Friday 31 January 2020

Sunny Day

Another sunny winter's day.  We are enjoying the Alkyonides days, halcyon days to you.   These are days of sunshine and no wind in mid winter.   We usually have a week or two of them at the end of January and here they are, right on time. 

We haven't been down to the waterfront for a 'coffee' for ages so today seemed ideal.  We even found parking so the Gods were definitely in favour of our decision.

It was almost midday, far too late for coffee so I had a glass of red wine.  

The best red wine.  I put in my order and the waitress came along with my glass, but there was the owner of the cafe right behind her with another glass (filled much higher) of red wine.  He gave a nod to the girl and she took hers away.  'This is your red wine' , he said.  The other was from an old bottle with dregs at the bottom, not good enough for a discerning drinker.....of red wine!  

Friends passed by for a chat.  K passed the time with his worry beads.

At the next table were the daily backgammon players.  The same men play every morning, usually with a band of onlookers crowded the table. 

The lottery seller passed through, selling scratch cards mainly.
The people at this table won 5 euros. 

Another day I was need of a siesta. Red wine at lunch-time is not such a good idea

Thursday 30 January 2020

Olive and Vine

Quite a day today.  A morning of memories.   Whilst drinking my morning coffee a photo came in via Whatsap from my sister-in-law in New Zealand.  It looked as though the old family homestead was being sold.  It hasn't been in our family for over 50 years but we grew up there and have so many memories.  

There were messages zapping through the ether  between NZ, Australia, London and Greece.  Seems the kids knew better.  No it wasn't the old family home but the one next door, or was it?  That got us onto google and eventually we worked out which house had been the family home and I found photos of the interior and the gardens as it is today.  Exciting stuff!  

Some neighbours popped in with their coffee cup in hand and we discussed the day's work.  They are pruning their olive trees and this afternoon will be slaughtering little bunnies.  All in a days work if you have any sort of rural holding here.  The rabbits belong to our elderly neighbour Vaso and her children have decided it is too much work for her, so the bunnies must go.  Into the pot.  We'll be eating one of them on Sunday with stewed onions.

The olive tree we bought yesterday.  We are waiting for the same neighbour to come and dig a hole for it.  He can do that on Sunday before he sits down to eat the rabbit.

An olive tree this size  sells for 25 euros at our local garden shop.  Daylight robbery. We bought this for 6 euros

The bottle of red wine.  It wasn't such a bargain after all.  The bottle is only 1 1/2 litres, not 2 as I thought.  It is a nice light, dry red.  Very drinkable.  I had a glass and a half with lunch.  Stir fried vegetables with a few noodles thrown in.  K is still eating the left over bbqed pork from Sunday.  Today it was helped down by a greek salad and some leftover tzatziki.  

The rest will go to the neighbour's dogs.  It really is vital you get on with your neighbours here.  One helps the other.  They kill the rabbit, we cook it.  They provide the wine and the lemons.  We feed their dogs with pork bones.  K fixes their broken heater and gets their power back on when the oven trips the switch.    We get a handful of fresh eggs.  And so on.

I usually get bottles of red wine from them too but they didn't make red wine this year.  He juiced the red grapes and sold the juice.  There are not many around here that appreciate a good red wine.  

He has just popped in again to bring me a long handled cutter so I can gather the lemons at the top of the tree.  I asked him about the red wine and he says he has loads of last years and he'll bring me a few bottles.  Couldn't/wouldn't say 'no' to that!

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Away Day

A different sort of day.  One which occurs only when we must make hospital visits or get official papers stamped or like today when we got a new sticker to say our car has passed its fitness test and a new pair of glasses for me.

It always means an early start.  Mornings are dark and damp.  I don't like having to go out early in the winter.  The sun didn't really start warming me up until 11am today.  

We made the 9.10am car ferry across to the mainland.  Takes slightly more than 5 minutes to cross.  No wind and so no waves today.  And the ferry was only half full.  At least I didn't have to back the car onto the ferry but I still 'bite my nails' while K is doing the backing.  I  get into a tizzy when I have to do it myself.  I get my rights and lefts mixed up, blame that on the foreign language, but I'm still not exactly sure how to turn the wheel when the parking guy shouts 'straighten up'.  I'm one of those dithering old women who shouldn't be allowed to have a license, sometimes.  Everytime, which fortunately is not often, I swear and declare I'll leap (crawl) out of the car and demand they park the darn thing themselves.  They will if you insist but that would really be admitting I'm a dithering old tart/fart.

But K drove on today.  First on, zoom right down the back (I would be zig-zagging!) till you almost hit the bollard.  Then watch and smirk at the other drivers.

