Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Monday 30 August 2010

My first salad (Η πρώτη μου σαλάτα)

Hello. My name is Christine. I live in Hania. I'm eight years old and I have one older brother. My father is a taxi driver but when he isn't driving, he likes to work in the garden. My mother likes to cook everything that grows in the garden. I like cooking too. I'm still too young to cook everything by myself, but I like to help my mother in the kitchen. Today, I made my first salad - all by myself.

First, I picked some tomatoes, from the garden...

... and washed them in the kitchen sink...

Then I cut off the green part of the tomato where the stem is attached to the plant and threw it away...

Then I cut the tomatoes in half...

... and cut each half into smaller pieces, and put them all on a plate.

Then I poured some olive oil and sprinkled a little salt over them.

My brother laid the table, and I placed my tomato salad in the middle...
... and we all ate it (except for my brother, because he doesn't eat coloured food) with our boureki (except for my brother again, because it;s got green things in it - my mother sometimes cooks special meals for him, like today: he's having lentils).

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Sunday 29 August 2010

St John the Chill and Fever Inducer (O Άι-Γιάννης ο Ριγολόγος)

The beheading of St John the Baptist is commemorated on this day in the Greek Orthodox Church. It is regarded as a solemn day of fasting. If one does not fast on this day, the saint will bring on chills and fever in the sinner, hence the day being dedicated to the Ριγολόγο (Rigologo); the saint's warnings bring on the chills. Among the highly observant of Greek Orthodox traditions, the fast is a very strict one: no food is allowed at all for the whole day until after sunset, when the fast is broken with oil-free vegan food. 
Icon taken from ; this is the typical way St John the Baptist is depicted in the Greek Orthodox church

There are many stories that attest to the chill-inducing characteristic when the fast is broken. This was the only day my father ever fasted, because, as he often told us, he had seen what happened to a fellow villager on this day when he broke the fast: from the moment he swallowed the food, he shook like a newborn lamb, and that didn't stop until the next day, when the symptoms left him and he returned to his normal self...

bread and olives 
"In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day." (Wikipedia)

The commemoration of the beheading of St John the Baptist is also the last major feast day in the Greek Orthodox church: the ecclesiastical year finishes on August 31, and the new calendar year begins on the 1st of September (the 1st of January commemorates St Basil and Christ's circumcision), unlike in the Western Christian churches, which celebrate the beginning of the religious calendar at Advent). In many ways, this parallels other siginificant seasonal events occurring at this time of year, namely that it is reminiscent of the end of summer, when Persephone must leave her mother Demetra and return to her husband Hades in the Underworld...

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Fanouropita (Φανουρόπιτα)

Lost something? Want to discover something? There is still time...

Tomorrow is dedicated to Άγιος Φανούριος, St Fanourios, in the Greek Orthodox church, whose icon was found in the Byzantine period on the island of Rodos (Rhodes). The attribute associated with St Fanourios in popular tradition is that he is the finder of lost objects, as his name suggests: in the Greek language, φανερώνω (fanerono) means reveal. Breads and cakes are baked in his name and offered at the church in the vespers (the night before the feast day) or the morning service (on the feast day), which are then blessed by the priest and shared among the congregation. In this way, the maker of the cake has hope that their lost object may be found. For the same reason, unmarried women may bake a cake in his name, in the hope of discovering the name of their husband (there is no account of the vice versa happening!), and sick people may do the same in the hope that a cure will be found to treat them of their ailment; the 'lost object' takes on a metaphorical meaning: luck, fate, destiny. St Fanourios is often depicted carrying a candle like a torch, looking for something. 

Although St Fanourios was a saint, his mother apparently did no good during her time on earth, according to one version of the story of his life:
"Η μάνα του Αγίου δεν ηκαμε καλό ποτέ τζη. Μόνο ένα κρομμυδύφυλλο ήδωσε μια βολά σ'ένα διακονιάρη. Σαν απόθανε ήβραζε σ'ένα καζάνι με πίσσα και ο Άγιος αρώτησε: α-Γιάντα η μάνα μου είναι εκειά μέσα;
Ο Μιχαήλ Αρχάγγελος τ'απηλοήθηκε: -Γιατί δεν ήκαμε ποτέ καλό. Να ρίξομε το κρομμυδόφυλλο που ήδωσε κι ανέ τηνέ σηκώσει να βγει επάνω, να σωθεί...
Ερίξανε το κρομμυδόφυλλο και η μάνα ντου βγήκε στα χείλια του καζανιού μαζί με τρεις άλλες γυναίκες που πιαστήκανε κι αυτές από το κρομμύδι. Μα η μάνα ντου τώσε δίνει μια σπρωξιά και πέφτουνε πάλι μέσα. Τοτεσάς λέει ο Αρχάγγελος: Θωρείς πως κι επαέ είναι ακόμη κακή.
Τοτεσάς ο Άγιος Φανούριος ζήτησε μια χάρη: Να μην πηγαίνουνε πράμα γι'αυτόν, μόνο για τη μάνα ντου για να λένε να τση συγχωρέσει ο Θεός..." (quotes found in
The above text about the mother of St Fanourios has been written in the Cretan dialect. This is not surprising, since the saint is more highly revered on the island than in other parts of Greece. The churches that are named after St Fanourios take on a more celebratory nature during this time: racks are brought in, tables are laid out, people arrive with their cakes and breads, and the priest blesses them during the service.

The vegan cake baked in St Fanourios' honour (called φανουρόπιτα, fanouropita) is the Greek version of gingerbread, resembling a sweet bread rather than a cake. Although it doesn't contain ginger, this spice could easily replace the traditional ground cloves and cinnamon. It also has special properties: it must be made with seven or nine ingredients. Apparently, this is not up to chance, as the power of  7 or 9 is well known in prophetic or magical practices! In keeping with the tradition of 'finding things', the cake batter always contains spices and dry fruits; as you eat it, your teeth will 'find things' in it! The cake also uses typical Greek-inspired ingredients like olive oil and orange juice, two products my island has a plenty of. 

St Fanourios parish in New Jersey provides a simple recipe in English, which is the one I used to bake a small fanouropita yesterday. Most fanouropita recipes are based on this one. To maintain the idea of the 7 or 9 ingredients, use self-raising flour and a spice mixture to give yourself more leeway!

As Allison says, the cake is a forgiving one, because it is very easy to make; Allison also makes fanouropites for charity in New York. Recipes abound on the web for fanouropita, so you can easily make one of your own. Mixing olive oil and flour is a tricky business - if there is too much flour, the batter will thicken too quickly and won't be able to be poured into the baking tin easily. As you add the flour to the oil mixture (containing spices, orange juice, brandy or water and raisins and/or walnuts), keep stirring the mixture without stopping, until you are ready to pour it into the baking tin to cook. Some people dust the cake with cinammon-scented icing sugar once it's cooked after it has cooled down a little.

The timing of the feast is an appropriate one: the summer heat is waning and the weather is slightly cooler on the saint's feast day, just when a spicy cake will go down well with a cup of tea in the evening.

UPDATE 26/8/2012 - The link that I used to make my fanouropita doesnt seem to be working. Here is a similar recipe:
1 ποτήρι λάδι (1 cup olive oil)
1 ποτήρι ζάχαρη (1 cup sugar)
1 ποτήρι χυμό πορτοκάλι (1 cup orange juice)
1 κουταλιά κουταλιά ξύσμα πορτοκαλιού (1 tablespoon orange zest)
3 ποτήρια αλεύρι που φουσκώνει μόνο του (3 cups self-raising flour)
1 κουταλάκι σόδα (1 teaspoon baking soda)
1 κουταλιά κανελογαρύφαλα (1 tablespoon cinammon and clove spice mixture)
1/2 ποτήρι καρύδια χοντροκομμένα (1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts)
1/2 ποτήρι μαύρες σταφίδες (1/2 cup raisins)

Χτυπάμε το λάδι με τη ζάχαρη, προσθέτουμε το ξύσμα και το χυμό του πορτοκαλιού και τέλος το αλεύρι ανακατεμένο με τα υπόλοιπα υλικά. Αδειάζουμε το χυλό σε ταψί Νο 28 και ψήνουμε σε μέτριο φούρνο για 45-50 λεπτά. Όταν κρυώσει λίγο, πασπαλίζουμε με ζάχαρη άχνη." (Νίκος & Μαρία Ψιλάκη, "Το ψωμί των Ελλήνων και τα γλυκίσματα της λαϊκής μας παράδοσης").

Beat the oil with sugar (REALLY WELL), add the zest and orange juice, and beat again (REALLY WELL), then add the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter into a 28cm diameter baking tin. Cook 40-50 minutes in a moderate oven (180C). When cold, you can also 'ice' it with a dusting of icing sugar. (From Psillakis N and M "The bread of the Greeks, and the sweets of our traditions").

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

The baker (Ο φουρνάρης)

It's very difficult to write a post in Gringlish, because, as a trained linguist, I'm not much in favour of its use, nor did I ever use it much myself...

Eleni entered the house with her key, and without looking at the wall, raised her free hand to the wall and pushed the light switch. The light didn't come on. She flicked it back up, and tried again, still clutching the supermarket carrier bag and the shoulder strap on her handbag. Still nothing happened. She walked to the kitchen and lay down all her bags on the table. From there, she spotted her husband sitting in his favorite armchair, watching the news. All the lights were out, save the small lamp in the corner of the living room, which had been dimmed.

