Thursday 28 November 2019

Family Olives

 family that stays together picks olives together.
It's the law of the land, family land, family olives.  Or in this case olive, single.  One olive tree in the back yard.

Our daughter's family went the whole hog and picked their olive-s this year.  You have to go the whole hog whether it's one tree or a hundred.  Out came the nets, the rakes and all the paraphernalia

Tall grandson came home for the weekend to gather the family olives  ..
I would say if that was true.  But he did help while he was here

Laying the net

A bumper crop 

Not 'bumper' enough to send to the oil press
These ones are for eating

They are picked over one by one, leaves removed, mishapen ones put aside.  
Unforunately most of them are infected with 'dako', a nasty worm which burrows into the olive.  Serious growers will spray to prevent infestation.  These olives are 100%  organic.  No sprays, no chemicals

Enough for a few bottles of home pickled olives.  First they must be soaked in water for a few days to remove the bitterness

The rest are piled under the olive tree as compost

Our neighbourhood is buzzing with olive pickers this week.  Vaso and her family have started picking and taken the first sacks to the press.  They'll be picking till well after Christmas.
Further down our road a team of Albanians are picking for a family who live in Athens and no longer come for the harvest.  The pickers receive half the oil as their 'reward' and sell it privately or sell it to the oil press.  

I went out one morning to find a friend of ours picking the olives in the field next door.  These olives are virtually abandoned but every second year they produce a heavy crop.  One of the neighbouring families picks the olives for absent owners.

The olive tree, they say,  will thrive if you leave it alone but once you start watering and giving it nutriment then you must keep on doing so.  

There are olives everywhere, even along the footpaths on Poros

Monday 25 November 2019

Food Myths

Today's truth is tomorrow's myth.  I was watching an old food programme the other day and a dietician was sprouting on about how important it is to eat breakfast, you shouldn't eat too many eggs, fats are bad and all that old stuff programmed into us for decades.  She was way past her 'sell by' date.  

 Drink red wine, its good for the heart.  Latest studies show that drinking any sort of alcohol in moderation is good for you.

 Eggs are filled with unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals.  Eat them, lots of them.  Truth.

Of course you'll possibly find, I didn't look, ten articles on the web to refute all this.  Believe what you want

Eating breakfast wasn't a commonplace thing until Kellogs and Quaker plugged the idea to sell their products.    Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day and no studies have proved it helps with weight loss.  It could have the opposite effect.  In one test people who ate breakfast ate 260 more calories than those that skipped it and weighed 1 pound more.

If you enjoy breakfast then eat breakfast. I don't. I have more energy if I leave my first meal till later

Drink 8 glasses of water a day.  I asked my doctor.  He said 'drink when you are thirsty, your body tells you what you need'.  50 years ago did everyone go around carrying a bottle of water?  No, and they were a darned healthy generation with
far less plastic pollution.

Eating fat makes you fat.  Total myth.  Increase your 'good' fat intake and reduce the refined foods!  Then you'll lose weight.  Avoid 'lite'

Brown sugar is better than white.  No. Sugar is sugar no matter  its colour and form.

Eating a lot of small meals a day will keep your metabolism revving.  Nope.  It will just give you more opportunities to overeat. Depends on the individual, your daily routine, climate and a dozen other factors as to what and when you eat.

Salt is bad for you.  The jury is still out on that one.  You need more salt in the summer when you're sweating and losing minerals 'so they say'.    

Google 'food myths' and you'll find a hundred more '.  But who really knows?  Not even my doctor.  

 Eating  5 fresh fruit and vege a day will give lots of  healthy nutrients.  That number is a bit of a myth as well but it's got be  better than eating 5 hamburgers and a couple of donuts.

Walking 10,000 steps will keep you feeling fit and happy.  The 10,000 steps  is a myth but it's a good goal to aim for.  Half that will keep you young.  My doctor says half an hour a day 3 or 4 times a week will benefit the heart.  Sounds good to me

As for super foods, eat the super foods in your own 'backyard'. What the hell are goji berries. Eat fresh cherries or blackberries, eat spinach, cook with parsley or herbs or whale blubber if you're an Eskimo.