First stop, coffee and cheese pie for the road.  He's driving so I have to pull off small pieces and feed him.  No, I don't eat greasy cheese pies so early in the morning.  Upsets the stomach and we don't want that on a road trip.  But I'm the one who gets covered in crumbs and greasy, cheesy fingers breaking off small bites for the driver.

On the road again.  We have a routine.  First we listen to the news channel and then switch over to greek music.  Oh more joy.  But it keeps the driver happy.  'We' (not me) cross ourselves at every church along the route and there are quite a few of those.  I could give you a long list of them, their fiesta days, and the monasteries we pass too.  But I won't.  Half an hour later we pass into the Mythical Peloponese, so the sign says.  This is the lower part of the great greek mainland.  As well as churches and monasteries there are endless signs for ancient ruins, 4,000 year old bridges, mythical fortresses, museums, age old walk ways, bla bla bla.  Every step a trip through history.

Passing through acres and acres of citrus orchards. All the trees laden with oranges, lemons and mandarines

Second stop, the coffee shop next to the big supermarket round the corner from the ancient theatre.  Time for a quick wee and a coffee for me.  I know all the loo stops between here and anywhere!  Otherwise it would be 'crouch' over a prehistoric footpath or hide behind an ancient piece of rockery.  

Then on to the city of Nafplio.  Car fitness test, done in half an hour.  Off to order my new glasses.  Got that done in 10 minutes.  The 3rd pair of frames I tried were just perfect and they had these diddly sunshades which slide on and off too.   The have to be sent to Athens and next week will be couriered to Poros.  No hassle. 

It's market day so parking is non-existent.  We didn't go to the market.  Good I say.  It's fruit, vegetables, clothes, plants, fish, knickers.  Too many people.  We'll go to the Poros market on Friday.  Only fruit and vege.  We didn't want knickers anyway.

But just down the road where we could double park was a van selling olive trees.  Hooray.  I've been wanting to plant one in our back garden for ages.  6 euros for a tree about a metre high and guaranteed to give us enough Kalamon (kalamata) olives to fill up a few jars, so they said.

A quick stop to pick up an envelope of test results from a nearby lab for a relative and off to LIDLS.  I piled bags of macaroni and linguini in the trolley for the kids and managed to find another 40 euros of 'stuff' for us including a big bottle of red wine.  No-one around us seems to have red wine this year.  A 2 litre bottle for 2.50 euros was a bargain.  I hope I enjoy it.  All the shopping has been put away now and I can't even remember what else we bought.  I do recall vaccum packed boiled beetroot to the horror of my dear traditional husband who wants only the fresh stuff and the leaves as well.  He found  a couple of screwdrivers which I feel were superfluous.  How many screwdrivers does a man need?

Off again, this time heading for home.  We had a stop at another supermarket to pick up 4 packets of cornflakes for our neighbour.  She only eats this certain brand and it was on our route and I bought a bit more 'stuff' there as well.  We sat and had a more leisurely coffee and a ham and cheese roll (greek mpagket, french baguette )
and made it in time for the 3.30 car ferry back to Poros.  Done and dusted till another trip next week, this time for tests at a hospital, nothing serious.

Monday 27 January 2020

Spiced Camel for Epicureans

Spicy slices of cured camel.  Does that tickle your taste buds?
There is a shop in central Athens  whose pastourma is of the highest quality.  It is not always made from camel but more often  beef or water buffalo.  The camel variety is sold for 97 euros a kilo.  We were given, or gifted as they say nowadays, a few slices, not even 100 grams.  This finest meat is cut so thin you can see daylight through it's lacy slicing.  Each slice is separated and protected with it's own slice of waxed paper.  

This was kept by our ardent traditional person to serve only to those who would appreciate it with a shot (or 2) of the best local  fire water or some of his precious ouzo from a bottle found only in  select duty free, so he says. 

Every Christmas it is now his tradition to make a pie from the cheaper beef pastourma, a pie made with phyllo pastry, slices of pastourma, slices of a mild greek cheese called kaseri and fresh tomato.   

We have a few pieces now in the fridge waiting for a meeting of  epicureans, those who desire the sensual enjoyment that comes from fine food and wine.  Fine food they may find in our house, however I'm not at all sure about fine wine.  Fine wine does not usually come from a plastic bottle.

Our Epicureans also relish soudzouki, a dried spicy sausage cut into slices and fried, or kopanisti, a soft, very salty and stinky cheese brought to us by a friend from the island of Andros.  I see on the web this cheese is described as greek roquefort.  I would dispute that.  I eat and enjoy roquefort, this stuff is downright offensive.  But then I avoid ouzo and raki too.  Strong spirits need strong tastes to wash them down.