"Hey, Demo," Eleni called out, "the phota's not working." Demostheni made a small mumbling sound, which didn't give away any idea of whether he knew about the light problem or not.

"Dja hear me, Demostheni?" Eleni asked again. "The light in the hol's not working."

"I heard 'ja!" Demostheni called back. He had been having a quiet snooze, when his wife's calls broke the silence.

"Well, are ya gonna fix it?" she snapped. She had just come home from her afternoon laundry job at the local hospital, and was understandably not in the pleasantest of moods.

first day prozimi sixth day prozimi
My favorite bread is made with prozimi - sourdough starter that doesn't contain yeast. After 10 days, the starter is ready to be used in bread-making.

"Well, who dja take me for?" snapped Demostheni back. "The ilektrilogo?" Before he had nodded off in front of the box, Demos had been working in the garden. He did a lot of work in the garden, so much so that all his neighbours were constantly complimenting him on his weed-free plots and carefully aligned crops, which he had planted with the use of a tape measure and laser level that one of their grandchildren had given him for Christmas.

"Still haven't fixed the tap, have ya?" Eleni was whinging again.

"Now you think I'm the idravliko, too," he whined back.

"Well, whaddy dja learn all those years when you were working on the oikodomi?" Eleni was particularly annoyed with the tap, as it had been dripping for the past month. In the beginning, the tap was dripping ever so slightly, and the size of the droplets was so small that it could hardly be felt. But it was not so much the wasted water that she was thinking of; it was the noise that the heavy droplets made as they pelted onto the hollow of the stainless steel sink. At night, if she left the bedroom door open, the noise prevented her from sleeping.

To avoid waste when making the sourdough starter, you can bake this baguette with the extra starter.

Remembering his wife's reprimanding voice in the morning before she left for work, Demostheni tried to downplay his negligence. He had meant to fix the tap (he had been promising to do so for the last week) and the bulb (which he had discovered after he had come home from the klap* an hour before Eleni), but couldn't find where Eleni kept the new light bulbs. Since his retirement, he was becoming concerned about his sanity, as he had the idea that he had become slightly forgetful. But he was also conscious of the fact that retirement wasn't living up to the hype that some people made it out to be. He was purposely slowing down his pace so that he didn't run out of things to do now that he wasn't working.

Sometimes, there was never enough time in the day, like when his children asked him to look after the grandchildren to run their errands, while at other times, like when the grandchildren were in the care of the other grandparents (they all chipped in to make things easier for all of them), there was just too much time on his hands. Once he had finished with the garden that morning, Eleni left for work, and he felt the house too empty for his liking. After cleaning himself up, he decided to take a stroll down to the klap, where he met a few more of his retired Greek friends, and stayed there till sundown. He walked back home so that he would be there when Eleni would be coming an hour later. As he entered the gate of their house, he noticed the letterbox slightly ajar; the letters were just bilia, since no one wrote letters any more, they just telephoned, not like in the old days. As he entered the house, he flicked the light switch to turn on the lights; that's when he discovered the bulb had gone out.

It's not a lie to say that the best bread in Europe is not found in Greece...

He wondered if that was what Eleni had told him to do before she left for work. Had she discovered the light had gone before she left for work? But how could she, since it was still daylight? But she DID tell him to do something, he did remember that. He had begun worrying about  getting Alzheimer's, which is why he always tried to keep himself busy. He had once asked his GP about this once. Dr Kefalas had told him that Greeks are generally quite resilient people, and although there has been an increase in cardiac disease and cancer hitting many community members, they usually didn't suffer from senility. "We Greeks are very family-oriented," he explained to him, "we keep ourselves busy raising the next generation, and are usually involved in family life till the day we die. We don't need to do stavrolexa to keep ourselves occupied, do we?" At this, they both laughed, and Demostheni felt slightly comforted. 

After fumbling around trying to find a new bulb, he gave up, and turned on the TV. He didn't always understand what was being said on the television, but at his age, he didn't really care any more. It probably didn't concern him directly, he thought, and even if it did, one of his children was bound to update him with any of the latest developments in his adopted home country. He knew more about what was happening in Greece, because he was connected to Greek cable TV. He had done a quick zapping round, and found nothing of significance playing on any of the channels (the day/night hours were reversed and there was no news program on at that moment). A documentary about wildlife on the Discovery Channel captured his interest. The moving pictures numbed his mind a little, and made him sleepy. Before he knew it, he was dozing away.

breakfast in london
I always wonder how my parents managed to live in NZ and not protest about the quality of their daily bread...

"Didja cut the horta at least?" 

So that was what Eleni had told him to do. He'd been working on the vegetable garden, and had forgotten all about the lawn, which was accessed via the patio, where they had planned to have a barbecue lunch the next day (being a Sunday), weather permitting, to celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary. He had forgotten to mow the lawn. He was just about to open his mouth when his wife raised her hand in the air, like a traffic officer, directing the vehicles to stop.

"I know, I know, ya not a kipouro, either. You did ra-pess all day." Eleni was now sorting out the shopping she had brought back from the supermarket. She had planned a simple meal for the family, BBQ meat (Demostheni would be cooking it along with their two sons), two salads and a large tin of roast potatoes. If she had had the time, she would have liked to have made some kalitsounia, a pastitsio and maybe a karidopita for dessert, although she knew that the children would bring along something sweet themselves. Although she loved her children and their families, she had gotten tired of cooking for large groups. She was glad that she was only cooking meals for herself and Demostheni these days. Not that she preferred to buy takeouts or go out for a meal - not at all. She was just glad that this tiresome part of her previous life was not taking up so much of her time, not to mention her mind. When the boys were πάνω στην ανάπτυξή τους, they seemed to go through so much food, which Eleni would prepare herself. She would make everything herself from scratch. In her older age, though, this tired her out. She was thankful to experience relief in this field of her duties.

Stathi and Julie always bought some ice cream: Neapolitan for the adults and orange chocolate chip for the children. Stathi always looked forward to eating at his parents' place. His wife wasn't Greek, so she didn't cook Greek food like his mama. He never cooked like his mama either, since he had always had mama to cook for him. Eleni still found it disconcerting to see him wearing an apron whenever she visited Stathi on his nameday, or on one of the grandchildren's birthdays. She found it much easier to relate to Stavros's wife, Maria. She always bought along something home-made. It wasn't always a Greek dessert, but it generally fitted into the Greek taste spectrum, like a tiramisu, which she had learnt to make from her Italian sister-in-law, or a cold dessert like a gliko psigeiou, made with biscuits, custard and cream.  Despite her Greek nationality though, there were times when even Maria seemed a stranger to Eleni. The conversation might be flowing smoothly, when all of a sudden, Maria might make mention of "that really good chicken dinner that Stavros cooked", or how "Stavros irons his own shirts". She knew that young people were more liberal about the idea of the separation of the sexes, but it still struck her as strange to think that her sons were doing housework that she had never expected them to do when she was raising them.

aithrion cassandra halkidiki
Few tavernas make their own bread for their business - this bread, which we enjoyed at a taverna in Halkidiki, close to Thessaloniki, was very good...

She wasn't sure if she was looking forward to retirement. She was due to pick up her first pension payment in five months, a few days after she turned 65. Her children did not burden her with chores such as babysitting (Demostheni was taking care of things in this field at the moment), because they knew she was working. But would they continue to respect her private time after she retired? She did not like to air her views too loudly, and had not said anything to the children about the changes she would make to her life once her daily routine changed. She had been pestering Demostheni about taking a holiday to the homeland as soon as she retired, as they had done five years earlier when he retired, as a way to gather her thoughts and find some quiet time away from family commitments, but her husband was still dithering about it. His excuses seemed lame to Eleni: he had mentioned possible health issues, budget problems, the children not being able to cope without their help. The last one particularly annoyed Eleni, who had no help in raising their sons when they were young. Even though one of her brothers lived in the same suburb as her, she never felt that closeness with him that other Greek families had among their own kin. She had lived pretty much an insular life with her nuclear family, and still kept herself distant from the mainstream immigrant community. Apart from greeting other Greeks at church on Sunday, she had little to do with them otherwise, and not necessarily because she was still working.

Demostheni came into the kitchen just as she had put away the last of the shopping items. He often felt lost in the kitchen. It was clearly marked as his wife's domain. She ruled the roost here. Even after so many years of marriage, he still couldn't get used to her system of organisation in her domain. He was wondering what was for dinner. Eleni sensed his reticence; she had been married long enough to know him well enough, without the need for words to be exchanged. She opened the bread bin and took out a sliced loaf.

lemonia hiliomoudou hania chania
... it came close to the quality of this one in a small taverna in Hiliomoudou, Hania. 

"Wanna have some cheese on tost for dinner?" she asked him in a neutral tone, trying to appease the situation and stop it from turning into a pointless argument.

"Yeah," he agreed, "nice idea, nice idea... I'll slice up a few domates to have a salata with that," he offered, feeling guilty for not having prepared the salad before his wife had come home. "We'll fix all the other problems tomorrow then, OK?"

"Nai, kala, tha doume" Eleni replied. She did not have much faith that anything would be fixed tomorrow. Before she could think too much about that issue, there was a knock at the back door.

