Wednesday 24 April 2013

Smoky Thursday

Tsiknopempti - Thursday of the smoky meat

This is one of the last big eat meating days before Lent.  The tradition is to eat bbqed-meat.  Grilled lamb chops, yum.  It is a carnival day and once upon a time (not so long ago) we too used to dress up in costume, go out to a taverna with friends and neighbours, eat piles of lamb chops, dance and sing and enjoy  the carnival atmosphere.  

Some still do .  There is  something organised at one of the big hotels.  If you have the money to spare it is  a great way to take part in  this tradition and have some fun.   But now most families stay at home to grill their meat.

It was midday when I went down to pick up Natali from kindergarten and the cooking was just getting underway. From the petrol station all the way down the harbour there were the most delicious smells wafting through the air.  The rich petrol-station-people always have a bbq outside on this day.

That smoky aroma of grilling meat was overwhelming.  And down the backstreet to Elli's place there were wonderful meaty smells coming from every house. Meat on the coals, meat in the oven, meat in pot and meat in pan.

Our neighbour  organised a little soiree for his friends.   K  dressed  as an arab and went down to join them.  

I stayed at home and enjoyed the peace and quiet before going off to babysit.  Later in the day K  bought a few sausages and a bit of chicken and he grilled it  our fireplace for the girls and the grandchildren.

 March 8 and Women's Day.

K is cooking for Jan and I and the girls are going out to have a drink together.  Women's day used to be a big celebration on Poros.  I was discussing it with Dina (K's sister) the other day.  She and I used to  join a big group of 'ladies' who  organised a get-together.  First of all we ate and drank at a taverna and then the whole crowd went on to one of the waterfront bars where there was dancing and great merriment.  A lot of these women weren't young either.  I watched these little old ladies in  amazement with their furs and gold (back then) while they danced on the tables and really 'let their hair down'.  

last of the dinasaurs
Vasso in her sunday best enjoying a glass of wine
at the annual jumping of the flames at midsummer

and me
doing what I like best -
enjoying a big glass of red wine
listening to good music
and writing my diary
- our last holiday down in the Mani

Friday 19 April 2013


Have just been listening to an email/cd sent to my by Petros and Sofia, our greek/american friends that some of you will have met.  It is a doomsday message for Greece.   The greek  talking says that he has inside  sources. 

The message is  that in the next thirty days greek banks will close, Samaras (now PM) will step down (or be forced out) and be replaced by two others.  At the same time Greece  may be invaded by one of its neighbours. Invasion?  How about a pestilence of locusts as well.

Greek banks will get a final 'haircut' and will close for at least a week.  Of course it will all happen on a Friday (like Cyprus) so there is no rush on the banks.

  We must stock up on emergency rations and prepare for isolation.  We must not pay any more bills but plan for thirty days of scarcity and hardship. We must use all the money we have to buy medicine and food so we can survive.

 The internet and all communication systems will be down and the country will be cut off from the rest of the world.  Anyone who can, should get out of the big cities.  This could occur in 30 days or as late as  the 24th May or early June.  It is the final plan to bring greece to its knees.

Maybe the electricity will go off too so I won't have to finish that pile of ironing.

Hope they wait and let us fill up on a bit of easter lamb first.

While I don't really believe this, it is a very scary message so I'll be getting some more of that shower gel and looking out for special offers on toilet paper.

Must look up those instructions for the sun cooker that we were always going to make.  Making one of those will K's mind off the scarcity of pig for a while.

Ye gods and little fishes, why Greece?

And I was just preparing a happy blog page on the plethora (ha, I still do remember some big english words) of wild flowers - blood red poppies, pink and purple anemones, fields of mauve and yellow and trees in full blossom.  

So what photo goes with THIS news?  Not another pig one that's for sure.  Unless....

Boss Hog
look what I found!
we love pigs dead or alive!
NZ pig
adventure farm somewhere in the Bay
we visited on the big family holiday - way back

Sunset from Elli's roof

Wednesday 17 April 2013


Hoarding foodstuffs in case of disaster is a waste of time.  I know.

The first time was in 1986 after the Chernobyl disaster......... 

