Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Monday 28 March 2011

Fasting for Easter (Νηστεία)

Greek food is a seasonal affair. Greek people, whether they live in Greece or abroad, generally like to enjoy meals that represent the time of year. This may be in the form of the seasonal produce grown in the area where they live. But there is another way to enjoy the food of the season, and that is to eat according to the seasonal traditions dictated by the festival calendar. These are usually based on religious festivals. Among the many examples, the most well-known are salt cod on March 25 and Palm Sunday, lamb for Easter, pig for Christmas, xerotigana for (Cretan) weddings, and shellfish on Clean Monday. No one feels obliged to eat according to past traditions, but most Greeks like to do this because it keeps them close to their customs and homeland, especially when they don't live in Greece. For instance, you may not be able to go to a Greek Orthodox church on a festival day if you live abroad: it may be a working day there, and some religious festivals like Clean Monday are immovable, while others will be celebrated on the nearest Sunday before the actual festival. But when you leave work on the feast day, you may want to eat the traditional meal for that day with other fellow Greeks. I remember this feeling well when I was growing up in New Zealand.

Bean soups and stews are very popular right throughout the year in Greece, especially during fasting periods, when beans provide the main form of protein.

We're now approaching the middle of one of the most significant fasting periods in Greece, Great Lent, the 50 days preceding the Christian Orthodox Easter. This period is traditionally associated with Greek Orthodox fasting, νηστεία (nistia), ie abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, cheese and fish products (shellfish - including snails - excluded, because they are considered to be bloodless). Such strict fasting for 50 days sounds like a long time time to go completely vegan, especially when you aren't a vegan on principle, eating only lenten foods, which are called nistisima in Greek. Forget the idea of cooking and eating shellfish on a regular basis: it's expensive, and it may not be to everyone's liking. So how do Greek people keep the fast at this time?

Clean Monday 2011: The importance of maintaining Greek food traditions cannot be underestimated. Every year on Clean Monday, my blog receives TWICE the average number of hits on any other day; this does NOT happen on any other day for my blog, not even for Easter, which has a longer period of preparation than Clean Monday. This shows the importance of the culinary aspect of the Greek identity, especially for Greeks abroad.

The simple answer is that they generally don't. Fasting isn't kept in absolute terms by all people in Greece; it never was. Fasting for Easter (and Christmas, which involves a 40-day fast in the Christian Orthodox calendar) was a useful way to help people ration food during periods of food shortages. The rule was created by a religious authority, which used to exert a greater amount of power over people's subconscious in the past. What started off as a rule for the purposes of food management is seen in a different light in modern times: fasting is good for you because it helps you to maintain a nutritional balance. This is the modern meaning of fasting, a form of detox, if you prefer.

During summer, I am inundated with zucchini, so I turn them into different kinds of food that don't resemble each other, to relieve the boredom of appearing to be eating the same food on a daily basis. This meal can be considered to be quite a filling vegan dinner (excluding the muffins, which contain eggs). From top anti-clockwise: horta, kolokithokeftedes (zucchini patties),  zucchini dip, chocolate zucchini muffins.

Greeks may not follow the strict rule of a 50-day fast* from Clean Monday until Easter Sunday, but it is highly unlikely that they won't be attempting some sort of fast during that time. There are a number of ways to do this, as attested by this list of fasting tips, which show you how to fast during Great Lent without actually fasting the whole period:
  1. By not eating meat during the entire fasting period, with no restrictions on dairy produce; this is not so hard to do, especially nowadays when eating meat isn't as fashionable as it once was for health reasons.
  2. By fasting according to the strict religious rules in the first week of Lent (ie immediately after Clean Monday), and/or the last week of Lent (ie Holy Week, the seven days preceding Easter Sunday); most people like to follow this rule.
  3. Wednesdays and Fridays are regarded as significant fasting days throughout the Orthodox calendar year, so many people fast according to the religious rules on those days alone throughout the fasting period (Wednesday in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ, and Friday in remembrance of the crucifixion), with no restrictions on other days in the fasting period; many people like to follow this rule too. Monks also fast in this way on Mondays, a day dedicated to the Angels.
What all this amounts to is that fasting is seen as important, without impeding on the getting-on with one's daily life in an ever-changing world. There are still people who will choose to fast throughout the 50-day period (eg monks, nuns, older people - women in particular, people who have 'promised' an offering to God through prayers as a way to ask for a favour by vowing to fast), but this is not the general rule. Souvlaki shops don't close down during this period, for instance; at the same time, all tavernas offer 'nistisima' meals all year round in deference to those who wish to fast, not necessarily during a religious fasting period but also for personal reasons. (It isn't always polite to ask people about their reasons for doing this.)

Greek lenten meals are so colourful and nutritionally balanced that it's highly unlikely you'll feel as though you are eating with constraints: Cretan snail stew, spanakorizo (spinach rice) and lettuce salad.

The golden rule is that, whichever way you choose to fast, never make it sound like a big deal:
«Και όταν νηστεύετε, μη γίνεστε όπως οι υποκριτές σκυθρωποί, γιατί αφήνουν άπλυτα τα πρόσωπά τους, για να φανούν στους ανθρώπους πως νηστεύουν.» (From the New Testament: Matthew, 6:18).
(And when you fast, do not become sullen like the hypocrites, because they leave their faces unwashed to appear to others that they are fasting.)

In our house, most of the weekdays in the year are meatless ones; the meals cooked are usually vegan, supplemented by a dairy product: eg horta served with boiled eggs, beans served with cheese. We don't eat much meat during the week, but with no restrictions on milk and cheese. Weekends are when we have more time to cook, and Sundays are generally regarded as the day we will enjoy a home-cooked meat dish. This is our way to achieve a nutritional balance. It may look like we are 'fasting' for half the year by doing this, but this should not come as any surprise: if you add up the number of fasting days within the Greek Orthodox church calendar, there are about 180; that's half a calendar year!

Summer vegetables (bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini flowers) stuffed with herbed rice: my favorite Greek vegan - lenten - meal.

At any rate, it's impossible not to find something nutritiously satisfying and tasty within the range of Greek cuisine; with so many vegetarian - and often vegan - options, there's something for everyone. After all, Greek cuisine is based primarily on vegetarian cuisine, a point which a Greek newspaper completely missed when it published a report on the impact of a vegetarian diet on an adopted child.