"Good evening, Mr Demos." Bronwyn, their tenant, had come to pay them his fortnightly rent. Once the boys moved out, they began to convert the large garden shed at the back of the garden into a granny flat, to supplement their income. They only began renting it six months ago, to an English girl who had left the UK for a working holiday abroad. In the winter months when it wasn't feasible to be outdoors, it didn't occur to them that a tenant could be such an intrusion into their daily lives. Now that the weather was better, Demostheni was outdoors most of the day, which wasn't as bad as it sounded, because the tenant was often away during those hours. They felt that it was only right to inform her about the BBQ they had planned. Not only did she not have no objection to it, but she seemed surprised that they would ask her permission in the first place. They would have invited her too, but she told them that she had planned to be away that day anyway, presumably with her boyfriend, a Kiwi chap they had often heard and seldom seen coming and going from the flat at odd hours of the day and night. They had stated "1-bedroom flat to let" in the newspaper ad, and presumed  readers would understand that it wasn't very large and would be suitable for only one person, but they forgot to count on the visitors of the opposite sex.

bread supermarket inka haniachania
Our local supermarket sells reasonably good bread, which comes from a bakery (it is not baked on the premises - we don't have that kind of supermarket bread in our stores - yet).

"You didn't expect her to be a kalogria, did you, Mum?" joked Stavros when they mentioned this business to him.

Stathi was even more jovial: "At least it's the same inglezo and not a different one every night."

Demostheni also got into the act: "Now we know she's not a lesvia."

"Papste oli sas," Eleni shut them up. "How do you know she doesn't speak Greek?"

*** *** ***

Since retirement, Demostheni's sleeping patterns changed quite drastically. He always woke up once in the night, something he attributed to aging, as many of his friends complained of the same thing, that they never slept right through the night. At those time, he'd get up and go to the toilet. Not that he really needed to go; he felt that his tossing and turning would wake up Eleni. He left a pile of newspapers and magazines to browse through while he waited to feel drowsy again. Turning on the TV felt too immoral. He'd never watched TV to make him drowsy, nor was there a TV in the bedroom. So he had to wait it out, and eventually went back to bed, where sleep would gradually come back to him. Now that he was retired, he didn't have any reason to wake up too early. Eleni was always out of bed well before him. Last night, he found it difficult to go back to sleep too quickly. He had heard noises in the night, coming from the back garden. The noises were not at all loud, but they were faintly discernible in the peace and quiet of their home in suburbia, in as area where most people were owner-occupiers and had been living in the same house for many years, so that there were not so many young children around to make that much noise, and the residents were in the older age-group. He did not venture outside to investigate, out of fear of being attacked. Night time in suburbia was safest indoors, especially in these days of rising crime figures.

When he finally did get up, he noticed it was a little later than usual. The hour was past nine. He only slept in occassionally in this way, but this morning, he felt guilty, because he knew Eleni would be up preparing the midday lunch. He went to the kitchen, where he found her slicing cucumbers, in preparation for the celebratory lunch. He greeted her with the customary "Kalimera", as he always did every morning. 

"Happy anniversary to us, remember?" she said with a smile on her face.

Kati skaronei, he thought. She usually waited for him to remember birthdays, namedays and anniversaries. For her to say it first, it was a sign that something had happened. She was even smiling.

"Ti eyine?" His own smile was laced with suspicion.

"Coffee?" She picked up the briki and went to the tap without waiting for him to answer. Just as she was about to turn it on, he realised that the leaky faucet could no longer be heard.

home made white bread
Making bread has a soothing quality about it. 

"How dja fix it, then?" he asked.

"Same way I fixed the phota," she answered smugly.

"OK, OK," he replied apologetically. "I'll get to the horta as soon as I have my coffee."

"Already taken care of," said Eleni.

Now he was in shock. Eleni had never mowed the lawn. He always did - in his own time, of course. It was a bright sunny day. He looked out the window to the garden. Sure enough, the lawn was as short as an army cadet's cropped haircut.

He was dumbfounded. "So I suppose you want me to tell you to gratsoulayshon." Eleni carried on stirring the coffee in the briki without saying anything.

"Who dunnit?" he demanded, frowning.

Eleni didn't speak up immediately. She waited for two seconds, hovering over the stofa stirring the coffee in the briki, just enough time to maintain the suspense. "The yeitona," she finally said in a firm tone.

"What neighbour?" Demostheni was wondering where this was leading to.

"The noikari's". She was staring intently at the coffee cup now, diligently pouring it into the demi-tasse.

"Bronwyn did everything?"

"Nohhhhh!" Eleni laughed. "Her inglezo boyfriend did."

"Her boyfriend? He was here again?"

"I saw him leaving at about the time I got up." Eleni had always been an early riser. She was a morning person, and appreciated that short quiet period when she could enjoy her coffee in complete silence with a view to the garden, and a chance to see what the weather would be offering for the day, as well as watching Bronwyn waking up and whether she had any overnight visitors. Since Demostheni's retirement, this was her first opportunity to savor life on her own, and she found that she enjoyed it. She wished it would last longer; eventually her husband would also get up and the solitudal bliss would be over. They were so used to being in each other's way now that it not bother them. But in those short periods that they realised that they were alone (without being lonely), they felt at peace. It was during those early morning solo periods that Eleni had discovered Bronwyn's overnighter, and the fact that it was the same person whenever she chanced to see him.

"Well," said Demostheni impatiently, "did you just go out there in your nihtikia and ask him if he was a mastora?" At other times he may have enjoyed the joke himself, but today, he felt that his wife's actions constituted a breach of trust. Bringing a stranger into their home in the early hours of the morning was completely out of turn. He was also annoyed that he had been caught sta prasa, so to speak. Sunday was lawn-mowing day for most of the neighbours in the area, and they had become so accustomed to hearing everyone's machines (though there were some less noisier models available now), that he was used to their grinding sounds, and slept through the noise that was coming from his own back yard.

"I invited him in for a cup of coffee afterwards, but he said he didn't have time for that today."

"Where was Bronwyn all this time?" Demostheni suddenly remembered that Bronwyn had declined their invitation to the BBQ.

"She was in the flat. They left together in his karo after he mowed the lawn." She didn't stop to look up at him, not even once, while she narrated the morning's events. She was now slicing the spring onions. "I invited him round tomorrow on my day off to help me mouvaro some furniture."

"What furniture?" asked Demostheni. His wife was on a shooting round, firing bricks without waiting for him to catch his breath.

"Oh," Eleni stopped slicing the onions and stared at the wall, pretending to think hard. "I was thinking of redecorating one of the boys' rooms," she continued, "and turning it into a sewing room, so that I can have something to do now that I'm going to be getting sintaxi soon."

Demostheni was taken aback at this. She had never mentioned redecorating, or even needing a room to herself. And if she did think about it, why hadn't she asked him for help in the first place?

"Stathi and Stavros could help you to do that; they're both gonna be here today!" he exclaimed. His day had not started off very well. "You didn't have two sons foronathee!" he reminded her pretentiously.

"O, saddap yo fes, it's a yiorti," she reminded him. "There's no need to put them to any fasaria today."

"No," Demostheni retorted, "you saddap!" He was now livid from what he had just heard. His wife was making plans behind his back, and had even invited complete strangers into his house.

"And did you ask him what he charges?" he was now smiling sarcastically. " I mipos to kanei tzamba?"

Eleni remained astute. She still did not look up at Demostheni as she spoke.

"Of course he doesn't do it for free, and of course I promised him a little something," she replied firmly. "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

Demostheni was at a loss for words. He wasn't able to think as fast as the shots were being fired. "Gonna do a bit of home-baking for him, are ya, maybe some fresh bread?"

This is some of the best bread I have ever made; baking bread is difficult in the Greek summer because it heats up the house unnecessarily. 
bread slice

"Bake him some bread?" Eleni scoffed. "Have you ever seen me bake bread? Who do you take me for, the fournari**?"

* klap: Greek men's club, where they play cards and have a drink together

The average Greek immigrant couple-  observe their clothes, the woman's position in the kitchen and the way the man doesn't get up from his chair...

**This story is based on a Greek joke, which ends with the wife telling her husband that she promised to have sex with her handyman, for the same reason that Eleni doesn't bake bread.

Special thanks to my two editors on opposite sides of the coast.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Friday 20 August 2010

I don't do greens (Όχι πράσινα για μένα)

My son reminds me every now and then, when I offer him a piece of garden fresh cucumber that has been placed in the fridge and is more refreshing than a glass of water on a hot day, or a serving of freshly prepared horta or salad, or a vegetarian zucchini pattie, that he doesn't do greens, or reds, or purples, or yellows for that matter, because when it comes to fruit and vegetables, he is a picky eater. He generally likes his food white: plain servings of rice, bread, pasta and potatoes are his favorite meals, with olive oil and cheese his favorite condiments. Coloured food reminds him of the marker pens he uses when he does drawings. He claims that vegetables have been artificially coloured; nature's colours are more representative of true colour than any hi-tech graphics.

The other day, I was doing some creative cookery for a friend. I recycled some of my old recipes to make some cupcakes. I got the idea of using different cake batters to create an interesting effect, both visually and taste-wise, from some 'hamburger' cupcakes which I had seen on the web. The cupcakes I wanted to make for my friend had to conform to a number of features:
  • they must be easy to make
  • they must contain natural colouring agents
  • they must contain ingredients known in Greek cooking
  • they can be promoted as 'healthy'
  • they must be visually different from the average cupcake
I came up with the idea of using olive oil (a Greek ingredient) instead of margarine or butter, in a basic cupcake mixture (easy to make), using fruit and vegetables (healthy) to give flavour and colour (natural), with the use of layering cake batters to make them visually different.

