Saturday 20 March 2010

jump the fire and be free of fleas

Monday 8 March 2010

winter on poros

15 March

We are in the middle of Lent now.  It all started on Clean Monday and goes on for forty days till the beginning of Holy Week and then it is another week of very strict fasting till Easter Sunday and the slaughtered goat is roasted.

Last year on Clean Monday every one from Poros and quite a few dogs passed through our gate.  K had all his friends here and all the rabble. This year it was slightly quieter.  Elli and Kyriakos, the inlaws from Galatas and a couple of  neighbours who stopped for a quick drink.

We ate:  the usual list of banquet dishes, but no meat.
-fresh cockles, still alive till the squirt of lemon (lemons from our trees)
-sea urchins gathered by our neighbour Lefteris (sea urchins, those spiny creatures also known as 'kina').  These have the top sheared off and the insides are mopped out with a crust of (homemade) bread
-nz green lipped mussels, lightly boiled
-crabs, fried
-gigantes - giant beans, boiled with tomatoes, wine and lots of garlic
-laganes, the flat unleavened bread eaten on this day.  Torn into edible pieces and not cut.  Most of them were homemade by me
-shrimps (or prawns?) boiled and BBQed
-octopus.  Grilled and boiled
-taramasalata.  Fish roe salad, made with salt fish roe, bread, onion and lemon juice.  Homemade of course
-olives.  Green, preserved in vinegar and black, preserved in salt
-lettuce leaves and green spring onions from our garden

We usually have a sweet of 'halvas'.  This is either the commercial version made with lots of tahini and sugar or the homemade one which is made out of semolina.  Both are Lenten (no eggs, butter or milk).  Baklavas is also Lenten if made with oil instead of butter.

Much was leftover as usual but much was also eaten.  Kostas remained on his feet and when we took the inlaws down to catch the boat to Galatas we went for coffee.  Met his favourite nephew (Koka-Kola George) as he was returning from the farm on Galatas where he Clean-Mondayed with his parents.  Took him off to the cafeteria as well.  AT THE CAFETERIA - Kosta's friend Menelos runs the place and he and his friends were well into the 5 kilo bottle of ouzo they had got that morning and served me with coffee but brought a big water glass of ouzo and a meze of seafood for the 'boys'.  I sighed - they looked at me and 'lo' they drank the ouzo and we left.  I am still wondering at that miracle.  It usually means a long hard night and morning and even harder mornin-following-the night.

Since then we have not had meat on the table though I have eaten a bit of bacon.  But I am an atheist/pagan/foreigner and am allowed to do such things.  Kostas, Elli, Danae and their husbands don't eat meat for the whole period of Lent and during Holy week don't eat eggs, dairy or fish either - except for cuttlefish, kalamari and octopus.  They do it not because the church says they must but because it is a greek tradition which they like to follow.

Clean Monday came about apparently because it was the day they ate anything unLenten that still remained and cleaned and scrubbed their pots and plates to get rid of all the animal fat.  It is now a day of strict fasting and also a day for picnics and kite flying.  We tried to fly a kite with Jamie and Natali but the wind was not doing its bit.  Fun however was had by all.

Running up to Lent we also celebrated Tsikno-Pempti - Blackened Thursday.  It is at the end of Carnival and one of the last days to eat meat,blackened by the grill.  The next week is Cheese-Week.  We lit the fire inside and grilled lamb chops and sausages and other bits and bobs.  Elli came with her family and the two girls whose farm is next door to us here.  We ate and drank and listened to jolly greek music.  And as usual a good time was had by all.

The Sunday after that was 'The day of the Prodigal Son' when all 'Bad Boys' celebrate their return to the fold.  Or that is what Kostas says.  Another chance to drink and eat of course.  I pointed out to Kostas that he was now the grandfather of the prodigal son and it was time this tradition passed on to the next generation.  But as grandfather he had to help the others celebrate!  He loves dressing up at Carnival time and this was another excuse to put on his Arab costume - or his Heinekin beer outfit, complete with bottle top cap - and go visiting the neighbours.

In the last few weeks we have had marvellous weather and have cleaned up the front garden, planted a few more lettuces and even had coffee in the sun.  Kostas and I tiled three old tables with tiles left over from building the house.  Aren't we clever.  I painted a few things and we tried again to get rid of Pita so we could clean up the back yard.  Not so easy.  He is just too big.  No-one wants such a monster even if he is quite gentle - except for pulling your arms out its sockets trying to take him for a walk and being bowled over every time you try to feed him.  He is still a problem and his yard is dirty and muddy.  If Kostas can't feed him for some reason I hang over the wall and offer him a bone.  I go no nearer.

Then March began and the weather changed.  The last few days have been freezing again and the rain brought a thick layer of red dust from the Sahara dessert.  It is supposed to be good fertiliser but it also puts a thick dirty layer of red dust on the car and anything else left outside.

And the car has just had its annual clean-up!!  I washed and vaccumed it so the car would pass its 2 year version of the M.O.T.  And. behold, it did pass and got its clean-air certificate too.

Last weekend we went to stay the weekend with Kosta's cousin on the island of Evia.  Evia is an hour north of Athens and is an island joined to the mainland by a big new bridge.  It is the only place in Greece (the med.?) that has a tide.

We ate lots of fresh crabs and fish, visited the Sunday market and walked the beach front.  The area the cousin has his beach house was a swamp and there are acres of market gardens growing wonderful cabbages and cauliflowers on this very fertile land.  We marvelled at the great looking produce, the fantastic selection of fish and vegetables, and bread and just about anything and also the prices.  Everything was at least half the price of produce on Poros.  Because it is so close to Athens it fills up at the weekends and the big black jeeps and BMWs go back laden with fresh, cheap local products.  We brought back tomatoes, cauliflowers and bags of fresh crabs for the family plus a few early basil plants.