UPDATE: It's always good to have empirical data to back up whatever you say. You can ask people if they do or don't fast, but you always have to be wary of their answers (ie how truthful they are). I was amused when I was asked if I was fasting recently, just after I picked up a language teacher's handout before a 5-hour training session (where snacks were going to be served). "No," I replied, and the secretary noted it on the list of names, which consisted of 26 people (all women - it's a characteristic feature of language teachers). On the day of the training session, I found out that only 3 people had the word 'NAI' (YES) next to their name, while 2 more had ΟΧΙ ΚΡΕΑΣ (ΝΟ ΜΕΑΤ); all the others were not fasting. Demographic variables like age and sex have played a large role in predicting who fasts, but even this is now slowly waning (my 87-year-old mother-in-law surprised me this year:not even she is fasting like she used to).

* The fasting period of Great Lent is wrongly assumed to be 40 days in length, from the (misleading) Greek word σαρακοστή (sarakosti), meaning '40 days'. A lot of people, including Greeks in Greece, get confused with the number of fasting days too. It helps to have a Kira Sarakosti hanging in your kitchen (more information in this article).

©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 23 March 2011

Down and out in Hania (Στον δρόμο)

We only see what we want to see. I saw (most of) this take place in the space of five minutes.

agora haniaFrideriki had just come out of the bakery at the Agora, where she joined her husband who was standing near the main entrance, talking to an acquaintance he had met up with in the central square in front of the market. She had bought a loaf of granary bread and a packet of her husband's favorite rye rusks from the bakery on the west wing of the Agora near the main passageway leading into the market. The fat chocolate muffins looked tempting, so she bought three for her grandchildren, who played in the yard that separated her house from theirs every day after school. After thanking the shop assistant, she turned to leave the bakery when she found a middle-aged woman blocking the entrance. The woman's eyes looked out of focus; there was a troubled look on her face. But her long dark hair was tidily draped around her shoulders, and her clothes looked clean, albeit rather shabby. Her red coat signalled older, and perhaps, happier times.

 This photo was taken three years ago on a Saturday. The old man - most likely he's come 'down' to Hania from a remote (mountain) village - is dressed traditionally, walking with the aid of a hand-carved walking stick and carrying a bag on his back. We still see a small number of people dressed like this, but this is becoming a rarer sight. The middle-aged man is quite representative of his age-group (you can see a number of others like him crossing the road). The man in the middle is an immigrant (not a tourist), judging from his clothes and the way he wears a pouch bag. 

agora next to junior high school hania chania"Does this interest you?" the woman said to anyone who had looked her way. She was holding up an unframed still life canvas painting; it was the only thing she was carrying in her hands. The colours of the flowers were bright, contrasting with the pale blue background that the dark brown vase was standing against. The picture would not immediately strike anyone's interest, unless they realised that the woman herself had painted it, as she had done so many others. She was a regular sight on the streets, plying her trade in this way for many years. The shop assistants paid no attention to her. Some of the customers in the shop turned around momentarily to look at who was speaking, then returned their gaze back to the counter. Frideriki manoeuvred herself around the woman to exit the bakery, and joined her husband in the central square. He continued to talk with his friend, as if he had not seen her.

With a nod of her head, she let him carry on with his conversation, while she walked towards the vacant wooden bench on the other side of the square. Feeling laden from the various plastic carrier bags in her hands, she decided to sit down and catch her breath. It had not been too long ago that she was last in the town, but the place seemed different to her today. She could not put her finger on what it was that made it look so foreign to her. There were not a lot of people moving about around the Agora, even thought there was still some action. No one else was sitting on the few benches in the area. A middle-aged man, head bowed, with a partially bald scalp was sitting on the eastern side of the Agora, directly in front of her. He was begging. 'That's what's different', she thought to herself. At this time of the day, it should normally be bustling with shoppers. Normally bustling - that had now become a sign of the past, of the town as she remembered it, when she used to come here more often. In recent times, she and her husband kept her own movements more localised, avoiding too much use of the car since the escalating petrol rises.

agora haniaJust as she had sat down, a man appeared on the east side of the Agora. He walked very slowly past the bald beggar, with an obvious limp in one leg. His face was unshaven, his body gaunt, his clothes unwashed. Blonde curly hair straggled around his ears and in front of his forehead. Even from the distance, Frideriki could see that he was not old. He walked passed the entrance of the Agora to the bakery, eventually arriving outside it. Then he paused for a moment outside the shop before placing one foot on the doorstep. He did not enter any further into the shop. Just a few seconds later, a shop assistant could be seen at the doorstep standing next to him. She looked the exact opposite of the man. Her dyed red hair was neatly combed and tied up in a pony tail. The rays of the sun highlighted its red auburn streaks. Her blue work apron looked crisp and clean. She was smiling.

The blonde man turned around and moved away from the bakery. Now he was carrying a white paper bag, with a bread roll poking out of it. His movements were still slow, but his gait had strengthened, as if he had found some energy to walk faster, even though he was still limping. Frideriki felt a sense of relief that she could not explain.

Frideriki glanced at her husband; he was still talking. Just as the lame man passed the entrance of the Agora, Frideriki noticed a little boy walking past the flower beds located at the steps leading to the square. They had been planted with decorative bright green cabbages, contrasting with the older red geranium plants that normally lined the jardiniers. The boy had made himself conspicuous by walking backwards, never once looking behind him. His steps were calculated; he seemed experienced in this kind of unusual behaviour, walking backwards and managing not to bump into anyone else. His clothes looked too big for him, even though he was quite small-looking. He can't have been older than seven, or maybe eight, or maybe even a very small nine years old. Frideriki thought it unusual that he was alone, unaccompanied by an adult. No sooner had she put this idea in her mind than two girls appeared next to her out of nowhere. They looked as though they were from the same family as the boy. One of them was holding an accordion, opening and closing it in a way that made noise rather than music. Frideriki waved them away. They left without a fuss.

agora market
Slung crosswise around the boy's chest was a drum. As he walked his strange walk, people dodged past him, avoiding contact. They could see him, and even though he couldn't see them, he knew they were there. He had now reached the mid-way point between the entrances to the bakery and the Agora. He slowly turned his head to look left, and then right, not necessarily looking for anything in particular. He took one more sweeping look around the area, slowly surveying the space in front of him. Then he sat down where he was, and brought out a very worn-looking black cap which he laid in front of him on the ground. Slowly, he began to beat the drum. The drumming sounds were rhythmic, beating out a well known festival tune. The composition sounded so familiar that it could have been played by anyone. But noone was probably listening, or at least interested. People continued to walk around him or past him. No one looked down on him. He continued beating the drum slowly, staring ahead of him. His line of gaze was piercing the bald man; the man's head was still bowed.