The cupcakes turned out quite dense and filling: for this reason, when I perfect the recipe, I will make them in smaller patty cases. The visual appearance of the cupcake was supposed to show three different coloured layers, but this didn't work out for me, even though the three different cake batters were all made from different ingredients; before the batter was cooked, they each had their own distinct colour: red (cocoa and beetroot), yellow (banana) and brown (cocoa and zucchini).

CIMG9882 muffins for liz muffins for liz muffins for liz muffins for liz
I rarely cook these days without thinking about the health value of the food I will be preparing. Any mother will tell you how difficult it is to ensure that children are eating healthy meals, even if they do not eat outside the home environment, like my own children. A word of advice: don't let the kids watch you making these cupcakes. It's best to keep some things secret.
muffins for liz muffins for liz
Now you see me, now you don't; the beetroot batter was clearly distinguishable from the zucchini batter before being cooked, but not afterwards - can you spot the beetroot cupcakes among the cooked ones?

I was disappointed: to create something as healthy as I desired, I realised that I would have to risk reducing the amount of cocoa in the vegetable mixtures, so that the colours of the vegetables would be more visible. Apart from the few green shavings of zucchini on the top of the cupcakes that did not manage to remain camouflaged by the cocoa powder, the cooked beetroot and zucchini batters were not distinguishable to the untrained eye.

muffins for liz
Fruit and vegetable cupcakes: the bottom layer has beetroot and cocoa, the middle layer contains banana, and the top layer has zucchini and cocoa.

I ended up with a small amount of grated zucchini and beetroot, left over from the different cake batters, so I made another 'chocolate' cake, adding both vegetables to the same batter. From the visual cupcake experience, I decided that there will be little difference in the taste if I threw the beetroot and zucchini mixtures into the same cake batter.

I was right. This cake proved immensely popular this summer with my "I don't do greens" man.

cocoa vegetable cake i dont do greens
"I don't do greens," he insisted. "I know," I assured him.

This kind of cake mixture gives a rather dense batter, using only two eggs. The grated vegetables make it heavier than other cakes. By controlling the amount of baking soda/powder used, the cake will rise accordingly - less for cupcakes, more for a cake. This is important if you don't want to create an overspill effect in the paper patty cases, to give a more professional look to your cupcakes. My only problem with the taste is that this kind of cake does not turn out very sweet; I didn't use more than the stated sugar amount for my chocolate zucchini cake.

Most people will complain that the cake tastes more like a chocolate bread than a cake. This is why this kind of cake makes a good breakfast meal; a piece of cake with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee will keep you going all morning. To make it a little healthier, I added a cup of muesli (which I renamed 'cornflakes' to the children) to the batter, making this cake a truly healthy breakfast meal. This cake replaced the usual 'cocopops in milk' bowl; how many kids do you know that get up in the morning and have a serving of beetroot, zucchini and muesli mixed into their bread?!

If the cake is going to be served as part of an afternoon tea or dessert, it needs to be accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a syrup. I topped it with a chocolate syrup made in the same way (without adding the egg yolks) as for my chocolate boiled cake (hence the slightly glazed look on the top of the cake).

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Coleslaw (Λαχανοσαλάτα με μαγιονέζα)

Today being the Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Happy Nameday to all of us called Panayiotis, Panayiota, Depsina and Maria - except in Crete, where only married women celebrate their nameday today: the unmarried ones are relegated to celebrating their nameday on November 21, the Feast of the Presentation to the Church of the Virgin Mary...

The table had been set on the covered balcony. A long white broderie anglaise tablecloth covered the wooden buffet table, with the edges embroidered in red cross-stitch. Along with the chairs forming the outdoor furniture, they were some of the very few household goods items that Zoe had not bought from the States when she and her family decided to move back to the πατρίδα, once her parents retired. They left soon after they had completed the necessary paperwork allowing them to pick up their pension payments in Greece; this all took place nearly a decade ago.

Everything in their former home had been carefully packed (with the word 'fragile' written clearly on the outside of the parcel where appropriate), and repatriated to their new home on the island, which had been built according to plans made by a Greek architect who lived in the States. The house had a slanting roof on the front facade, which looked out onto a busy traffic route on the hilly road where the house was situated. This road hadn't yet been paved by the local council, which always made this modern building look slightly out of place in the area, as though it was still under development. The back part of the house which led to the garden had a few glass bricks set in the walls to let in the light, while the front consisted mainly of glass doors, with green iron gratings covering them. The windows did not have shutters, as Zoe had deemed them unnecessary, since she wasn't used to them in the first place; the only other home she had ever known was the two-storey house in New Jersey where her family had previously lived, and whenever the locals asked her if the hot Mediterranean sun bothered her, she gave the excuse that having shutters and thick curtains was like doubling up on items that did the same job. The air-conditioner sufficed to keep the temperature to a tolerable level during the summer, which lasted nearly seven months of the year, as Zoe was to find out once she moved to Greece permanently; before that, she'd only been coming to Greece on her family's annual two-week summer holiday.

Zoe took great pride in the way she decorated her house on that one time in the year that it was opened up to the family's guests, on the day of her husband's nameday. In the middle of the table was a large carved watermelon, in the shape of a gigantic rose. She had paid good money for this to be made specially for the event, and had asked the sculptor - a local restaurateur who often sculpted various squash and melons to decorate his own business - to ensure its freshness by not starting it earlier than on the evening before the day's planned event. Everything had to be perfect for the day.

This year, she had decided on a Mexican theme. On top of the white tablecloth, she had placed two large orange tassled sashes stretching the length of the table. The thick terracotta plates were set on woven brown placemats which had a colourful daisy design on their outer rim. Zoe had acquired these items (among many others) over the years from the sales in the large department stores in her Jersey hometown. At the end of every season, she would add a few bits and pieces to the miscellaneous stash in her trousseau. In the case of the terracotta plates, she had never quite got round to using them. it was quite a task to coordinate all the accessories so that they gave off the right air. Panayiotis couldn't understand why she had taken down the overly large framed photo of their wedding - the most glamorous the village had ever seen - and replace it with a cone-shaped hat.

"It's a sombrero, Panos," she informed him. She often spoke to her husband using a schoolteacher's voice. She did not expect him to 'know' as much as she did, which she put down to her foundation college education. Panayiotis had barely finished Greek high school and had never been out of the country before they met; Zoe did not expect him to be as well versed in general trivia as she was herself. She felt obliged to educate her husband on global knowledge. "A sombrero," she continued, "is the hat men wear in Mexico." Not that she had been to Mexico in the first place. She was simply relaying what she had seen in pictures and travel brochures. Many of her American Greek friends had been to Mexico on their honeymoon. She would have done the same had she stayed there and married Aristides. But she didn't; she came to Greece the following summer after their break-up, convinced herself that she had fallen in love with a local man, and got married here. After the wedding ceremony, the happy couple left for the States, so that Zoe could introduce Panayiotis to Jersey, so that all her friends and acquaintances could meet him. Zoe had taken her honeymoon in her hometown. It was Panayiotis' first and last trip out of the country. 

The invited guests all seemed to have turned up, more or less at the stated time (she had specifically told them individually over the phone not to arrive too much later than the stated hour), It was time to get the rice cooking for the pilafi. Zoe dialed her mother's telephone number. Her parents lived in a small apartment, kind of like a bachelor pad, that they had built next to the garage of the main property, their daughter's house, to give Zoe and her husband some privacy. The original plan was to build a classic upstairs-downstairs Greek house, maximizing on building space on the modest plot of land they had bought with their hard-earned dollars, but Zoe had objected. She wanted a house, not an apartment. Her father's original idea to grow a large vegetable garden in his retirement had to be downgraded.

"Έλα μαμά," she spoke quickly, "το πιλάφι, OK?"

"Ναι παιδί μου," her mother spoke softly, "θα το βάλω τώρα." She had hardly got the words out of her mouth when Zoe had already hung up. 

The guests were seated both indoors and outdoors, enjoying the view which looked out to the small island of Thodorou. They had all come to Zoe's house carrying their customary little gifts: some bought sweets and πάστες from the zaharoplasteio, others bought decorative ornaments from the cheap glassware shops in the main town, and the ex-pat Americans carried little reminders of her former home that Zoe did not often recall, but which created a slight flutter in her heart and a surge of nostalgia in her mind every time she opened the carefully wrapped presents, complete with ribbons and decorative motifs: Hershey's chocolate kisses, Betty Crocker pancake mixture and pistachio pudding Jell-O, all staple party foods at the huge buffet tables of the parties of her American friends, both Greek and not, which they held in their equally large houses.

When she heard the two short rings of the telephone, the agreed signal from her mother, she knew that the pilafi was ready. She sent Panayiotis down to her mother's to bring the pot. As the hostess of the event, she felt she could not abandon the scene herself, especially since her cousins had arrived with their young children. She was very worried that an accident might take place right before her eyes. Her previous evening's dreams included visions of glasses of coloured liquids - coke, juice, red wine - spilt onto the plush beige denim twill couch and feather pillows, plates and glasses laid precariously at the table's edge and being smashed into smithereens once they fell off the table, and palm prints on the window and oily fingers touching the taffeta curtains.