Give them a bowl of salty, tangy olives and some cured fish and they will reminisce for hours about the mezes they have eaten and the wine they have drunk.   An epicurean is happy when there is  balance between  alcohol, basic traditonal food and company that debates, discusses and philosphises.  Alcohol loosens their tongues, food fills their bellies and their company fills their day.

One friend will call another, one will proudly bring a bowl of pigs foot or pickled sardines or just some fresh boiled greens picked that day from the fields, something for all the company to enjoy.  There will be the wine from their neighbours vines or tsipouro (a very strong alcohol distiled from the remnants of the wine press) from some small village in the mountains.  The company gathers and these sessions will continue till dawn or at least till the last has staggered out the door because he must work in a few hours time.

This is the greek male way, and ever more shall be so.

1. a student of the greek philosopher Epicouros. 

For Epicurus the purpose of philosophy was to help people attain a happy, tranquil life characterised by peace, freedom from fear and absence of pain.  He advocated that people were best able to pursue philosophy by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.


Tuesday 21 January 2020

Angels et all

When you find a feather in your path you know your guardian angel is looking out for you.

When feathers are near angels appear, so they say

I'm always on the lookout for feathers in my path.  If I'm off to the doctor or some sort of exam then a feather, no matter how small and fluffy just gives me a boost.  You don't need to believe to enjoy the feeling.  Hey, there's someone up there looking down at me, even if it is just a moulting bird.

Tall grandson has a friend who won't take a knife from his friends' hands.  It has to be put on the table by the giver and picked up by the receiver or they will surely quarrel. 

The same goes for soap.  It can't be handed from one person to the other.

And scissors must be kept closed when not in use.  I've heard this before.  I left a pair of secataurs open when I had finished pruning and our neighbour closed them saying to keep them that way if I didn't want any family fights.  Now Tall grandson tells me off everytime he sees the scissors not put away properly.  Not that he believes in these superstitions, but his friend does.  Unusual for one so young in this technological age

My sister-in-law believes that an owl sitting on the house and hoooting is a sign that someone in the house will die.  I can remember at one time we had some sort of owl  which hooted nearby and she would run out to chase it away.  I guess she chased Haros* away because we are still all safe and alive.

*Haros (or Charos) is a name used for death here in Greece.
Charos was the ferryman who carried the souls across the river Styx to Hades.

So many superstitions.  You should not sweep after dark.  I agree with that one.  The light of day always shows what a terrible job you've done in the dim light.  But you shouldn't eat eggs after dark either, so I was told recently.

When you sneeze it means someone is thinking of you.  You ask someone close by to give you a 3 digit number.  Add up the number and find it's corresponding letter in the alphabet.  This is the initial of the person thinking of you.

K always clinks glasses and wishes health when drinking water or wine but believes you must never wish anyone 'good health' with coffee.

And so on and so forth ....
Bet you've got dozens in your culture too

ftoo ftoo ftoo
I spit on you all 3 times and keep the evil eye away

Saturday 18 January 2020

Seasons End

.I found this post in my 'draft' box.  Forgotten.  So here is an autumn post in mid winter

The clover in the garden is a  verdent green, the nasturtiums are rampaging.  The lettuces have been rained on a few times and are growing like mad as is the rocket (arugula) .  I love this time of the year.  The clover will soon be trying to throttle the lettuces if I'm not out there a few times a week weeding but it's still controllable at the moment.  This year I'm trying to outwit the clover (oxalis/sorrel, whatever it is) by planting rocket and some of the lettuces in pots which can be kept away from that green strangler.  It's not oxalis because it doesn't have those litte pink bulbs.  This stuff has very long tap roots and has to be dug out completely.  I cover one of the beds with newspapers but it still appears around the edges and encroaches inch by inch.  No problem.  Lettuces and cabbages are very cheap.  My garden is not a serious project.  I'm more into knitting and jam making.

Our neighbour's pomegranites are red and ripe and have started falling.  They are away now but will back soon for the olive harvest and hopefully they'll give me a bag or two.  I still have the quinces they gave me a month ago.  I look at them and sigh.  If they weren't so hard to peel and core I would have made quince paste and I suppose I will if they don't rot first.  Just hope there are no more quinces given to us along with the pomegranites.  Pomegranites are hard to 'clean' too but it's worth the effort.  We eat them in salads, by the spoonful or juice the seeds.