Now an old woman dressed in black appeared from the eastern wing of the market. She scuttled past the beggar and the drummer boy, making her way determinedly towards the bakery. Her age was obvious from the wrinkles on her face and her old-fashioned widow's garb, but this woman's steps were firm and stable. Her many years had not compromised her mobility. As she brushed past Frideriki's husband, she disappeared into the bakery. At this moment, a Chinese peddler emerged from the Agora carrying a wooden case full of trinkets: wristwatches, small clocks, fancy lighters, tiny transistor radios, brightly coloured folding umbrellas. He walked slowly enough for Frideriki to capture his soft smile and the glowing look on his face. Again, a flush of relief gushed through Frideriki's body; this sensation made her shiver. She continued to watch the Chinese man walking with his back as straight as a lambada and the happy look on his tender face. His gently approachable appearance endeared Frideriki towards him; she was curious to see all those pretty things he was carrying in his case. She got off her seat, picked up her bags, and began to walk towards him. Just as she was about to check out his box of wares, at that moment she saw her husband beckoning her to come towards him. He had finished talking. 'Never mind,' she thought, there were lots of Chinese peddlers on the streets these days. She was bound to come across another somewhere else.

agora haniaAs Frideriki began walking towards her husband, the old woman in the black clothes appeared from the bakery. She was carrying a large plastic bag full of assorted bread products. But the woman did not seem in any hurry to leave the area. She walked up to the drummer boy with the same determined steps she had taken to walk across the square and bent down to the boy's level, her back arched, her legs straight. From the plastic bag, she produced a koulouri. "Here, little boy" she said, as she tapped his hand with the koulouri, "take it, go on, eat it, it's yours." The boy turned around to look at her. He did not snatch the koulouri out of the woman's hand like a hungry child. He stared at her hand for a few seconds before accepting the gift. The woman did not wait to be thanked. She made her way out of the central square, taking the same route she had used to enter it.

Frideriki's husband was now standing next to her. He began to pick up a few of the plastic carrier bags that his wife had been carrying, in order to share out the load between them. They had left their car in the parking area behind the Agora and now that they had finished their shopping, they were ready to leave the town. He picked up some of the bags and waited for his wife to pick up hers. Then he suddenly dropped his bags in panic. His wife had just fallen to the ground in a heap.

When she finally came to, she felt her face and hair wet. Someone had poured some water over her  to bring her round. She was out cold for no more than two minutes.

"What happened to you?" her husband asked in a fearful tone.

"I don't know," she replied. "I just fainted. But I'm OK now."

"Let's go to a doctor," her husband said.

Goods for sale: wild flowers and tablecloths. These women are standing across the road from the Agora. The photos are three years old. The people have changed, but the nature of their work remains the same.

"No, really, I'm all right now," she tried to reassure him. She looked around the square. The bald beggar was still there, but the boy was gone. All Frideriki could remember was the little boy's gaze as he accepted the koulouri.

*** *** ***
hania splantziaMany of my readers will be familiar with Down and Out in Paris and London, which describes the poverty that George Orwell saw and experienced for himself when he lived among the lowest rungs of society, subsisting off a diet of primarily bread and tea in soup kitchens and doss houses. The most well-known soup kitchen in Hania is found in Splantzia, run by the church of St Nicholas, which was established in 1964 by Manolis Mariakakis, who rented a small space in the area and hired a cook to provide meals for άποροι (apori - indigents, as opposed to φτωχοί - ftohi, 'poor people'). This soup kitchen is still operating, along with some other similar church-run establishments in other parts of the town. They are open every day except Sunday, when other services take over their role. During our times, these soup kitchens are serving a greater number of people than they ever did, not just migrants but also Greeks: approximately 130 families (180 people) are served a hot meal here daily in Splantzia alone.

economic migrants hania chaniaKonstas provides a description of these people, along with some photos of the food parcels handed out to them last Christmas. You can also get a glimpse of what it's like in a soup kitchen in Crete from this photo provided by the soup kitchen of a church in Rethimno. Geerally speaking, we don't see people in Hania sleeping on the road, but by keep ing your eyes open, you will be able to see quite clearly where the poor and indigent are living.

©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.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Internet cuisine (Διαδικτυακή κουζίνα)

The world is full of badness and sadness right now, but we must all plod on, living life as well as we can, because who knows what might happen tomorrow?

"A colleague recently asked another food writer where a recipe she featured came from, and the reply was 'from the internet'." Claudia Roden, A Taste of Thyme, 2000.

When Saturday's weather took a turn for the worse last Sunday, I had to make new plans for the pork chops that I had defrosted. I couldn't barbecue them outdoors, as we had planned, so I decided to use the internet to give me some ideas about how to cook them. The rise in 'internet cuisine' is helping to teach people how to cook, as well as creating global food trends; cooking has never been so easy or as interesting as it is now. Using 'pork chops' as a search string, I was mesmerised by the number of images that came up showing well-cooked pork chops, sizzling brown on the outside, sitting on a range of dressings, their juices oozing out onto the plate. So much value for money from a simple broadband internet connection - I could not get this much value from a book. In an environmentally more conscious world, it's a luxury to hoard paper; apart from online sources, we can now use electronic readers. I don't want to believe that the age of the paper book is over, but it certainly looks to be going that way.

In Greece, pork is a very popular meat. It's the main one used to make the nationally popular street-food souvlaki, both in a pita bread and on a skewer. Grilled pork chops are a standard feature at tavernas, cooked over charcoal, and similarly for home barbecues. The Greek seasonings for pork chops usually consist of oregano, ground pepper and salt, with lemon juice sprinkled over them. Sometimes, pork chops are marinated in wine before grilling. That's the general Greek way of cooking pork steaks. In the winter when the weather makes it difficult to cook outdoors, they are usually placed under a grill in a conventional oven.