Zoe picked up a crystal Lenox glass. She carefully placed it - the only one - in the middle of the buffet table so that everyone would think it had been used. She had decided against using her Lenox set for this event - in fact, it had never ever been used - because of her fear of breakages. These items were now irreplaceable (not to mention very expensive), there being no Lenox supplier in the town. They remained in the (locked) wall cabinet in the open-plan living room where she kept many other items of crockery and glassware that had never been used. This did not worry her in the least - they were not there to be used, they were there to be admired; look but don't touch. She tapped the Lenox glass with a silver-plated spoon (the silverware was OK to use; it didn't break and was not damaged by the dishwasher) to get the attention of all her guests.

"Καλωσορίσατε!" She spoke loudly and clearly, with the tone of enjoyment ringing in her voice, and her smile beamed around the room as she watched everyone's faces turning to look at her.

"Καλώς σας βρήκαμε!" the guests replied in unison.

"Χρόνια Πολλά, Παναγιώτη!" The guests all bid her husband the customary good wishes, and the official feasting began.

"ΕλΆτε, παιδιά," Zoe said gleefully, "σηκωθεΊτε, περΆσετε να πΆρετε ένα πιΆτο!" Zoe had been born and raised a Greek, but one thing she could never lose was the American twang in her Greek accent. This did not prevent anyone from understanding her spoken Greek; her idiosyncratically placed stress marks were just taken to denote a part of her personality, the former ex-pat US citizen, used to different ways and manners; to the locals, it matched her foreign ways and gave them a hint of flavour. Had her speech rhythms assimilated completely to the Greek accent, she would have been mistaken for an eccentric local. Now she had an excuse to sound different.

As much as the locals didn't always understand her, Zoe had the same problem when she tried to make sense of them most of the time. She found their make-do-and-mend lifestyle too simple, their cheap standardised choice of attire too dour, their insular surroundings too restricted. She had not contemplated these daily facts about living on the island before her permanent arrival. Sometimes, it helped not to think about it, but to just file these thoughts away in her mind, like a disused room where there may be some old unsightly furniture covered with well-worn sheets to stop them from getting dusty. It also kept them out of public view. She did not need to view them in her daily surroundings; they were conveniently hidden away and she had to face them only infrequently. It was kind of like putting up with an uncomfortable situation for as little as one needed to, before normality would return.

She did not have a lot to do with the locals herself; she did not approve of popping in and out of each other's houses, as was commonly practiced by most of the neighbours. Visiting had always been by arrangement for Zoe. She did not feel comfortable dropping into people's houses herself. What if they were busy? Or sleeping? Don't they want some privacy themselves? And how can you enter someone's house without carrying an appropriate gift? Her front door was always closed, and the house could only be accessed at the front gate by an electronic tracking system (that travelled from the States, in the container with the furniture). Hers was the only house in the village that possessed such a device. Most people couldn't understand why she had also installed a burglar alarm in the house. "Σαν φρoύριο το έκανες!" her neighbours would tell her. But Zoe did not like to take chances. 'Better safe than sorry' was a motto that had been instilled in her since primary school in the States.

The plates and forks had started making tinkering noises, as everyone stood up and passed slowly round the buffet table. Each bowl or plate had its own ladle or serving fork in it, and all the guests took great care not to mix them up or leave the tablecloth unstained. This was not your average 'τραπέζι'; the scene had come directly out of a 'home and garden' magazine and it seemed a shame to ruin it by placing the wrong ladle in the wrong bowl or - worse still - allowing sauces and oil to drip onto the crisply ironed tablecloth. Zoe had spent the best part of the previous evening ensuring that the decorations would be perfect, while her mother had spent the best part of her own evening preparing most of the meals. Zoe was responsible for transferring the dishes to an appropriate item of crockery, to be diligently plated. Her arrangements often looked too good to eat.

Zoe did not serve herself right away. She chatted with her guests as they passed by the buffet, pointing out what they had not put on their plate. When most of the guests had finished their first tour of the table, Zoe picked up a dish and began to mingle around the guests, serving it onto their plate, so that they didn't need to stand up again and take themselves for a second tour round the buffet table. Salads and pastries were what people craved most of all, and Zoe had made sure that there were plenty of them at her τραπέζι. There were kalitsounia with spinach, kalitsounia with mizithra, mini-pastries filled with potato and bacon, tiropitakia, mince-filled crepes and Chinese-style spring rolls. She had come across them at the supermarket, and couldn't resist the temptation of buying some; it had been a long time since she had had Chinese food, which she didn't really miss. It just felt more of a normality for Zoe that she could keep this kind of food in her home freezer, in the same way that everyone (that she knew) did in Jersey. 

She had also prepared many salads (she couldn't handle those quite well, as they didn't need any cooking), and made sure there were plenty of cooling dips on the table: Greek salad, maroulosalata, lahanosalata, taramosalata, melitzanosalata and the classic all-time Greek favorite tzatziki. Although the fasting period for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary had just finished, she had insisted on including a bowl of taramosalata in the range of dishes. Panayiotis thought it odd that she would include this particular fasting recipe on a feast day, but Zoe explained to him that there would be many American guests from her side of the family at the party, and they would expect it.

"We used to eat taramosalata all year round!" she exclaimed (she was conscious of her schoolmarm voice being over-used in one day). "It's only here that I've been told I can only eat it at certain times of the year!"

She picked up a bowl of tzatziki in one hand, and in the other, the platter of kalitsounia and walked around the room.

"Τζατζικάκi, να σας βάλω; Καλιτσουνάκι, πάρτε ένα!" she bid to each person, who most likely had already taken one, but Zoe was very insistent, and so they took another one out of politeness. Zoe liked to see her guests filling their plates. This was a sign that the food was being appreciated in the way that it should be. It also meant that there would be few leftovers; she preferred to eat vicariously by watching her guests.

"Πολύ νόστιμα, Ζωϊτσα μου," her neighbour Kiria Popi was complimenting her on the taste of the pastries, "τόσο πιτίδια δεν τά 'χω δει ποτέ μου! Εσύ τά 'φτιαξες κορίτσι μου;"

Zoe laughed. "Η μαμά έφτιαξε το μείγμα, και εγώ τα δίπλωσα," she explained. Her mum knew what to put into those pastries to make them so tasty, and Zoe knew how to seal them into perfect little square envelopes to make them look like the prettiest kalitsounia for miles.

"Ντρέπομαι να το φάω, τόσο όμορφο που είναι!" Indeed, each kalitsouni was a work of art. It was a pity that one had to bite into it and ruin its form; it had taken much longer to shape each one than it would take to gobble it all up.

"Άσε με να σου βάλω και λίγο τζατζικάκι στο πιάτο σας!" Zoe never let her mother use fresh garlic in the tzatziki. She used garlic powder instead because it didn't taint the breath in that undesirable manner that Kiria Popi's tzatziki did.

Her load became lighter and lighter as she walked round the whole of the living room, and onto the balcony, making sure to leave no one out. When she finally returned to the table, all the kalitsounia were gone, and the bowl of tzatziki was nearly empty. Feeling quite good about herself, she proceeded to take the empty plates to the kitchen sink and came back to the table to pick up some more dishes, selecting the ones that looked rather untouched compared to the other half-cleared platters.The cabbage salad was looking quite forlorn. Ladling out this dish would be quite a challenge, so she picked it up on its own and began her rounds once again.

cabbage salad
This Chinese cabbage was imported from Spain and sold in Greece; carrots are mainly grown in central Greece, with much fewer quantities being grown in Crete - the weather is not particularly suited for the commercial cultivation of carrots in Crete.

Zoe took the same route as before. "Λαχανοσαλάτα, everybody!" she exclaimed, melding the languages together, as she often did. Kiria Popi swayed her fingers in the air, indicating that she didn't want any.

"Μα γιατί!" Zoe cried. She always felt very nervous when a bowl of food did not go as quickly as she thought it would. It reminded her of the times when her parents ended up binning the food that people complained about at the Greek restaurant they ran in Jersey. It usually meant there was something wrong with the dish; it may not have tasted the same to the customers as the last time they had it, so they knew they had to bin it or eat it themselves.

salad dressing
 What essential ingredient is missing from the dressing for my lahanosalata?
Click on the photograph to see what each item is.

"Τί είναι αυτό;" asked Kiria Popi's daughter. Rania was a chef in a local hotel situated by the sea. She worked long hours every day, with only one day off a week. On her working days, she often came home as late as midnight, but she never shunned any work she was given, because in winter, she was always laid off and had to register with the unemployment department. She often helped her parents in the olive harvest during that time. She lived at home and her parents always expressed their wish that they see her happily married one day, so that she didn't have to work so hard, even though Rania herself never complained about her job. She was satisfied with her lot, and glad to be working in a job that she enjoyed. "Better than being a cleaner," she said, showing compassion for her work colleagues, and re-telling some of the horror stories they had told her about - vomit on the bedsheets after a drunken night out, blood on the walls after an argument, and levels of cleanliness: the English left their underpants lying around the floor, the Greeks never picked up their paper mess, and the Germans acted like they had never used the bathroom, because it would be left as clean as when they had first entered it at the beginning of their stay, leaving all the hotel staff to wonder where exactly they did their business.