 The greeks went mad, the media fanned the flames.  We were not supposed to eat anything from the fields where radiation might have fallen.  Supermarket shelves emptied of canned goods and we saw on television news outrageous stories of families who had filled up rooms in their houses with tinned milk so their children would not be contaminated.  

I remember it well.  It was spring and the first strawberries were out, selling at very low prices because no-one would buy them, except me.  It was back in the olde days when there were no frozen vegetables or imports and everything was sold when in season.  We saw strawberries for about a month and then they disappeared for another year.

 I bought lots of wonderful fresh, cheap strawberries that spring - and my children grew up, had 'normal monster-like' children and hopefully will see their children have children.

 I have just been reading a book about Ukraine and up popped Chernobyl.  This author says that when Chernobyl melted the winds were blowing north and thankfully most of the radiation spread to very low populated areas in the north of Russia.

And so to 2000/1 and the millenium......................

  I couldn't even afford to stockpile back in 1986  but by 2000 were in slightly better circumstances.  We were living on Poros by then, having moved from Piraeus to Crete, to Salamina and then 'home'.

Once again it was all the hype from the media that made me think maybe I should just put a few important things aside.  Toilet paper and big bottles of cheap shower gel.  Just in case you might ever be in this position, you can use shower gel to wash yourself, wash dishes and I have even put it into the washing machine in small doses when I've run out of soap powder before the next payday.  And you must have toilet paper, what else could replace that?  Don't waste money on the cheap stuff.  Been there, done that too, not a good memory.  Fortunately, for Elli and Danae I didn't stock pile dried beans and lentils.  We were already eating those once a week.  Any more and there would have been a revolution.  Teenage tantrums were already bad enough.

Little note.  We eat dried beans and lentils because they are a regular part of the greek diet.  Moussaka is not the national dish of Greece.  But 'fassolatha' is.  Fassolatha is a dried bean stew with lots of carrots, onions, celery and tomato (and olive oil).

As we all know the millenium bug was a non event.  I discovered 
the loo paper and shower gel at the back of a cupboard when we gave our house to Elli and moved out up the mountain 7 years later.  Three huge bottles of cheap shower gel and loo paper covered in cobwebs which no-one wanted, not even me.  We had moved even further on..... into those false times of wild  spending when we thought we had finally joined the consumer society. So of course we were using designer toilet paper on our behinds by then.  

And how long would 3 bags of loo paper  have lasted anyway with so many bottoms in the family.

21 December 2012..............................

Another non-event.  It did cross my mind that maybe I should buy a few extra kilos of beans.  K did that for me.  We have a truck that comes every week from Tripoli  (greek Tripoli) that has very tasty and quick boiling beans and he ALWAYS buys in bulk.  We still have about a kilo of those to go.


Angela Merkel and the media have put the fear of hellfire and brimstone into us these last few years.  If Greece goes bankrupt or has to go back to the drachma we will have standard of living of Bangladesh/Niger - third-world/poverty/hardship/distress -
Thesaurus.   You name it, if it sounds frightening it has been tossed at us.  

And we were bombarded by this propaganda every time the deadline for the next bailout money came up, every election, every big decision.  Put those greeks in line.  Scare them into submission.  

But we heard it too often, nothing ever happened, we always got the bailout.  It was like the small boy yelling 'wolf'.  We don't watch the news anymore and all is well with the world.  Everything we need to know comes in official envelopes.  Tax bills, pension cuts, 'special' payments.  We're the lucky ones.  We still enough money to pay the bills and buy a few litres of wine.  

And poverty???  We'll always have enough broad beans to eat and Vasso has just brought us half a dozen lettuces, a few kilos of spinach and some beetroot.  She must be cleaning out her winter vegetable garden.

Did you know that you can blanch and freeze lettuce?  No good for salads but it makes a great fricase or stuffed lettuce leaves.  And beetroot. We've had a few too many of them too.  I have just filled up two big jars of pickled beetroot.  Maybe the kids will take the rest.

Pension cuts still being made, the Troika still threatening more.  It is always interesting to see what they have left us, month after month. 

We are powerless.  Why worry.  Worry just makes it worse.  Greek people enjoy life.  Full stop.

Ooops, brave words -

 I have just had some scary info on our economic situation  and I just might ignore my own wisdom and start a new stock pile.  

More news on the next instalment .

And now for some rather old photos.