A little while ago, we managed to get hold of some locally reared pork. My husband was called up by a friend: "A pig will be slaughtered tomorrow," he informed him, "it's first in, first served." So he went out to the village of Nippos, where a farming family runs a dairy station, raising mainly sheep and goats, producing various milk products, curing olives and keeping a few pigs for the eventual sale of their meat. My husband bought back enough for 5 family-sized meals. We paid 5.50 euro per kilo, which is similar to the retail price of pork (it can go down to 3.50 euro per kilo when sold on special). When he bought it home, we left it in the fridge for three days to allow the remaining blood to drain away, then placed it in the freezer. This is the first time that we have bought pork with such transparency; we do this more often with sheep or goat meat. 

As I pondered about how I would cook our first meal using that meat, I decided to look up a few photos of pork chops on the internet. I showed them to my husband: he was mesmerised by the tempting food porn showing pork steaks in a range of poses, dressed in a variety of sauces and seasonings. He particularly liked the look of this set of photos, but was rather taken aback by the ingredients list: apple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and mustard! I know what he was wondering: how can a dish containing such unusual ingredients (for Greek standards) look so good?

A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle EastIn A Taste of Thyme (2000), Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper sum up the reasons why some people like some kinds of food and why others don't: "At the most obvious level, the wealthy and poor in a society, different ethnic groups, city and village dwellers, men and women, adults and children, eat differently... Commensality implies shared understandings and evaluations of what constitutes 'proper' food. But when we entertain guests from other traditions, we expect them - challenge them - to approve and applaud our food. Every culture and community is proud of its own food traditions and tends to be ambivalent or contemptuous about those of others... Stereotypes of other ethnic and religious groups frequently refer to food customs... Alternatively, a cosmopolitan orientation may be demonstrated by those who consume 'ethnic' foods, though dishes served in 'ethnic' restaurants are often adjusted radically to suit the perceived tastes of the local consumers, just as native cuisine may be almost unrecognizable when served to international tourists."

Although we may be veering towards a world that functions according to global trends, we're still a world full of different people, with our own culinary idiosyncratic preferences and dislikes. There is still a sense of national standards in the food people eat around the world. Greece is one of those countries where food is still perceived according to a set of national standards rather than global ones. Home-cooked family meals are still associated with known favorites. I often use the internet for cooking ideas, but I still need to make sure that the meal will suit the tastebuds of my eaters, as well as the availability of ingredients in my kitchen on a Sunday morning (apple juice is still considered to be quite definitely 'foreign' in Crete). What interested me more was the technique used in the original recipe to cook the meat, which was well illustrated and described by the author. My adapted recipe using common ingredients in a Cretan kitchen resulted in a very tasty and satisfying meal for all of us.

You need:
4 pork chops (don't trim the fat off)
5 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of prepared mustard (mustard is just as common as mayonnaise all over Greece)
3 large tablespoons of home-made tomato sauce (a teaspoon of tomato paste diluted in a wineglass of water can replace this)
1/2 wine glass of Cretan home-brewed wine
a glass of water
3-4 drops of tabasco sauce (optional: for such a large meal, you'd expect more drops to experience heat; I am simply introducing it in small doses)
olive oil (it's difficult for a Cretan to quantify the amount of olive oil used in an individual recipe: my measurement is usually in 'glugs')
oregano, salt and pepper

Our Sunday meals are the ones that usually involve more thought than the meals I cook during the week - but they are also the ones that I would say are easier to prepare.

Set the oven to heat up at 180C. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven on the stovetop and sautee the onions till soft and translucent. While they are cooking, place the mustard, tomato sauce, water, wine and tabasco sauce in a bowl and blend the ingredients well. When the onions are ready, set them aside, and heat up some oil in another saucepan, enough to cover its surface like a thin film. The saucepan should be large enough to hold the pork chops. Place them on the pan, seasoning them with salt, pepper and oregano. Let them cook on high heat till they are brown on both sides (about 5 minutes), turning them once and seasoning them again. Then pour the liquids over the pork chops and let them cook in this sauce for about 5 minutes. Now lift the pork chops out of the pan and place them over the onions, then pour the sauce over them. Seal them with the lid of the Dutch oven and place them in the oven to cook till tender; this will take about 30 minutes.

porky porki
Either I was too tired to remember to photograph the different stages of the meal, or it was too good to wait. What you see here is the remains of the meal, which were combined and re-heated the next day as leftovers.

To add some bulk to the meal, I cooked (separately) some lemon potatoes, which should be placed in the oven half an hour before the pork chops, so that everything will cook at the same time and can be served together. All you need is a salad and some good wine to complete the meal. 

©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 13 March 2011

Cake icing with natural food colours and flavours (Γλάσο με φυσικά χρώματα και φυσικές γεύσεις)

For my daughter's birthday, I made some cupcakes for her to take to school and share out to her classmates. To make them more festive, I decided to ice them, having gained some confidence since my first cake icing venture. With the help of some youtube videos, I got acquainted with the basics, which included vanilla frostings and food colourings.

After a few visits to a few supermarkets, I realised that I wasn't going to find any bottles containing food colourings - not at INKA (local level), nor Carrefour (multi-national) or Vasilopoulos (high-end). Not only that, but the only kind of ready icing sold was chocolate glaze. In Hania, you will be hard pressed to find royal icing and frosting. This says a lot about the society that I live in; I leave it to my readers to make their own assumptions. Greek zaharoplasteia, which I have often reprimanded on my blog for selling cakes made with fake cream, do not seem to use fake colours either: a quick look at their window displays reveals that, in general, they do not sell fake-coloured food. These may be added to made-to-order children's birthday cakes; μέτρον ἄριστον, as the Greeks say.

zaharoplasteo egaleo athens zaharoplasteio
Left: a zaharoplasteio in Hania. Right: a zaharoplasteio in Athens. Apart from cherries and strawberry/cherry jam glazes, the colours of the sweets seem to represent natural food colours.