Zoe had a good relationship with Rania. It could be said that Rania was her only real friend on the island, since Zoe was very family-oriented, and in truth, did not fit in very well with groups outside the family circles. Rania had helped Zoe get a job in the same hotel where she cooked. Zoe worked in the souvenirs and accessories shop, one of the hotel's sidelines. She had come into the job at the right time, and had managed to secure the day shift; another shop assistant picked up where she left off every day. Initially, the owner wanted her to work all day, with a break in the middle of the day, but Zoe insisted that such working conditions were inhuman. "Τι νομίζετε πως είμαστε, Αλβανίδες", she complained. The hotel owner could not afford to lose Zoe as a member of his staff. For a start, she was a native English speaker. She also had a knack of selling expensive items, and many of them; she had the gift of the gab. The profits Zoe brought in from the sales of accessories and souvenirs were worth it. To keep her in the shop during peak-hour trade, he asked her to come in at 10am and leave at 6pm, thereby completing a 40-hour week during the the busiest times of the day: after 6pm, most tourists would be having their evening meal, and if they weren't going to a bar or club after that, they'd then return to their hotel room, take in the view of the sea and feel the cool evening mist on the balcony.

When she wasn't working, Zoe and Rania would often go out together (if their days off coincided) for a drink. Zoe especially enjoyed these outings, a rare moment of getting away from the limitations of the village surroundings. They would go to to a beach bar and sit at an outdoor cafe, sipping away the evening on a frappe or something more alcoholic, according to their mood. They would get whatever was bothering them off their chest, Zoe letting off steam about their husbands, Rania talking about all the μαλάκες she had met which most of the time put her off marriage. Even Zoe had taken an active part in this kind of conversation, after her husband had left for work without flushing the toilet.

"Άκου να μην πατήσει το καζανάκι," Rania repeated her words comfortingly, but her face showed sarcasm. She was laughing.

"But Rania, can you imagine how I FELT when I entered the STINKing BATHroom?!" Zoe cried. Bathrooms and toilets were a very serious matter for Zoe. When the house was being built, she insisted that the plumbing be made wide enough for the toilet paper to be flushed through it without creating a blockage, unlike the neighbours' toilets which all had a small open basket for discarding the used toilet paper. She detested the sight of those bins, lined with supermarket carrier bags - 'they sell bin liners in the supermarket, you know!' she had once told Rania, who shrugged off the comment as though she had no idea what Zoe was on about. What she did know was that Zoe had greater spending power than anyone else she knew, which was perhaps the reason why she did not need to re-use supermarket carrier bags.

Zoe was just about to ladle some lahanosalata into Rania's plate, when Rania stopped her. "Who made it?" she asked, looking into the bowl.

"Λαχανοσαλάτα είναι, βρε!" Zoe replied. Rania was always making fun of Zoe's cooking skills, which Zoe never failed to admit to when the girls were together. Rania was also a good teller of jokes. She could always put a smile on the faces of the people around her. She fully deserved the modest popularity she often enjoyed when she found herself in a crowd.

"Oh, it's coleslaw," said Rania, upon further inspection of what was in the bowl. During her training at the State School of Chefs, one of the weekly assignments for her class group was to take a vegetable assigned to them by the instructor, and for each member to create a different dish with it using international standard restaurant dishes as a guideline. During the cabbage season, her group transformed the cabbage into a typical Greek lahanosalata, a German sauerkrat, a French choucroute alsacienne, an Asian stir-fry and an American coleslaw. She was familiar with international cuisine, even though she had only travelled once out of the country, on a college trip during her chef's training, a fleeting visit to that took her to two capital cities, Paris and London. Upon her return, she told her parents that everyone eats Greek food everywhere, but they cook it in a different way and give it different names.

cabbage salad
The dressing in this delicious cabbage salad doesn't contain olive oil, so it lacks Greek character. 

"Wanna try some, mama?  It's nice." She ignored Zoe's comment, because Zoe had a habit of turning trivia into matters of major importance.

"It's lahanosalata, ρε παιδιά," Zoe was trying to justify her creation. "We always made it like this at the restaurant and called it lahanosalata - it used to be really popular and our customers loved it!"

Stathi - another ex-pat who lived in the same part of Jersey as Zoe - jumped into the conversation, dribbling sauce over his beard. "Powli orayo," he said, in perfect timing to save Zoe's face. He was sitting on the other side of the table. "Hey, I remember having this regularly at the Greek Cafe. Nina's Greek Cafe!" He shouted gaily, as he said Zoe's mother's name out loud.

"Hey, Zoe, those were the days, weren't they?" He became very nostalgic, as he remembered older times now long gone, and this had an effect on Zoe. She fought back the tears. She was acclimatising well to life in Greece, but every now and then, when she experienced a sudden jolt back to the past, she would become sick with nostalgia.

"Speaking of Nina, where is she?" Stathi asked Zoe. Stathi was a ping-ponger; he spent half the year in Greece and the other half in the US. He was happy in both worlds, but couldn't live only in one place or the other. His son was married in the States, while his daughter was married in Athens, so that half his grandchildren were here and the other half there. Since he became widowed, they were his whole world. He loved them all and was glad to have the good health to enjoy them all.

"Oh, she's downstairs, Stathi," Zoe explained. "You know my dad, he's not feeling well," she explained apologetically. Her father had been suffering from coronary heart disease since they were still living in the States, and the Greek summer heat did not make him feel any better. On hot days like these ones, Iakovos preferred to stay away from the crowds, not only because of the discomfort he felt, but also because he did not want to hinder his daughter's guests from enjoying themselves. Nina was very wary of Iakovos' feelings. She did not want him to undergo any more unnecessary stress in his condition. It was so much easier to handle health issues back home, where the health service sector, despite being costly, could at least be guaranteed. Here, they were constantly confused as to where to go to be treated in an emergency. The local hospital A&E was always full of anxious unhappy-looking people who all seemed lost, as if they had no idea what was wrong with them and why they were there. And all that waiting amongst patients with high temperatures, coughing fits, vomiting! Heaven forbid that anything happened to Iakovos on a feast day like today, when the A&E beds would be full of drunken revellers having their heads stitched up after a fight at the close of the evening's festivities.

It was a difficult move for them to make in their old age, after Zoe's announcement that she intended to marry. They had no other children. If Zoe left the country, they couldn't stay on by themselves. They raised a family and they wanted to see that family continue to grow. On the one hand, they regretted the move for the usual reasons that makes adjusting to life in a 'new' country very difficult in their old age: the climate, the infrastructure, the state services - everything seemed out of whack for them, after spending so long in the ξενιτειά, that was in fact where they felt more at home. But on the other hand, they were grateful for the chance to see their daughter happy and smiling, doing what she particularly enjoyed: home-making and decorating.

Her break-up with Aristides had cost the family dearly.  Just when all of Zoe's friends had been getting married and starting their own homes, Zoe's life had fallen apart. She wanted a big Greek wedding with all the trimmings; Aristides wanted something more low-key. She had the money; Aristides had only just entered the IT sector, and was struggling to keep up with Zoe's demands. Her parents liked him; he was of immigrant stock like themselves. He had come to the States on a scholarship, and decided to stay on after comparing the economic situation of the two countries. He chickened out of the relationship; Zoe was too dominant. All Zoe wanted what was everyone else had. And by everyone else, she of course was referring to the other Greek Americans.

"... she's keeping him company, so that he isn't alone," Zoe continued. "You can pop down to see them if you like. You know they'll like that." Zoe collected herself and tried to put a smile back on her face as she ladled out a spoonful of salad onto Kiria Popi's plate.

"Lahanosalata for you, Rania?" Zoe asked, having completely forgotten what the the conversation was about before Stathi spoke.

"It's got mayoneza in it, hasn't it?" Rania asked. "That's why I called it a coleslaw," she explained. "You know what I mean: a lahanosalata looks kind of different."

Zoe had her limits. She was not the cleverest woman in the world. But an egg is an egg is an egg, and this salad was a lahanosalata, no matter what Rania was trying to tell her.

"No, I don't know what you mean. It's a lahanosalata," she repeated."It's got cabbage in it, so what else could it be?" She tried to laugh, but the sound she made could have been interpreted as a cry. She was now clasping the bowl to her stomach, as she was worried that her hands might start to tremble. Whatever did Rania think she was doing?! 

Rania could see that she was making Zoe uncomfortable. She did not like this feeling; it was not in Rania's nature to hurt other people with what she said. But it did not take much to wind up Zoe. Her friend and neighbour often looked lost among her own people, an outsider among the insiders, despite the good deal of money and spirit she had invested in her attempt to resettle in the πατρίδα, which bore little resemblance to the country whose passport she held.

"Hey, now, that's a good σαλάτα you made there, Zoe, you know that," she tried to appease her. "I just thought that the creamy mayonnaise dressing made it look more like a coleslaw than a lahanosalata." Rania was using the typical Greek taverna menu as a guideline in categorising the food she was eating. Now she began to wonder if Zoe's family made lahanosalata with mayonnaise because it was cheaper to buy mayonnaise in the States than virgin olive oil. The color of the dressing reminded her of the coleslaw she had tried the first time she had ever eaten KFC in London. Being the typical Cretan, she wanted some salad with her chicken. A decade ago, that was all KFC  was serving green-wise.