If you keep busy with stuff that brings you joy, if you have good genes, if you avoid goji berries, if you're lucky and don't get  struck by lightening or bitten by a rabid dog then you may, possibly, live to 100 and get a telegram from the queen, only then it will be the king

Saturday 23 November 2019


Every time it rains we get an invasion of earth worms.  Huge worms.    They look like gentically modified earth worms.  They wiggle like mad and can escape from a paper towel or napkin with which I squish them with the swish of a tail.  

Everytime it rains these huge monsters somehow struggle under the front door even though there is a draught excluder glued on to the bottom of it and try to flee across the tiles .  I open the door in the morning after a downpour and there are half a dozen curled up on the doorstep.

Not nice.  I don't want you inside my house crawling under the furniture

Making a beeline for the interior
I don't want you either.  Look at the dirt they leave behind

As for these things...
at least they weren't alive when I found them, in the autumn clean up.  Called forty-feeters in greek.  Believe me I didn't count their feet.  But I did hold on to them long enough to take a photo and show the grandchildren.  Look what Nana found where you were sleeping.  Naughty Nana

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Fish, The Family Dish

The mediterranean is no longer full of fish and finally local fishermen have been stopped from discriminately putting out nets and hauling in greedily whatever is on the sea floor.  Amateur fishermen are no longer allowed to lay nets and the fish that are caught must be a certain weight and  in season.

There were always laws but mostly no-one took any notice of them.
I hope it's not too late to save what fish is left in the med.

Fortunately we have a fisherman in the family
He doesn't often go out but when he does he will bring home supper, for us and the rest of the family

Fish must be eaten 'so they say' with some sort of greens.  If we don't have a lettuce salad or some boiled greens then these big watery squash are just as welcome.  The seeds are discarded, in fact I got told off for not removing them before serving.  The squash is covered in olive oil, lemon juice and oregano

This is a very good catch.  I don't know what they are but a couple of them are small tuna.  Enough to feed four families

The family fishing boat

Sunday 17 November 2019

Edible tidbits

This post should have gone out ages ago but it somehow slipped down the list.  Never mind, it gives you another glimpse of summer as winter begins and downunder summer is somewhere in the air.

We use a lot of dill in our cooking.  In the winter a lettuce salad is not greek without some finely chopped dill.  It's essential for any spinach dish and stewed peas with tomatoes always have a good handful of fresh dill.  Or freshly frozen.  It can be hard to find in the summer so I wash it and freeze it in bunches in plastic bags.  When I need it I don't need to defrost, it crumbles easily straight into the pot

Capers are at their best in July when they are picked and preserved.  I love the leaves and the buds but leaves are hard to find.  My daughter always brings back bags of salted capers when she visits her sister-in-law on the island of Paros (not Poros). They are extremely salty which means they last for ages.  I put the capers in a big jar and fill it up with water, nothing else.  The water becomes salty and the capers less so.  I love them in salads.
We do have capers growing around us but the plant has big sharp thorns and it is a lot of hard work picking enough to pickle.  They are also mainly found on the side of the road and I'm put off by the thought of car fumes and dogs lifting legs.

The last of my sourdough.  I lost my starter when the power went off for two days.  Being mid-summer, and a heat wave, it was in the fridge and I didn't even think of it as the fridge temperature went down and the sourdough temperature went up.  By the time I found the bowl it had actually formed a thick layer of green mould.  Such a pity.  I had that starter for over 5 years.

Preparing fresh tomato sauce to freeze for the winter

A simple Greek salad
On every table at just about every meal
Thank goodness it's the season for lettuces and cabbages!


Watermelon is another summer staple.  This year we found much smaller ones with a thinner skin at the market.  They were perfect for us.  Those huge 10 kilo watermelons were just too large for two people to consume.

Friday 15 November 2019

Sweet Greek Pumpkin Pie

14 November
St Philip (Agios Filipos) in the Greek orthodox calendar.

K says it is/was the tradition today to make pumpkin pie, greek style.  He says he will grate the pumpkin, which is actually squash. You can't get real pumpkin here. Ok I say. Go and get a squash, and raisins, and walnuts. So he did. He must have been dreaming last night of pumpkin pie he's so eager to make it.