Most of the time, if not all the time, the food I prepare in my house does not lend itself well to the addition of artificial flavours and colours in order to create an impression. Most (again, if not all) of the time, my food, though simple and unpretentious, is highly aromatic and colourful, at any rate. This is the first year that I have felt 'obliged' to take a more liberal approach to food preparation. But it did not detract me from seeking out more natural approaches to icing cupcakes. And all because the artificial stuff simply doesn't exist on our supermarket shelves.

artificial food colourings butter icing and artificial colours
These artificial food colours from NZ have been sitting in my cupboard for a long time. The blue and green bottles are unopened. I keep them for sentimental reasons. Using a Martha Stewart recipe for frosting, I experimented with the red bottle to create some deep pink icing that would suit my daughter's Barbie interests. She really liked its look, but was hesitant about the taste. I can't blame her: the ingredients listed for each bottle state 'water', 'colour' and a number.

Another problem I found with making frosting is the high cost of butter in Hania. Forget the locally produced stuff; it smells like a sheep station (we don't have locally made cow's butter). Good quality butter is very expensive in a non-producing region like Crete. From experience, I've found that most recipes which call for butter can be made with olive oil instead. I decided to replace the butter with olive oil, which flows like water in our house. I don't expect my readers to take up this idea (unless they live in Crete or have ample supplies of olive oil). It did turn out to be successful though!

olive oil icing olive oil cocoa icing
I started off by beating a mixture of olive oil and icing (confectioner's) sugar. The pale yellow mixture (I could not get a white colour) came out very smooth and glossy, able to hold stiff peaks - but it tasted of olive oil. I added some vanilla sugar to mask the taste, but that wasn't enough; the taste improved when I added a very small amount of peach jam (it did not affect the colour). By adding cocoa powder to the same mixture, I got a classic chocolate (ie brown) icing. 
olive oil icing olive oil cocoa icing
The icing was easy to apply on a cupcake (the one above was made with frozen grated summer zucchini). It even gave good results when used in a piping tube. My main worry was that it would melt if left out at room temperature for a long time - but it didn't. The icing remained set, it did not run, it didn't go crusty in the fridge, and, above all, it tasted good.

The results of my experimentations with natural colours and flavours were all conducted during a test session with my children in my kitchen. They tasted everything and I adjusted the ingredients accordingly. My first test session looked into achieving good texture, while my second session looked into natural colourings, which necessitated adding the dimension of taste when I added natural ingredients.

icing in natural flavours and colours
 Brown (chocolate flavour with cocoa powder), dark pink (strawberry jam flavour with beetroot dye), creamy white (peach jam flavour) and light pink (dried crushed blueberry flavour - I was hoping for a blue-purple tinge, but this didn't work). You will see some olive oil floating on the top of some icings; as I added liquids to adjust colour and taste, I found that the oil began to separate from the mixture. This was able to be drained away completely and it did not affect the taste or texture of the icing. In fact, the removal of the excess oil improved both taste and texture.
icing in natural flavours and colours

The cream and brown coloured icing didn't present any problems, which encouraged me to continue with my experiments. The pink icing was achieved with a drop of strained beetroot liquid and some strawberry jam to mask the taste of the vegetables (strawberry jam alone was not enough to colour my frosting).

icing in natural flavours and colours icing in natural flavours and colours
With the help of a piping set, my daughter decorated the beetroot-walnut-cocoa cupcakes above; my creations are below. My natural icing colours reminded me of the colours found in the sepia tones of old-fashioned photography. They were all able to be used with a piping tube, and they set without running.
icing in natural flavours and colours

For a white coloured icing, I made some simple glaze using icing sugar mixed with water, which I later discovered could be substituted with lemon juice for a tangy flavour. Orange juice also makes a tasty pale yellow-orange glaze, but don't expect a bright orange colour!

The finished cupcakes, to be taken to school in honour of my daughter's ninth birthday

Green is a difficult colour: would avocado (with lemon juice) work? How about nettles, which give a deep green colour? But what about the taste? Sometimes, it's just so much more convenient to use the easy option...

*I finally found a packet of food colours containing three vials of red, blue and yellow food colouring at a larger brnach of Carrefour at a cost of 2.40 euro.

©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.

Monday 7 March 2011

H for Halva, H for Health and H for Hooray (Χαλβά)

Throughout the many instances of bad luck in my life, I have been extremely lucky.

Nine years ago, I was pregnant with my second child, who was two months away from being born. On the Friday before a day like this one, I was supposed to go to work in the evening to teach English at a frontistirio. On that particular day, because I already had some horta and boiled eggs ready for my husband's lunch, I decided to get a few jobs done in town. So I got dressed up, fed my unborn baby's older sibling and took him downstairs to his grandmother, and then I took my handbag and went off to bank some money (oh, for the good old days when we were still doing that) and pay some bills (which are now paid online - boy, have we come a long way). While I was busying myself with my errands, I met up with a lot of people I knew who were also running errands in town. They all asked me how I was, and when the baby was due. I told them that she wouldn't be coming until after Easter, and it was now almost the beginning of Lent, so I had a long way to go yet. They all wished me "Με το καλό", and we all continued on our way.

I still had my pregnancy leave to organise, which was due to start on Clean Monday. Having been well versed on the matter, since I had given birth only just over a year before that, I was carrying a whole host of documents with me, the most important being my IKA health book, and a doctor's certificate stating when I was expected to give birth, approximately two months from that date. One document was missing, so I went into work to pick it up from the accountant. Again, my colleagues asked me when the baby was due, and wished me all the best.

Just before I went back to the IKA offices, at about 11.30am, I bought myself a piece of spanakopita (and a bottle of water), which is usually what I treat myself to when I buy something to eat in town. I made the IKA office my final chore for the day, where I was given preferential treatment, since I obviously looked quite laden. The paperwork took a long time - it involved a lot of double-checking of documents and signing of different papers because a large payment was going to be arranged to be paid to me. At the time, pregnancy leave was granted to working mothers-to-be two months before the birth, at which point, a compensation payment according to your IKA contributions would be made to you (I knew I'd be getting about 350,000 drachmas), with another similar period of leave and amount of money due after the birth. The clerk told me to come back in three working days to pick up my first payment.

By the time I finished from IKA, and walked back to my car and went back home, it was after 1 o'clock. I decided against doing any supermarket shopping because it was getting late and there were still chores to do at home before I went to work. I picked up my son from his yiayia's and fed him, then I warmed up our own lunch and set the table. My husband came home at the expected time. He made some funny faces with his first-born like most χαζομπαμπάδες do, just at the time I thought I felt like I needed to go to the loo, which I did. When I returned from the bathroom, I saw my husband ladling some horta onto his plate. I felt like I needed to go the bathroom again, and when I came back to the kitchen, he had just sat down to have his lunch. I took another trip to the toilet, and when I returned to the kitchen this time, he had just squeezed some lemon juice over the horta, and had picked up his fork, ready for the first bite, which, at that point in time, he had not yet taken.