Elli and me - a few years ago

panoramic view of Poros and the Peloponese opposite
down below is the Navy base 

Karen and Paul in the old house - now Elli's
note K's 'worry bead' collection hanging over the radiator

Kathryn with Danae - Poros

Poros - Tony, Danae with Lydia and Jamie
front Nels and George with Yiannis

The good old days - always pig on the table -
or the spit -
this was for K's birthday one year
when Tony and Rainy were visiting -
the pig was so well cooked the meat literally
 fell off into the ashes when we were taking it down
but we still ate it all!

Saturday 13 April 2013

food - some who have and some who haven't

Signs of the times.........

Danae's brother-in-law visiting from Athens told us a story he saw unfold the other day.  He goes to work on a motorbike and had stopped at the traffic lights.  Opposite was a shop selling coffee, cheese pies and the like.  He saw a woman come out with a bag slung over her arm and noticed a guy on the corner eyeing her bag.  He thought 'he's going to run and grab the bag'.  The man did run but snatched the cheese pie she was holding right out of her hand.  Must have been starving. 

The same brother-in-law, who is always full of stories, told us about his next door neighbour.  An elderly gentleman, always polite and well dressed.  He hadn't been seen for a few days and they got the guy in charge of the building to open up his door.  They found him inside in a very bad condition.  He was taken to hospital where he was found to be extremely ill due to malnutrition.

March 4 -

K had one of his last winter 'get-togethers' in front of the fire.  All 'good' home-grown stuff, even the wine.  Vaso, our intrepid elderly neighbour, gave him one of her roosters, thankfully plucked and gutted.  No way SHE would suffer from malnutrition.  She grows all her own vegetables (including broad beans), makes wine from her own grapes (and drinks lots of it), has goats to give her milk, cheese and meat and chooks for eggs and meat , plus a few turkeys.  She toils from sun-up to sun-down to fill up her freezer and her coffers.  She has a few dozen olive trees and works harder than the roumanian labourer when it comes to picking and pruning.

  Vaso is one of a disappearing generation.  She's a tough nut.  Works very hard, drinks hard, smokes like a chimney and watches over every penny.  And she is very clued in.  Watches the news every night and handles her money shrewdly.   

She thinks nothing about slitting the throats of a chook or turkey and has probably slaughtered and skinned many a goat or sheep.    She lives alone up here and has done for many years.  We are her nearest neighbours and get on well with her.   K will often bring her supplies from the town or fix her TV when it goes wonky.  

She always entertains us with stories from the past.  Her childhood was harsh and she worked long days from a very young age herding goats and working in the fields, those of the family and the neighbours if they were paying.  Her memory is sharp and the tales she tells of life on a small holding and how they survived are tales of a generation just after the war, just able to live on what they produced or made for themselves.  Some days all they ate were a few walnuts, mandarins or even the juice and flesh of their lemons.  The milk from their goats and the egss from their chooks were sold to buy essentials for the large family.   

Her working mode is so different from her Sunday-going-to-church look. Vaso 'cleans up'  nicely and looks extremely  chic at weddings and funerals.

  Her son is in the navy, like K was, and is a good friend of ours.  He was  Quartermaster at the Navy base here before he was transferred to Athens.  She also has two daughters, one is a high school teacher and the other the chief of police on the island of Lefkada.  Vaso was determined they should all get educated and have good jobs. 

This was supposed to be about food .... again.  How did I get onto Vaso?

 -So main item on K's menu was the rooster.  Free range.

- That was stewed with tomatoes - from Crete and served with thick macaroni (tubes with holes down the middle to hold all the sauce).  The macaroni wasn't homemade this time but Elli has a macaroni cutter and we do make our own now and again.

- the cheese that we grated on top was some unsalted goats cheese made by Kyriako's maiden aunts

- it was accompanied by greens (weeds) that K had collected from a field nearby.  Not the field where we pump out our sewage tank.  I boiled the greens and they were served with lemon juice from our lemon trees and olive oil from neighbouring trees

-  the bread was sourdough, made by me.  Heavy village stuff great for mopping up the heavy oily tomatoey sauce.  Great for indigestion too.