Meanwhile the in-laws from across the water phone today to  say good morning. When I mention pumpkin pie they are mystified. Seems pumpkin pie is made on St. Theodora's day, in April.

Beef is eaten on St Philips day even though the 40 fasting days before Christmas have already started.  St Filip came home hungry after working in the fields all day and slaughtered his ox (cow?) to feed his family.  When he went out to the stables the next day there was the ox alive and well.  A miracle, I would say, if I believed in miracles.  Anyway, that's why everyone around here eats beef on the 14 November

Back to pumpkin pie -

Now we have the squash, raisins, walnuts and the appetite so we make it anyway.

First prepare the squash.  Peel it, de-seed it, cut it into manageable pieces and grate it.  You need about a kilo of grated flesh for a large baking dish of pie

Hard work.  You need a strong man to grate a kilo of pumpkin

 I made the pastry myself and my man rolled that out as well.
It should really be that thin filo pastry.  He just rolled mine out as thinly as possible.

The finished pumpkin pie

And the seeds which I have dried and put aside to plant in the spring.  My squash usually do very well and I end up with 4 or 5 to harvest at the end of summer.  This year there were none.  And the NZ pumpkin seed produced leaves and flowers but no fruit.  Twas not a year for any sort of squash or pumpkin.  

Recipe for Greek Pumpkin Pie -

pastry of your choice

1 kilo grated pumpkin
4 spoons of semolina
1 cup of sugar
3 tsps cinnamon
1 level tsp ground cloves
2 cups of raisins and sultanas
1 cup crushed walnuts

icing sugar to sift over the top

Once you've grated your pumpkin then pick it up a handful at a time and squeeze all the juice out of it.  This needs a man's strong hands too.

Mix all the rest of the ingredients into the squeezed squash.

Oil or grease a baking dish.  Roll out and lay pastry on the bottom, so it over hangs.  Spoon in the filling.  Cover with another layer of pastry.

Bake at 180o for about half and hour.  Till it is nice and brown on top.  Sift icing sugar over the top.

Savoury pumpkin pie is made with feta cheese. I'll make that another day

Kali Orexi

Wednesday 13 November 2019

A Taxi Tour

The last post about our end-of-summer visitors.  As you can see, October was all about short sleeves, days on the beach and even the tortoises hadn't gone into hibernation.  

My niece visited with her two young children and had the great idea to have a taxi driver take her and the children around the island on a 'tiki-tour' as they call it in New Zealand.  As always we had a member of the extended family who fit the bill.  Manolis  is the son of the godmother of my sister-in-law's son (my greek nephew).

The last I heard he was driving the rubbish truck but he has moved on to a taxi now and can now add  'tiki-tour' guide to his curriculum vitae.

Exploring the ruins at Poseidon's temple...
inspecting the few stones that remain.  There's not much left up there now but the view down towards Vagionia Bay and the ancient harbour is magnificent.  Our kids used to love climbing over what little is left of the marble walls and even digging in the dirt.  The few marble blocks that remain are mostly fenced off now and digging is a 'no, no'  but  this site is unsupervised, free to visit and all need is a good imagination and the knowledge of a local to enjoy a brief visit.

On to the church at the monastery to light a candle and even kiss a few icons, if you're 'of the faith'.

Manolis shows them the resin from a pine tree.  Poros is covered in pine trees and once upon a time there was good money to be made tapping the trees and  collecting the sticky punguent resin.  Think maple syrup.  Well, maybe not.  But the maple tree is tapped the same way for it's syrup.  Do correct me if I'm wrong.

Meeting the 40 or so wild cats at the Church of the Holy Belt.  Kittens are often dumped here and local cat lovers come up every day rain or shine to feed them.  They are sterilised by volunteers but still seem to multiply.

Julie and her band scrambled up to the clock tower above the harbour, and explored the back streets.


Another of the highlights was a trip across the bay on the 'Socrates', the water taxi owned by my son-in-law.  They drove the boat and dived off into the sea.  Great fun!

Poros has something for everyone whatever the season!

Sunday 10 November 2019


Some countries are/were celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas.  Here in Orthodox Greece we are preparing for 2 months of name days, celebrations, church fiestas, and in our family a slew of birthdays.  But it's not all killing the fatted pig and testing this years vintage.   There are another 40 days of fasting before December 25th and that begins about now.