"I need to go to the hospital," I told him. So he put down his fork (he hadn't taken any bite), called his mother upstairs to put our son to sleep, and drove me to the general hospital of Hania, where the doctors decided that I would be giving birth on that day. They asked me what I had eaten, and how long ago I had eaten it, because the baby had to be delivered by caesarean; operations on patients with full stomachs are less successful, so we had to wait another couple of hours in order for the doctors to ensure that I would have fully digested that piece of spanakopita. I was anaesthetised from the waist down, so I was fully aware of the moment when the baby entered the world; I remember her screams. But the doctors didn't bring her to me to see her. When I asked them about that, they said she was being prepared to be taken to a neo-natal unit in another hospital. I only got a glimpse of her dark hair. She was born prematurely, just as I had entered my eighth month of pregnancy.

The baby that was supposed to be born after Easter had kicked her way out into the world before even the start of Great Lent. I don't know what happened to the horta we'd left on the table, as I spent the next six days in the public hospital in a room on my own (which, I suppose, is standard practice when a birth doesn't happen in the expected way, as I couldn't be placed in a room full of mothers who had just given birth and had their babies with them). My husband remembers his first meal of that day - he had it at 11pm in Iraklio, where he accompanied his newborn daughter - 'Be prepared for the worst, Mr D', the doctors told him - to the neo-natal unit two hours away in Iraklio, where she stayed for 28 days. Not that we don't have a neo-natal unit in Hania; the problem is that it has never been operational (and all the equipment has now become obsolete through disuse - it's still lying there). If it weren't for the prompt actions of the hospital staff, the availability of an ambulance, and the achievements of modern medicine, my second-born would not have made it this far into the world.

For similar reasons, neither would my first-born child still be alive now. What initially seemed like a normal pregnancy and birth ended up in a very difficult first year for my son and his parents. When he was 40 days old, he seemed to be sleeping most of the day and he was as white as a ghost. We discovered that his 'blood-producing factory' (the one that all human beings are born with and which continues to work till the day we all die) wasn't working in his body. He was first diagnosed with an extremely rare syndrome called Diamond-Blackfan Anaemia (DBA), which meant that he would receive blood transfusions at regular intervals for the rest of his life. At the time of the diagnosis, the only treatments available for DBA were blood transfusions which carry inherent problems of their own (eg the need to undergo regular chelation therapy due to iron overload), or cortisone-steroids treatment which generally creates known problems in regular users. Since then, new studies have revealed that this disorder may be treated through dietary supplements, a fact that makes me very thankful to have direct access to really good high quality food. 

By the time my son was 10 months old, he had already had 6 blood transfusions at regular intervals (usually every 5-6 weeks). While I was in the early stages of my daughter's pregnancy, I drove the two hours needed to take my son to the University Hospital in Iraklio (where unusual cases of this type are treated) for his 7th blood transfusion. His blood was checked before the transfusion, and that's when the remarkable discovery was made: his blood counts were better, not worse, and close to normal levels for a baby his age. Nearly ten years later, he has never needed a transfusion since then. His disorder was re-diagnosed as a possible case of Transient Erythroblastopenia of Childhood (TEC), a kind of anaemia that lasts temporarily and could be linked to a virus, even though no virus was detected in my son's tests, and the temporariness of TEC lasts up to 2 months, not 6 as in my son's case. I kept records of all his blood transfusions and diagnoses throughout his treatments; I still have them tucked away in a folder.

Had these two children been born in Hania under similar circumstances 100 years ago, they would both most likely have been victims of infant mortality. They were both breastfed; even though I only saw my daughter twice while she was living in an incubator for 28 days after her birth in a hospital two hours away from our home, I continued to produce milk, and she took to it as soon as we were allowed to bring her home. I stopped producing milk when she 3 months old, due to an operation to remove a benign tumour that had developed in the birth canal, which was possibly the reason why she was born so early. I had to discard most of my own milk, as I had run out of bottles and storage space in the freezer. Had I known better, I could have been turning it into ice-cream and selling it at £15 a scoop.

Hooray for Life. Hooray for Modern Medicine. Hooray for the Future, because life can only really get better for all of us, not worse; the world is indeed a better place, even if it is a somewhat sick one.

*** *** ***
The year my daughter was born was probably the only year of my married life that I didn't cook on Clean Monday. It was probably the only Clean Monday of my whole life that I didn't fast, either, as it was the first day I was allowed to eat after the Caesarean - I remember my first meal being chicken soup. A Greek proverb says that God forgives the weak or ailing, the very young and the weary travellers.

This year's Clean Monday menu is a little less traditional than other years' in our house. International Cuisine Saturdays and creativity in the Cretan kitchen have become a more accepted part of the culinary regime. The menu reflects these concepts:
 Clean Monday menu 2011; most of the recipes have been blogged about

There will also be dessert. It isn't the first time I've used halva as my daughter's birthday cake. Halva isn't a festive sweet, but it's irresistible when it's as tasty as my one. I make it according to the good old 1-2-3-4 recipe. You really cannot go wrong.

You need:
1 cup of olive oil
2 cups of semolina
3 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
some chopped almonds and/or walnuts (or some other dried fruit of your preference: this year, I used dried Canadian blueberries and craisins)
a cinnamon stick
half a lemon
some cinnamon powder

In a pot, place the water and sugar, along with the cinnamon stick, the lemon juice squeezed from the half lemon AND the peel itself, and let the syrup boil away for 15 minutes. In another large pot, place the semolina and let it heat up until it starts to give off a slightly burnt scent. Then add the oil and stir it in. Let the semolina mixture cook till it turns golden brown, stirring constantly. Add all the dried fruit at this stage and let them cook together with the semolina (or you can add them at the end of the cooking time, if you prefer).

When the semolina is ready, pour the syrup (stick and peel removed) onto the semolina. Watch out - the chemistry of these combined heated products will cause bubbling splatters which burn if you aren't careful! Continue to stir the halva, until it begins to set in the pot, after which you must quickly turn it into a mould to set (or small individual moulds, if you prefer). Dust with cinnamon (or cocoa powder - it's lenten!) and let it cool before serving.