Grapes have been made into wine and is maturing in the barrels.  We are waiting for Vaso's son to drain off a few litres but it probably won't be till Christmas.  We have been given a bottle of this year's raki.  Powerful alcohol made from the skins and seeds of the grape harvest.

We have run out of lemons and have been begging from friends and neighbours.  Our two trees have lemons on them but they are still small and green and don't have much juice.  It has been a bad year for citrus fruit, except the grapefruit which no-one wants to eat.  The orange trees don't seem to have much fruit and neither does the bitter orange which is not good for anything but marmelade.


Wild cyclamen are carpeting the sides of the road

These strange plants  are growing alongside the cyclemen.
Apparently they are called squill.  They have a huge bulb at the base

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Following the Rules, Food and Tradition

Cooking rules that is.

I usually 'eyeball' the ingredients for whatever
I'm cooking.  After 50-odd years in the kitchen I can mostly guess the amount I need.  I know that baking, cakes and bread, is supposed to be more scientific and knowing how many grams you're using 'may' make or break your baking. However..

This Christmas was a time of change.  I followed the rules.  I weighed.  A cup of something wouldn't make the grade.  Grams were the order of these many cooking days.  Luckily I have a digital scale and it came out of the box and stayed on the bench.

But that wasn't all.  I actually followed recipes, well mostly followed.  And I, we, kept it simple.  None of that Jamie Oliver crap, boiling chicken wings and carrots to make the gravy.

Our gravy was made with the scrapings from the dish that the chook was roasted in, a bit of  brussels water and some bisto to thicken.  Flour would have done just as well.  It was the best gravy in years.  One thing I learnt was that you do really need to get rid of the fat and oil that's in there along with the scrapings.  The gravy just would not come together till I let it rest and tipped off all the fat and oil that came to the top.  

The stuffing was good old kiwi chook stuffing made with dry breadcrumbs, lots of grated onion, just the right amount of dried sage and this time I added an egg and beat that with a tablespoon of oil.  Not our best olive oil either.  Perfection.  Luckily my daughter thought the stuffing to be on the stingy side so I quicky made another lot and put that in some baking paper in a corner of the baking dish.  It was also the best we've had in years.  I've never added an egg to stuffing but I know some friends in NZ who use an egg.  Yes, that is definitely going into the recipe book.

Naturally the greek side had another menu for xmas day and they still have one Helluva lot to learn.  It was pork done  three ways at their end of the table.  Two ways too many.  

I have started a recipe book for a traditional English Christmas in this Greek house and am printing out descriptions of our xmases past to add to the folder as well.  Some of the feasts we 'enjoyed' before the economic crisis are way, way over the top.  8 years of austerity have done us a world of good.  We came through a period of western richness, then austerity and now it's back to simple and we all seem to be enjoying that freedom from over indulgence, food and otherwise.

We've come a long way in our 'learning to live with less' but we've still got a long way to go, especially the natives.

I heard how they reduce rubbish in South Korea.  Besides the recycling and  adherence to strict rules for removal of household waste they also have separate bins for food waste and are fined for every ounce extra that is thrown away.  What a brilliant idea.  It would save us so much money, by adhering to the policy, make us slimmer and healthier and protect the environment.

Thursday 9 January 2020

Burberry's to Blame

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London town

Has anyone else got this song on the brain?    

Over the last few weeks we have been bombarded by the ad for Burberry's new fragrance for women.  The song on the ad is this one in the video.  Fortunately I like it.  Classic 

I searched for it on youtube.  In the comments under every version of this song on YouTube  is the question

"Are you here only because of that damn perfume ad?"

I've listened to the song by the Cockney Rovers, sung by little  cockney Davy Jones of the Monkeys, by Queen and also Bug Flanagan, top of the billet at the London Palladium.  They must have been one of the orginals to sing it.  40s, 50s?  Or even before 

Burberry, founded in 1856, is Britain's luxury fashion house.  This is their  distinctive pattern whether in scarves, bags, coats or perfume.

Monday 6 January 2020

January 6

Let the fiestas begin.

The first fiesta of 2020 was of course New Years Day
name day of those called Vasilis or for females, Vasiliki, and our elderly and fearless neighbour Vaso.

January 6th is a public holdiday, the day the waters are blessed whether they be the Aegean, the Adriatic, the local swimming pool, river or lake.
This day the Orthodox church celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist.

Our local priests gather to throw a cross into the harbour three times.  It's attached to a long ribbon and is pulled back twice.  The third time a band of very hardy boys and girls dive into the sea to retrieve it.  They'll have to be very healthy and hardy to dive in tomorrow.  We are in the grips of a storm called Hephaestos and most of the country is covered in thick snow.  