"What do yo put in your lahanosalata - lemon or vinegar?" Kiria Popi asked Zoe.

"Oh, um..." Zoe tried to remember what she put in the salad. "Vinegar." She realised that now was not a good time to tell anyone that the dressing contained both lemon and vinegar.

"Mmm, tastes kind of  sweet to me," Rania said, licking her lips clean of the creamy dressing. "Did you use balsamic instead of wine vinegar?"

Zoe had already moved onto the next little παρέα of guests. She pretended not to hear Rania. What point would there be in telling her that the dressing included honey? Rania would probably then think she had simply emptied out the contents of her pantry and thrown everything into the bowl randomly.

*** *** ***
Zoe was probably right in calling her salad a lahanosalata - after all, it consisted predominantly of cabbage, which is what lahanosalata essentially means (λάχανο-cabbage + σαλάτα-salad). But a Greek lahanosalata would not contain mayonnaise. It's unlikely that you would find a lahanosalata dressed with mayonnaise at a taverna in Greece, except in a fast-food restaurant, and even then, it would probably be labelled 'coleslaw'. And if a salad - any salad - is labelled 'Greek', well then, it must - in my humble opinion - contain one essential ingredient, which is olive oil. And this one didn't, which is why I didn't call it just plain lahanosalata; that would be straying from the truth, wouldn't it?

salad dressings
You can dress a salad in any way you please, but only a certain combination of these will make a truly Greek dressing.

People like to put labels to most things in life, because it is easier to recall concepts in this way. Categorising also leads to stereotypes - correct or incorrect ones - to which people often assign certain qualities that help them to acquire and remember concepts more easily. Let's take olive oil and vinegar, for example. If we pour olive oil and vinegar over a salad, we have a Greek salad dressing (xitholado = vinegar-oil). But if we shake olive oil and vinegar in a jar together to form an emulsion,  not only will the dressing look different, but it will also taste different. Food-conscious people would more likely call the latter a vinaigrette. The same ingredients have been used in both the xitholado and vinaigrette dressings, but only the former is more representative of what one would expect of a Greek salad dressing.

To take another example, let's pretend that somebody tells you that you are going to eat 'Greek food' tonight. When the salad comes dressed in mayonnaise instead of olive oil with lemon or vinegar, it's only natural that you will be surprised. When the lamb stew tastes as though it has been flavored with bourbon and cream sherry and cooked with almonds instead of red wine, tomato and/onions, surely you should be asking yourself if you heard right (didn't they say 'Greek food'?). And if the filo pastry dessert you ordered had a banana and chocolate filling instead of a syrup-drenched nut filling, well, no matter how delicious the whole meal tasted (and I'm sure it did), it probably wasn't what you'd have expected of a Greek meal, right?

Greeks do in fact use a lot of mayonnaise nowadays, judging from the supermarket shelves which stock all kinds of sauces and ready salad dressings. You can buy just any globalised ingredient in Hania these days. Mayonnaise, along with soya sauce, ketchup and mustard, have all made their way into the Greek diet in the same way that taramosalata, Kalamata olives, strained Greek yoghurt and tzatziki are standard supermarket products in (for example) British supermarkets. Creamy salad dressings are popular here, but they are not typically characterised as 'Greek'; they are part of the globalised convenience-food range of products that are not made at home, but store-bought, kind of like 'poutinga'.

The Greek version of a creamy salad dressing is more likely to use yoghurt, which is a natural ingredient more readily associated with Greek (and other Middle Eastern) cuisine. I've also heard of feta cheese crumbled into a dressing to make it creamy. Again, feta cheese gives a Greek sense to a dressing than mayonnaise.

Diaspora Greeks (Greek people living outside Greece) have developed their own form of Greek cuisine, according to the availability of products in their own environment. Their cooking has adopted elements of both the local and the Greek cuisine, often resembling the basic principles of Greek food; in the melting-pot cultures where many diaspora cuisines are based, it's likely that the development of the cuisine will probably be more divergent. Diaspora restaurant owners probably devise dishes that they know will be popular among their clientele. It's difficult to characterise such cuisine as solely Greek when the recipes contain few (or no) essential Greek ingredients or culinary techniques associated with Greek cuisine (like when a salad doesn't contain olive oil, as one blatant example).

Such cuisines are probably developing into a hyphenated cuisine, a bit like the identity of the developers (eg Greek-Australian, Greek-American, Greek-Kiwi). I can remember instances of Greek food traditions in my own family home which surprised me when I came to Greece, because, somehow, I saw them as confusing. For example, melomakarona and kourambiedes were made and served by most Greek women in New Zealand throughout the year. On coming to Greece, I  discovered that they are only available in cake shops during the Christmas season! Another interesting example is presented in a discussion about Greek-Australian souvlaki, which is made from lamb; it's never made with lamb in Greece, only pork, along with the more recent and healthier addition of chicken meat to the standard souvlaki menu. In Australia, lamb is plentiful, and just as importantly, larger than Greek lamb, which makes it more natural to use it for making souvlaki. Moreover, in the Southern Hemisphere melting-pot cultures, pork is a less popular meat than lamb (unlike in Crete, for example, where it is the most popular and often the cheapest cut), another reason why lamb is being used in making Greek souvlaki 'down under'.

I simply cook for my family according to handed-down traditions with a few modern tweaks included in the recipes; I'm not an expert on the history of Greek cuisine. But I think I know what constitutes a Greek-based meal. And I'm still going to insist that mayonnaise has little to do with Greek cuisine. It's one of those products that's going to characterise what we'll all eventually be eating - global cuisine.

Special thanks to my two editors on opposite sides of the coast.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Old people's food (Τα γεύματα των γερόντων)

Greek doctors killing patients, patients dying while waiting to be attended, maggots in patients' wounds, doctors and nurses having sex in the ear, throat and nose ward, and what else? Oh yes, Greek doctors saving the lives of people who wanted to die instead. That's what most people have heard about Greek hospitals.

My mother-in-law had recently hurt her leg and couldn't walk on it. It was late at night and she couldn't be convinced to go to the hospital for an X-ray, even though it was obvious that she was in great pain. Old people generally don't like being told what to do and she was adamant that she would be fine by the next day. But she wasn't. She HAD to go to hospital, she HAD to have an X-ray, and she HAD to have special pain killers; she realised this herself eventually.

Yiayia loves gardening. We believe it is probably this that keeps her in good health in her old age.

Yiayia was born one year after the last Ottoman Muslim Cretan left the island. She has lived a very different kind of life from the one most of us know. At her age, she just wants a bit of peace and quiet before the end comes. She keeps telling us that it isn't very far now. She is constantly reminded of this herself when she falls down, or develops a cold, or feels an ache or pain somewhere in her body. On her most recent fall, she probably wondered: "Is this it?"

She probably didn't want to go to hospital because she had seen the insides of a hospital too much in her life; they aren't the most enticing places anywhere. In Hania, the hospital is relatively new, so at least it has an air of modernity to it, and the signs and walls aren't defaced. But in any hospital the world over, there's the usual rigmarole of the hospital experience that everyone wishes they could avoid: the waiting time in the A&E room.

Past experiences make me think that maybe yiayia had a point. If you have to go to the A&E on a Friday or Saturday night, you are likely to have to put up with the drunks and party revellers who might have got into a punch-up and need stitches. So the A&E beds will be filled with such cases while you, the genuine patient, the one who got sick at the wrong time, will have to wait in the corridors with the pretty girls in their high heeled clonkers and revealing dresses, as they wait for their current boyfriends to come out of surgery. They bring their own entertainment with them in the form of loud ringtones for their cellphones, so this will be your chance to catch up with all the latest pop songs.

Many old people living in remote villages have to battle loneliness on a daily basis. This woman has no family to care for her, but still prefers to live alone, in the company of one other neighbour just like her. She recently burnt her face when her hair caught fire while trying to light an old-fashioned wood-fired oven in the winter.

During the same time period, there are the road accident victims, often young people, led to the A&E via speeding or drunk drivers, or bad driving habits. They are rushed into the hospital through the A&E, their arrival announced by the urgent tone of the ambulance sirens and the screeching tyres. The A&E doctors have no choice, but to stop what they're doing, and rush off to help their colleagues in whatever way they are asked to. Your own 'emergency' loses its importance when a case like this comes up.

Another bad time to go to the A&E is in the afternoon on weekdays, or during the weekend, when people have just finished their day's/week's work, and they decide that they don't have time to visit the doctor (and pay the standard 40-50 euro fee for a consultation), so they just crowd into the A&E. Over-worked interns (who are often not being paid the overtime that they do) work their way through patients suffering from common colds, grating coughs, itchy rashes and other completely non-A&E conditions that take up doctors' time in the A&E department and could have been dealt with at a more appropriate time in a more convenient place.

By mid-morning of the day after she had the fall, Yiayia realised that she wasn't going to get any better, so we trundled her into the car and took her to the hospital.

"Mama, put on your seatbelt," I said.

"Is it OK if I don't wear it?" she replied.

"No," I answered.

"Για να μην σκάσουμε €300," replied her son.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing to the upright blue boxes on the side of the road. They were post office mail boxes, where the mailman now delivers people's letters, instead of privately to their homes. This was the first day Yiayia had left the confines of our neighbourhood in more than two years since she broke her (other) leg. On arriving at the entrance to the A&E, we asked a porter for a wheelchair. He promptly came out to meet us with a hospital bed.