- I also made an omelette with wild asparagus gathered by one of K's friends - made with 8 of his hen's eggs that he brought as well.  It made a bright yellow and green asparagus omelette

- our wine is finished so we were drinking wine K bought from another little old lady, similar to Vasso, who makes her own wine and sells it at 1 euro a litre.  Her wine is apparently the best in the area at the moment.....and those guys should know!

The day turned into night and it was after many many hours that K's friends finally wobbled off on their motorbikes.

Not everyone is starving.  We are lucky that we live out in the country side.

You might think that the crisis is not affecting us either.  This sort of 'feast' is a rare occurence now and you'll note that just about everything was homegrown and given to us by others.  K has a very social personality, and is a handyman.  As I have written before he often gets paid in 'goods' and the greeks have the custom that anyone coming to your house, especially to eat  will bring a 'gift'. What is appreciated most is something home-made/grown.  They  prefer a plastic water bottle full of your own wine to a bottle of sauv blanc bought from the wine shop. (alas)

the area where we live - on a clear night we can see the 
lights of Athens

outside Villa Linda - Steven Creasy
he and Teresa took these two photos
the bougainvillia isn't in flower yet but the branches
are 'reaching for the power lines'

K frying over the fire with his long handled pan

Thursday 11 April 2013


We saw Harry in the last blog.  Well, looking for something else ,these quotes which Edith had copied suddenly popped up in front of me.

Any of you who might like to write take heart and get yourselves into action (Linda?)

Edith was in her 83rd year when she started writing her life story.

Grandmas should write down the stories of their lives however dull they seem to them.  For such tales show history as it is – a procession of interlocking lives.  A unity.  The family of mankind.
          Charlotte Gray


It is too late!  Ah nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers
When each had numbered more than four-square years
Chaucer at Woodstock with the nightingales
At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Complete Faust when eighty years were past
These are indeed exceptions, but they show
How far the gulf-stream of our youth may flow
Into the Arctic regions of our lives..
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself,  though in another dress
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day..
               Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

In  the 70's - London
Harry, Richard. Linda, Edith

In days of olde - Paul, Edith with Tony, Linda, Richard

Harry and Edith

And on our big NZ trip - 2005
Te Puke's Citizen's Club
Wednesdays special for OAPs
Kyriakos, George, Danae, Harry, Kostas


We got MORE broad beans given to us.  God help us!!

Thought I would do a 'special' and post these photos of Kostas and Harry.  Harry's photo turned up in the middle of the photos of Kostas and his beard when I downloaded them to the computer.  So he is still watching over us and still has his sense of humour!

Kostas in winter mode

Harry - watching over us

Kostas after a trim

Kostas in uniform

Monday 8 April 2013

Spring is definitely here.  I have cleaned out the fireplace but the room is going to take a lot more work.  The fireplace surround is black  and I imagine the walls are the same.  The rafters are full of cobwebs.  I need a cleaning team - albanian, bulgarian, romanian.  

Danae and children have already been swimming.  Think 'swimming in September in Nz'.  Think 'freezing'

She and her children came up on Saturday and we did some cleaning.  George dug up the potatoes that were left.  Half of them have purple patches in the middle. We aren't eating those. Looked on the web and there wasn't much about purple-patched-potatoes but no-one seemed to think that we should eat them.  Nothing to do with the proper-purple-potato.  Half the crop is ok.....  see photo below

We cleared three huge bags of wild sorrel from the front garden.  The lettuces have finished but the broad beans are ready for picking now.  K loves them boiled and eaten with olive oil, lemon juice and a garlic/bread sauce called 'skorthalia.  Our neighbour just brought in another bag of his broad beans for us and I already have a big bowl in the freezer.  We definitely have too many broad beans.

The garden looks nothing like it should at this time of the year.  Two years ago we paid an albanian 40 euros to clear the gardens and 'lawn' (think knee high weeds) and dig the small garden plot ready for planting.  Last year we paid him 20 euros ....this year we have to do it ourselves and the result is patchy.  It needs an albanian (or bulgarian/romanian) to come and tidy it all up and do some heavy digging.

K is no longer fixing washing machines and doing extra work.  Someone (a 'friend') ratted on him and he has been warned. He could lose his pension or get a huge fine. He still fixes things for friends and neighbours and now and again gets paid in money but is more likely to get a few eggs, a bag of lettuces, a bottle of wine.... or some more broad beans

Last Saturday we had a church service to say 'thank you' for Jamie's good health.  Kyriakos had pledged a service if all went well.  It is a common thing to do.

