles.  I don't know how much banging and trilling was done on Poros today.  No-one came a-knocking on our door out in the wilds.  It is pouring with rain and bitterly cold.

The carol (kalanda) today proclaims the arrival of St Basil.  My youngest grandchildren go from door to door and into every shop asking 'can we say it?'  A few people actually say 'no' having heard the same kalanda many times since early morning.  Not nice.  This is an age old tradition.  The housewife used to give the singers a sweet or cake, nowdays they get a coin.  The kids go in groups and can earn quite an impressive sum of money.  Xmas Eve they sing another carol and on the eve of Epiphany, 6th January.

Kosta is making bone soup today to keep out the cold and I'm making a 'vasilopita', the New Years cake with a lucky coin in it.

Tonight we have to descend to sea-level at 10pm to see-in the New Year with some of the family.  Ye gods and little fishes.  My traditional person would not let me miss this such important occasion but i would very happily stay at home, go to bed at 10pm and let the storm rage and the year change without my participation.  The year will change with or without my presence and what will be will be

10 hours later, still raining chair legs and snow falling on the hills around Athens

Happy New Year from sunny Greece

Saturday, 29 December 2018

It Came, It Went

Hristouyenna, Christmas
an annual religious and cultural celebration which takes place on December 25th, unless you're a follower of the old calendar.   They'll be celebrating on January 8th

Christmas Day is a holiday here and so is the day after.  It is also the name day for those named Christos, Christina or variations thereof.  

In days gone by it was simply a day off work.  All the family ate together and then ours would walk up the steps with a box of cakes to celebrate the rest of the day with cousin Christina and later at the house next door with cousin Christos.  Presents were only given by St Nik to our own 'foreign' offspring.  

Nowadays it is a time to eat too much,  to spend money and for families to get together whether they like it or not, usually for the sake of small children, just like the rest of the western world

Our day was 'fraught'.  Small underlying tensions remained 'mostly' underlying but everything else that could go wrong, did.

The weather was warm and dry at 7am says my daughter.  I wouldn't know.  By 9 it was pouring with rain and it rained all day

Half of the presents I ordered are mid-Pacific, still haven't turned up.  Looks like I'll be keeping them for summer name days, when they arrive.

There were various pieces of meat.  The roast pork was delicious and the crackling crisp and fatty

The brussels sprouts were enjoyed by brussel sprout enthusiasts
Half were boiled and half were roasted
There were roast spuds, sweet potato (kumara) and squash

A pair of tarantula slippers and a neon flashing keyboard

The Christopsomo (Christ Bread) was a little tinged but just as fresh baked bread should be.  Most food including the bread was baked in the outside wood fired oven

The chicken was cooked in our electric oven along with a nasty smell of burning plastic.  About half way through cooking I discovered the smell was coming from the plastic handle of a bread knife which had been left inside the oven. It had melted all over the bottom of the stove and had to be cleaned up quickly before the chicken started tasting of burnt plastic as well

Fresh mushrooms gathered locally and kindly given to us by a friend.  Unfortunately they were extremely bitter and went on the compost heap instead

Australian chardonnay helped save the day
And shots of Baileys

The banoffee pie was a disaster.  The base didn't set, the caramel burnt and left a smoky taste and the cream wouldn't whip.  The bananas were perfect.  No one ate any, not even the bananas

St Nik arrived on time and spread some cheer