"Oh, I can't climb up onto that," complained Yiayia.

"You don't need to," the porter replied. "I'll get on it, no worries." And he set about to help her up in that way that only porters and nurses know about handling people in this situation, so that they cause them the least amount of pain.

"No! No!" cried Yiayia, fearing the pain. Before she could say 'No!' again, she was lying on the bed.

"OK, Yiayia," said the porter, "we're going for a ride." He drove the bed in the direction of the waiting room. "Take a ticket from the cashier," he said to us.

The cheery lady who had seen what was going on (the stretcher bed gives a case a sense of urgency) gave me a ticket with our priority order number written on it. It wasn't really necessary that morning, because, thankfully, it wasn't busy at the A&E that day. There were actually a lot of people waiting outside the doctors' offices, but only half were patients, mainly very old frail people. The others were their carers. It's a general rule of thumb that at least two people will accompany their old relative to the hospital. The male will usually do the driving, while the female will be at the patient's bedside. There was such a case being attended to at that moment by the doctors, and one more similar case (though not on a bed) outside the surgery as we arrived. The room looked busy, but the patients were actually very few.

three generations
When this yiayia became less mobile, her sons took her into their homes. She now lives with one of them on a monthly rotational basis among her offspring. It's still a rarity (and a luxury) to put old people into retirement homes in Hania. In any case, these people are happiest when in their own home environment or their own family.

The porter was just about to knock on the door to let the doctors know that a special case had arrived. Since my mother-in-law was lying on an A&E stretcher, she had to be dealt with quickly in order to release the bed. At that moment, the door of the surgery opened and a young soft-spoken intern came out.

"What's wrong with Yiayia?" he asked us in the corridor, looking intently at her, but not bothering to take her into the surgery. The bed was bulky, there was another person in a bed too, and it would have simply resulted in a major blockage. In any case, she was surely headed for an X-ray. It is usual for carers in Greece to do more talking than the actual patients. They usually know what's wrong, and they know where it hurts. We explained the circumstances of the fall.

"Where does it hurt, Yiayia?" the doctor asked, this time, addressing the patient. "Does it hurt here where I'm touching?"

"Well," Yiayia started, "I don't feel any-- don't! Not yet! I'll tell you where it hurts!"

The doctor remained calm and continued prodding. "Here?"

"No, not there either."

"Where does it hurt, Yiayia?"

"Well," Yiayia started again, "it's a sharp pain, but I don't have it all the time, I can't stand completely still without moving, but if I take a little step and put pressure on my foot, it hurts really badly all over the place, you see,..."

The doctor looked flustered. "We need to know exactly where, so that we can give appropriate instructions to the X-ray department." Yiayia had still not defined the exact place where her leg hurt.

"She hurts from here," I explained to the doctor, showing with my hand about 10cm above her knee, "to here," pointing to 10cm below the knee. Doctors are not prophets!

Without delay, the doctor took out a piece of paper (a recycled photocopy of an old form; the old notepad with the hospital header was not being used, a sign of how harsh economic times really are in Greece), and wrote out the directions for the X-ray department. The porter, who had waited patiently with us the whole time, explained the procedure: another ticket was necessary. I had to go back to the cashier.

"Who is your NHS provider?" she asked me. I gave her the information she asked for.

"OK, that's 12 euro and 62 cents," she informed me, "and with the receipt that I give you, and the doctor's diagnosis," as she handed me a form, "which the doctor will fill out, you go to your NHS provider and you'll receive a 75% rebate." I thanked her and went back in the direction of the A&E waiting room.

The porter led us to the X-ray department, and dealt with all the procedures there. We simply waited outside until my mother-in-law was returned to us. Again, we were dealt with promptly and appropriately, with the kind of respect due to people of my mother-in-law's age.

After the X-ray had been taken, the porter wheeled her out. "We're just going to wait for a few minutes until the photos are ready," he explained. He moved away from us and helped some of the other staff who were doing the same job as himself.

"Πρέπει να του δώσεις κάτι," my mother-in-law whispered to her son.

"No," I whispered back.

"Μας βοήθησε πάρα πολύ," she said.

"Τη δουλειά του κάνει," I replied. She looked confused. Her son, who was looking at his mother, then turned to look at me.

"No," I said to him too.

"Ένα τάλιρο--."

"Are you crazy?" I said firmly. "Since when did τάλιρα drop into your hands that easily? Does anyone tip me when I proofread or translate their work promptly and efficiently? You know it's wrong, we hear it on the news all the time. When is this fakelaki business going to stop?"

My mother-in-law continued telling her son that he should pay the porter for getting us through A&E (even though there was no queue anyway!) while I kept saying "No". My husband was in two minds: to tip or not to tip? Wasn't he simply doing his job?! The idea of fakelaki is often perpetuated by the people who continue to pay it - my mother in law was born and raised with this kind of belief, so imbibed in it, that she thinks even someone who is simply doing his job well should be paid both by the state and by herself! With a dominating matriarch in the family and our close contact with nature, my family still has strong links to the ways of the old world, so that misunderstandings can easily occur because of the generation gap: just imagine a globalised 8 and 9 year old, living with their old-fashioned 40s-50s parents, whose choices are influenced by the presence of an 86-year old WW2 survivor!

The past governing of Greece was really just a case of a home-grown style of bourgeoisie class ruling over everyone in a lower order than themselves: power-wielding state employees and people in 'closed shop' professions were among the highest order, the χρυσοχέρηδες sitting on the roost, while the 'hoi polloi' pecked at their droppings. This is what is now being toppled, slowly but surely; it is definitely being stomped on, and it's a proud moment in Greece's history, completely overshadowed by the negativity surrounding the country and the fact that progress in this direction, despite being sure and steady, is slow in making itself visible.

It took an economic crisis for people to realise that there is now no turning back to the outdated and inefficient system of giving favours to get a job done, a system many historians and political analysts claim to be a remnant from Ottoman times. These dramatic changes in the way Greece's service sector is being reorganised are not ebbing waves as they were in the past whenever a new government came into power, to be swept away by newer ones - the changes in Greece are now once-and-for-all, and they also need the full cooperation and participation of ALL the Greek people. Everyone in the country has to play their part appropriately, but, as can be seen from Yiayia's case, some people are not easily able to change their ways due to personality, age, and/or other factors.

When the X-rays came through, the porter wheeled us back to the A&E doctors, where we had to wait until the patient being attended to came out. He made sure we got prompt attention so that Yiayia didn't have to suffer any more discomfort than necessary and the bed could be freed as soon as possible for the next patient who needed it. All's well that ends well; Yiayia hadn't fractured any bones, but needed some painkillers to relive an inflammation that had been causing her pain.

The porter guided us to our car. I watched my mother-in-law looking at her son and raising her eyebrows. I watched my husband putting his hand into his trouser pocket. 

"No," I insisted. He didn't say anything. He took his hand out of his pocket, only to put it back in again.

"No," I repeated.

"OK," he said. 

"I still think it's wrong," said Yiayia, as we drove away from the hospital. "Times have changed from how I remember them."

The message had got through, at least this time. We were home and dry in just over an hour after we had set out on our little adventure.

*** *** ***

Given her condition, I had to take on the extra role of cooking for her. Since we cook fresh food most days, it sounds quite easy to simply make a larger amount of food and give her a serving. This is not as easy as it sounds. She is a fussy eater in the same way that many old people are: their bodies can't digest food in the same way as a young person's, their tastes change in old age, their teeth aren't always in the best condition, and their memories of food play a role in what they consider a 'good' meal. On top of that, Yiayia hurt her leg during a fasting period, so she didn't want to eat any meat or fish, limiting the variety of food that I could have cooked for her.

Yiayia usually cooks for herself, always using simple ingredients that are either available from the garden or easily stored in the kitchen for use when needed. In fact, her favorite kinds of meals could be described as 'all-season food': meals that are made from fresh-frozen or easy-to-store ingredients. Among her favorites are tinned squid in a red sauce, bakaliaro (salt cod) in an onion-leek sauce, and the one below, made with year-round easy-to-store fresh carrots and potatoes, and frozen peas.

all season foodall season food
all season food
You need:
a few tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1-2 green bell peppers, chopped in thin strips (optional; we had lots of them in garden)
2 carrots, sliced thinly
4 small potatoes, cut into quarters
3 cups of frozen peas, rinsed
2 tomatoes, freshly grated (the skins make the sauce gritty; the seeds can be left in)
1 teaspoon of tomato paste (optional)
a sprig of parsley (optional; I would have added this but had run out at the time)
salt, pepper and oregano

Heat the oil in a wide saucepan. Add the onions and garlic (and peppers), and saute till transparent. Add the carrots and potatoes, tossing them well in the oil till everything is coasted in oil. Let them cook on low heat for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and dry seasonings. Place a lid on the saucepan, and cook on low heat until the potatoes have softened. Then add the peas and parsley, and allow the dish to cook for a further 15 minutes, or until everything is soft. Old people like their food mushier than us!

Serve this tasty stew with some feta cheese or mizithra. It is very similar to the way Greek people cook fasolakia (green beans), which Yiayia said she wasn't hot on, even though the garden was full of bean vines that she'd been tending up until the time of her accident!

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.