Καλή σαρακοστή to all.

©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 3 March 2011

The Christchurch earthquake: the aftermath (Σεισμός)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "The past is a different country; people did things differently then"

 Red and black, the colours of New Zealand in mourning, for earthquake-devastated Christchurch

When I got up in the morning of the 22nd of February, I woke up the kids and got breakfast going, like I do every weekday, But I did something unusual that morning: I turned on the computer (I usually do that at work, not at home). My husband needed a photocopy of a document that had some important bureaucratic value, and I needed to make a copy of the announcement for the new fiction lending library that I had created at work. I suppose you must be wondering why I couldn't do that at work since it's work-related: don't you have photocopiers at work? you exclaim reproachfully, possibly even condescendingly, as a sign of Greek backwardness? Well, yes, we do, but they aren't working at the moment, because they all need toners (or something), and 'consumable accessories' (as we call them in Greek: αναλώσιμα) now have a low budget priority (toilet paper included: BYO); the economic crisis has become a scapegoat for anything that goes wrong in our life.

The important document and the special announcement suddenly lost their importance when I was greeted with a bombarded Christchurch on the screen. My immediate thoughts went out to my family, who I felt were probably safe and sound in Wellington, hundreds of miles away from the stricken city. Christchurch is unfamiliar territory for me: I had never visited it, so I had never seen the famous Cathedral or the Timeball; they are now both history. At any rate, they were an earthquake risk before the earth moved in Christchurch, a place that no one had ever thought of as a seismic region until the two quakes struck. It's amazing to think that we can put satellites in the sky, keep track of the movements of every single object on earth, know when a flood or a snowstorm will strike, warn people of when a volcano will erupt, and even prevent the spread of cancer by finding out how to stop malignant tumours from growing, but we still haven't figured out when an earthquake will strike, or how big it will be. Nature is still an unknown quantity, despite the great steps we have taken in our advanced evolution.

Unfortunately for Christchurch, luck was on their side when it struck the first time, making her inhabitants and the authorities somewhat complacent about the possibility of an earthquake of similar magnitude striking again, and so soon. But it did, and it caught not just NZ, but the whole world by surprise, and sadly for Christchurch, it created not just a local disaster, but a national state of emergency. When the first quake struck, I thought How lucky NZ is that she didn't lose any lives. I didn't care that some of the buildings had been destroyed (and I was reprimanded for this by some of my kiwi compatriots). At the time the second earthquake struck, I thought I can't do anything to help those people and that city: I couldn't go and cook them some comforting food, I couldn't help search for survivors, I couldn't provide them with temporary accommodation. I felt so helpless. I went to work and tried to put the whole affair out of mind: I couldn't do anything about it. I simply reminded myself to seize the moment: I had left one seismic region (Wellington) to live in another seismic region (Athens, Hania), and this could happen to me at any time.

Over the last two weeks, as I pour over the photos showing the devastation that took place and skim through the hundreds of news reports that are still being written about the catastrophe, it occurs to me that Christchurch and her inhabitants (those that have remained) are about to experience life in what up until now has been termed a third-world (or under-developed, or developing, or simply 'poor') country, without having to actually travel to one. Apart from the sad loss of young life that the city has to deal with, there is also the loss of the historical buildings of Christchurch which gave the town her character, buildings that had little value apart from the nostalgic, historical and sentimental, things that connected the people of Christchurch to their past, things that were promoted as of particular interest for tourism.

While I was reading these reports, I heard a crashing sound in the living room: my daughter had been throwing a toy up in the air and catching it. At one point, it didn't fall into her hands; it fell on a few boxes on top of a shelf where I had decided to store them. They were filled with some crystal glasses (whose shape, style and appearance I abhorred), stuff that my mother (and some acquaintances) had bought (cheaply or on sale). They had never been used. Well, one of those boxes moved, which sent another one crashing down, which then created a domino effect, and the rest is history. I spent a good hour or two making sure no shards of glass remained on the floor; we don't use footwear indoors. 

My daughter got a bit of a fright: she knows from experience how most mothers will react to such damage. She looked a little dazed when I kissed her - and slightly stunned when I congratulated her on what she did. "Thanks for helping me to get rid of this crap from our house," I said to her. "I'm so glad it won't be left behind for you to have to store in your own home." It was at this point that I suddenly realised just what it was that I could do for my fellow compatriots, despite the great distance that divides me from them.

I came to Greece 20 years ago with a few clothes in a backpack, and some camera rolls full of memories of a European holiday. It was my first time away from home, and I was at a young and carefree age when material possessions did not mean much to me. My first flat was a furnished bedsitter in central Athens. It contained a tiny cooker, a small fridge, a double bed (supported on pallets), a tiny bathroom, three (rickety) chairs, a clunky old TV set, a small desk, 2 bookshelves, and some old (stained) crockery and cutlery. That's all I needed. When I went back home to visit my very ill mother, I felt sorry for her as I watched her dusting a myriad useless objects in the big huge family home (with a 25-metre hallway) with the too-many unoccupied (and unvacuumed) rooms, now that the flock had outgrown the nest. I couldn't tell her that, of course: she had arrived in NZ as an immigrant, and had come from a world where the few material possessions that one had were very important.

kitchen stuffWhen I got married, I thought this was a good time to start amassing things myself, because I was about to start living in a large comfortable house, which I will most likely be living in forever (on the subject of divorce, see the end of the post), and there was plenty of space to start filling up. So I took all my late mother's remnants, which reminded me of her, stuff which I thought I could show to my kids and tell them that the yiayia they never knew had bought it. Adding this stuff to my own and my husband's, before long, I'd filled up my new house with... more stuff, which, thankfully, I now have the foresight to know I do not need to keep.

File:Computer clock radio.jpg
My family unknowingly helped me to do this. It started off a few months into my marriage, with my old clock radio (in perfect working order), which my parents had presented to me as a gift when I got my School C. It didn't have an inbuilt facility to keep the set time and alarm, so every time we had a power cut (this happens somewhat often in the villages of Hania), I had to re-set the time. But I didn't always remember to re-set the alarm, so every now and then, my husband got a rude awakening when the clock's factory settings turned the radio on at midnight. Can you blame him for picking it up and --- (I don't need to explain the rest).