It was held in the tiny little church at the end of Askeli beach where he was baptised.  The priest, the chanter, the lady-who-helps and four others fit inside.  The candles, the main icon and the rest of the congregation stand outside.

This is the church and that is Jamie having just been
baptised.  With his Mum and Dad (left) and Nona (godmother) on the right.......6 years ago

Our camera is broken so I'm giving a bit of colour with some old photos

Jamie (Dimitris) was born with a calcium growth on his kidney and he was under weight for a long time - but still a very active child.  He  goes for tests to the children's hospital in Athens every three months but is normal weight and height now and even more active.

He has blood tests once a month and is so used to having a needle stuck in his arm he does not even flinch.  There is always a smile on his small and devlish face.

Any one with small children may know the kids programme 'Sam the Fireman'.  Sam spends his time rescuing and saving a little boy called Norman Price who  is always getting into trouble.  Jamie's second name is Norman.

Kyriakos and Elli arranged the service, picked  the priest, chanter and helper up at 6.30 am, provided the candles, oil and communion wine and paid them all a small amount.  Dina (Kosta's sister) brought the bread with the holy stamp and I made the 5 loaves to feed the 5,000 (16 people that were in attendance.)  These are five small loaves which are blessed along with the holy bread and cut up and given to the congregation at the end of the service.  It is a sweet bread flavoured with mastiha (from the island of Chios) and with lots of red wine and orange juice.  I have made these loaves before but this time I surpassed myself.  It is a Cretan recipe I use.

There is a blessing for the health of Jamie and the priest is usually given a list of family names to be blessed at the same time.  Then anyone who wants to takes communion.  The bread is shared around and usually there are cakes and sweets handed out as well.  At some fiestas small pieces of fried fish are handed out too - think, '5 loaves and 2 fish that fed the 5,000'.

George and Jamie were in charge of the candles and it kept them quiet most of the time.  Everyone when they arrive (at any time during the service) kisses the icon and then lights a few candles which are placed in a special bowl of sand.  George and Jamie arranged and re-arranged the candles, re-lit them when they were blown out and removed them when they had burnt too far down.  Perfect job for little boys.

Afterwards we all went to Elli and Kyriako's house for coffee and then ouzo and seafood - and enough wine to drown the 5,000.  It ended up being an all-dayer.

Kyriako's family live just across the water on the mainland village of Galatas.  His two maiden aunts are typical for their generation.  They make every thing from scratch including their own bread and cheese.  They have chickens and a couple of goats.  One of the goats has just had four little kids.  They had the bright idea of giving us one of the kids to keep our garden clear and provide us with milk to drink and make cheese.  Thankfully Kyriakos talked them out of it. Our garden is too small and they might eat up all the broad beans.   I would like to try and make some cheese one day.  Making a 'sort of ricotta' out of yoghurt is easy and Rainy makes feta.  What sort of milk do you use Rainy?

Goats are marvellous lawn mowers.  Our next door neighbour has five goats and they keep her acres clear and clean.  Though in the summer they must need extra feed because everything is dry and brown.  Of course one of the goats has been tagged to be the sacrificial 'lamb' at easter.  

Danae and Yiannis have 'acquired' 2 golden mountain puppies.  Heaven knows what they will do with them.  They already have Spot the scots terrier and these two apparently will end up the size of a bear.  Danae gets bottles of goats milk from a friend of hers as they are still very small and aren't eating solids.  Yiannis says he will keep them and train them.  Good luck.  They must just about bowl him over now at a few weeks old.

Greek easter is on May 5th this year.  A whole month after the rest of the world.

We are well into Lent now.  Danae and Yiannis are not eating meat for the entire 6 weeks.  We will be starting as soon as we finish off Sunday's chicken.

potatoes with purple patches
anyone who knows why they have purple patches, please get in  touch

4,000 year old Mycenean bridge - just 'down the road'

Kathryn (Paul and Karen's daughter) on my quad bike
Poros waterfront
ps I wear a helmet - tho as Kathryn noted it is not 'cool' to wear a helmet here

Ancient theatre of Epidavros - also 'just down the road'