Two of my grandaughters went swimming yesterday and boy that water was cold.  I saw a video of them making the plunge.   They didn't dive straight in. The sun was shining yesterday although the water must have been freezing.  Today the weather has changed completely.  No snow here but much lower temperatures and freezing rain.
The girls won't be diving into the sea for the cross ,  They may be rowing their boats as escort to the priests and official party.  Though it may be too rough  for small rowing boats. There are gale force winds down on the harbour. Youngest grandson would love to dive for the cross but he's on anitbiotics for a very bad chest cough.  Plenty more years to come. 

January 7 is the feast of St John, Agios  Yiannis. I  don't  know how many churches there are on the island dedicated to St John but just off the cuff I can think of 4, all with fiestas on different days, mainly in the summer when the faithful are able to celebrate  with more gusto.

 Our closest church, tiny chapel, is dedicated to St John the Theologist and the fiesta is late September.  Then there is another little church on the waterfront whose fiesta coincides with midsummer.  Up at the top of the island near the clock tower the church dedicated to St John is the oldest on the island and across the water is the church to St John where young children climb through a tiny window. Mama leaves a piece of, clean,  underwear behind to ensure good health of the child.
There is a saying around here  'Every house has a Yiannis, and a house that doesn't is not going to achieve much'.
We have a Yiannis, our son in law.  Thank goodness.  Kronia Polla Yianni.

The head of the Greek Orthodox church preapres to throw the cross into the harbour in Piraeus.  He is surrounded by the President of the Republic and all the big-wigs of the country.  Out in the harbour are 3 minesweepers and a band of  the Navy's finest, in wet suits, are ready to dive for the cross.

Saturday 4 January 2020

Best Wishes

For the last two weeks every blogger has been wishing their readers and the readers their bloggers all the very best for the coming year.  It's a positive tradition, one which brings a flash of hope and joy in this uncertain world. 

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,
If  turnips were watches I'd wear one by my side

We need positive vibes and actions around this part of the world and having said that I could easily write ALL the world.  There  once was a saying 'the Balkans are boiling', well the *Balkans are still boiling,  and the Middle East,  and now the *Eastern med.  All far too close for comfort.

*Balkans, for those of you who don't know, and I bet there are many who have no clue about this part of the world,   are
those countries north of Greece, many part of the old Yuogslavia.  Greece is also often included in the Balkans.
*Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia (Skopje), Bulgaria, Slovenia and Romania

*Eastern mediterranean countries
Greece, Turkey, Cyrpus, Israel, Italy, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Jordan
You get the gist 

Allow me to send a few more good vibes into cyber space by wishing and hoping for you all

First of all, good health.  Good health is the first wish on every greek's list on every festive occasion, and as you know there are many, many of those during the greek year.  I used to get tired of hearing 'good health',  'ygeia, ygeia' but as you get older boy do you realise how important is good health.  If you're healthy you can acheive just about anything.
And wealth.  Money can't buy health but it can certainly help.  
Money can't buy happiness either but it sure makes me happy when I can pay all my bills, dish out a few cents to the grandchildren, buy a few skeins of wool or a piece of fatty pork to cook for a family feast.
Finally, peace, whatever that means to you.  Personally I could do with a year of peace and quiet.  That's as likely to happen as world peace.

Health, wealth, peace and joy to you all

Good luck in 2020

In our greek family  each household bakes New Years bread and a sweet New Years cake, both of which have a lucky coin poked into them.  The person who finds the coin is supposed to have good luck for the rest of the year.  We still put real money into our loaves just like my mother in law did but many use a gold coloured coin-like token.  It used to be that the coin was put on display with the family icons and used to buy incense to burn in the home.   One euro will no longer buy any incense and not everyone has icons anymore. 

This is the New Yea's loaf I made to be cut at the family meal

Son in law, the man of his house cuts the loaf
The first slice is for the Virgin Mary
Second for the house
Third for the householder
Or if you have fields and crops the third piece is cut for the vines, the olives, the sheep and goats.
Then there is a slice for each memeber of the family, from oldest to youngest

The coin in this loaf went to Junior the dog

On New Years Eve after the drinking in 2020 with a bit of bubbly we cut the sweet cake.  The coin in this one went to the house and the head of the house.

This is the cake we made for our own house
The coin in this cake was between two slices and went to 2 of the grandchildren

As the church bells chimed out midnight my daughter and her husband went outside and broke a pomegranite on the doorstep and then entered the house right foot first.  All guarantees of a year of health and happiness for those that reside within