November 8th is the feast day of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the name day celebration of those named after them, mainly Mihalis, Matina, Angeliki and Stamatis.  Every year we go to the home of K's cousin Mihali and his wife Angeliki.  Both of them have the same name day and there is always roast pork, spinach pie, lettuce salad with pomegranite and a syrupy dessert. 

The first of winter's spinach and lettuce is ready for eating and pomegranites are at their best, still on the trees, red and ripe.

This time last year it was cold and drizzling.  Not a night you wanted to venture out.  
A few years ago, at the same time in November my brother and his wife visited from Perth, Australia.  What we remember most about the visit was the bitter cold.  We visited some of the ancient ruins wrapped up in thick jackets.

this year the evening was warm and dry.  They have a very cold house, icy marble tiles everywhere and muted colours.  Lots of grey and black, not colours to warm the eye or the soul.  Last year I froze in a light shirt.  I was relying on their central heating which they didn't turn on till half an hour after we were seated at the table.  This year I came prepared and wore a jacket.  Not necessary.
We sat and ate and chatted in a very agreeable atmosphere.

It's raining today but we are still in short sleeves.  I have put a couple of  rugs down in the bedroom and winter clothes are hanging in the closet but in the main we are enjoying this late autumn warmth.

My grandchildren are still thinking of swimming.  Someone else, my age, told me they were still swimming  in the sea and the water was em-bracing.    It won't be em-bracing me! 

10 November
The 37th year of the Authentic Athens Marathon
As usual won by a Kenyan with Rwanda coming in 2nd and for the first time in many mnay years a Greek came in at third place.

The marathon is a 42 kilometre run following the route of the original marathon runner in 490BC  from the the village of Marathon to the centre of Athens.  The authentic marathon runner in ancient times raced back to the Athenians to tell them that their army had defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.

11th November
Armistice Day

Not really celebrated around here.  I crocheted some poppies back in April before the NZ and Australian remembrance day.  Not sure what to do with them.  I suppose they could be used as Xmas decorations

17th November
Remembering the uprising of students of Athens University in 1973 which led to the downfall of the military junta.  

Usually there  is rioting  around the Parliament buildings, a ripping up of marble tiles to throw at the police, a hail of molotov cocktails and in return a cloud of tear gas.

Schools hold commemorative services and school children have a day off.

21st November
A feast day celebrating the entrance of the Virgin Mary, as a child, into the temple at Jerusalem.
Greek Armed Forces Day.  Time for ex Navy officers to attend the church service and enjoy the company of fellow officers at a local taverna
Name day of  unmarried girls named Maria

25 and 26 November
Saints Katherine and Saint Stylianos (Stelios and Stella)

30 November Saint Andreas

Those are just the more important of the holidays.  There are more!

Wednesday 6 November 2019


The greening has begun.

The nasturtiums are slowly taking over this corner. It's usually choked by clover. Time will tell which 'plant' wins

Our first tonne of olive wood has been delivered. It's still far too warm to even think about fires thank goodness but we'll be ready when the north winds blows down from the russian steppes

The shade cloth finally came down

Our white bougainvilia is in full bloom. It usually starts at the end of September when the dark magenta bougainvillia is faded and dry.
It is very  late blossoming this  year. 
The roses had withered and dried, lost all their leaves from some disease but are now leafy green with loads of buds.

The olive harvest has just begun, a few weeks later than usual.
The first olive pressings are only giving a litre of oil for every 8 kilos of olives. That is a poor result. After the next rain the olives will be plump and lush. 
These early unripe olives are full of antioxidants but produce much less oil.  
A good oil production around here is 5-6 kilos of olives to the litre of oil.

Saturday 2 November 2019


Watching the sun go down over the harbour

Filling up the shelves.  Visitors brought unavailable 'essentials'
Bisto, vanilla essence and the makings of the traditional-to-kiwis dip (reduced cream and onion soup) which only kiwis will understand

What others considered essential
Serbian raki
One made from plum and the other apricots
More drinkable than our strong grappa/raki, called tsikoudia or tsipouro here

A photo of their hi-jinks in Athens.  
Under the Acropolis in the setting sun