Patterned Gold Fabric Lamp ShadeThen there was the lamp, one of those beautiful tall old-fashioned ones, with a large tassled canvas tent lampshade surrounding the light bulb, supported on NZ wood, with a little table at chair-seat level, which could hold your cuppa Bells tea (over the crochet doily that every Greek woman would have placed on it). I'll never forget unpacking it in my father's apartment when he moved to Greece after the death of my mother: The shade took up one whole storage box in a ship container. He didn't have enough space to put it in his new home, a tiny urban Cretan apartment, so I took it. One evening, I came home from work and found it broken. I couldn't blame my kids for the damage - they weren't even born yet. When I asked my husband for an explanation, he told me that a cat had jumped on it. "But we don't have a bloody cat, Dimitri." Apparently, a stray came into the house and he used it as target prac--- (I don't need to explain the rest).

The glass-topped table makes a good story. It was one of those tables made of fake word, with a fake carving of a (probably fake) Oriental scene. Any Greek-Kiwi would know the ones I mean: most of their parents would have at some time owned one, too, possibly with the same carving on it (Farmers sold it when it still had a furniture department). When my husband was faced with his first babysitting assignment with two babies, I should have expected that something would go wrong. On returning home from work, I didn't notice the missing glass from the top of the table. I simply asked how the evening went. "It was a bit adventurous," he replied. To cut a long story short, one of the children (not quite 2 yet) was playing in the lounge while the other one (10 months old) was in bed. Babies don't go to sleep when you tell them to; this one was fussing. Pity she was fussing when the phone rang: the sound of a phone is usually more important than the sound of a baby (from a man's point of view: and vice-versa from a woman's). She continued to cry, but he only stopped talking on the phone when he heard a loud crash coming from the lounge. The toddler had just smashed the glass table top with a toy telephone; my husband quickly removed him from the scene and took him to the children's bedroom. Just at the moment that his baby daughter saw her father, she stopped crying - and puked all over her cot. That was an expensive phone call, wasn't it?

378pxhp35_1972_2There's also the story of the calculator my parents bought me in 5th form, one of those old ones with an LCD screen and rubber buttons. It was still in working order, but we have calculators on our computers and mobile phones, so it had fallen into disuse. That's why I didn't notice it missing from its hiding place. My son had found it and took it apart  (including removing every single button) like a little Einstein, but didn't have enough genius left in him to re-assemble it. I have plenty more similar stuff-related stories to tell you, but they seem so trivial. It did not take me long to realise that all this clutter - the kind of stuff you can now buy on Etsy - was just a way for me to cling to my past, because that is what I have generally been taught to do most of my life, from both my Greek and NZ upbringing: to remember my ancestors, to remember my traditions, to remember my history, to remember my country(s), to hold on to the past, lest we forget it and it slips out of our minds. But at the same time, that is why my present homeland is being persecuted: Greece is being forced to give up her past in order to face a more promising future. Now it's New Zealand's turn: Christchurch has to put people's safety before the rcovery of possessions, and not worry about how many school days pupils have missed out on, or how many business days a store has lost, or how quickly the city will be rebuilt. That's what happens in a disaster, whether natural or man-made: order breaks down, but chaos need not ensue.

Getting back to my mother's early life, why were those few material possessions that she had so important in those days? They were important precisely because they were so few, and in those days, they were irreplaceable - in her mountain village of Kambi, there were no shops (or even money) to buy new crockery if you broke it, or shoes if your only pair had holes in them, or socks or dresses (or even the materials needed to make them, for that matter). Nowadays, everything is replaceable, and at a very speedy rate, and a very low cost compared to life in the past. It really was a different country back then.

I now live in a comfortable home with all the necessary facilities. It's probably bigger than the average-sized home in Greece. At the same time, it's smaller than even the average-sized home in New Zealand. I don't own many kitchen appliances: when the multi-moulineux (or the toaster) breaks down, I use a knife (or make non-toasted sandwiches). When my kids grow out of their clothes, I give them away to others that need them (just like others did when they gave me their kids' clothes). I've taught the children to give up their toys when they decide that they have grown out of them: they know where the bag is kept where we deposit items that we know we don't need any more. I buy as many books and DVDs from Amazon as I can afford, but I am now wary of the amount of space that books and DVDs take up, hence my decision to start a lending library for our students.

the acropolis athens
When I look at the Acropolis, standing tall over Athens in its recently reconstructed state, I think it is a wonder that it's still standing, given the number of times man-made desecration has defiled it; not even nature's forces could be so catastrophic! It's been rebuilt more for political rather than cultural reasons: we're still trying to prove to the UK that we are worthy of getting back the Parthenon marbles. When a well-known Nazi-erected historical monument in Hania, the Eagle, suffered damage after a heavy storm only a few years ago, a whole clunk of it containing the actual bird fell down. It was never dismantled when the Germans left Crete, but now that it's been destroyed due to natural causes, no one thought about reconstructing it, either. It's over; we've moved on from that.

vathi hania chania vathi hania chania
Houses in Vathi, Hania, Crete. They were razed by the Nazis in retaliation against the resistance movement. People lost their homes which were never re-built - some of the occupants of these houses moved to New Zealand.

It took a destructive earthquake for most Kiwis to realise that life is not all about collecting Toby jugs and other replaceable material possessions, nor is it about saving old buildings at the expense of lives. If a building is to be demolished because it poses a safety risk, then the sooner the better; it doesn't need a nationally-based enquiry to make the decision. In a city where, now, everyone knows someone who has passed away, survivors need to keep in mind that they didn't lose their own life; surviving an earthquake is much easier than surviving as a refugee. The old monuments (with their old secrets) may have gone, but there will be new ones to take their place. What matters most is safety, not nostalgia. As long as you don't suffer from Alzheimer's, you'll always have memories to hold on to, but you may not always be safe.

I leave you with a little something that I saw flashing across the screen last night on TV, as I was watching a music show, something I don't often do, so I take it as a divine sign that must be shared:

Μη μετράς την ζωή με αυτά που έχασες - να την μετρήσεις με αυτά που σου έμειναν. (Don't measure life by what you have lost - measure it by what has remained.)

On divorce: not for everyone, I'm afraid. 
The photos of: the Cathedral, the Timeball, the radio, lampshade, table and calculator have been lifted off the internet.

©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.