Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Sunday 31 March 2013

Christmas at Easter (Χριστούγεννα το Πάσχα)

The weather is an important topic of conversation in many countries, often in the form of a complaint. In Greece, we often complain about the sun because it gets too hot. Even in the middle of winter, when the sun comes out, it sits on your back and soaks through your clothing into your skin, giving you a damp humid feeling. In rural Crete, we make the sign of the cross when we see rain because of its relative absence and its great importance for our agriculture. Our prolonged dry spells are another cause of chagrin: dust accumulation. Even when it rains after a long dry spell with southern winds, the rain will fall together with the dust, causing what is known in Greece as the 'red rain' phenomenon.

I often read about how much the Brits moan about their rainy cold weather. Now that I spent a week in London during one of the coldest ever Marches, I can understand why they moan so much. In the seven days we were there, I can actually recall the moments I saw the sun. The first time lasted for about half an hour. We saw it from the train window during the trip from Stansted Airport to central London, at about sunset. As we passed through picturesque countryside, where we saw hundreds of carefree-looking bunny rabbits enjoying the sunshine (and to think, I was carrying rabbit meat in my suitcase - how easy it must be to cook up a stifado in this country!), a few scurrying squirrels, some ducks wading through streams and a quick glimpse of an allotment that was enjoying the sun's rays, that little bit of sun made the bare flat English fields look quite enticing.

By the time we arrived at my friend's house in southeast London, the sun had disappeared, giving way to the evening darkness, which looked very Dickensian as we walked past the pretty red-brick terraced houses of Brockley. They had a Christmas look about them: a faint light could be seen from the opaque window pane of the main entrance, and one room would also be lit up with the curtain drawn, so you could see the interior, where someone was often working at a desk on a computer. One house even had red fairy lights around one of the windows. That was the only yellow light we would see for the next seven days, except for one brief moment when the sun suddenly appeared from the sky like a lightning bolt, lasting all of three minutes - in between the light snow and the gritty hail - in Hendon. We felt its warmth through the windows from inside a shop where we were buying my son's fencing equipment. And that was basically it. We never saw the sun in its round yellow form while in London, and we didn't get any other glimpse of the until we returned to Crete.

Instead of spring this year, Britain is going through a prolonged winter, which seems rather unfair, given that summer hardly appeared last year. I can still see snow from the windows of our Cretan home - but it's sitting on the top of the mountain, out of harm's way, not under my feet. Our weekend in London was spent watching the snow flakes falling onto the ground, and amassing into ice on our hosts' potted herbs and flowers, the black soil in the miniscule garden, and the wooden fencework. All the surfaces seemed to be gradually getting covered in the white stuff, all except for the footpaths and the roads; our hosts told us that this was a good sign because it meant that you won't be wading through snow and the public transport will continue to run, although the cold will turn to frost and everything will freeze as the snow turns to ice - if that is any consolation!

The snow fell in tiny ice drops, like confetti. As we walked from the house to the shops (according to my self-styled itinerary, it was Primark shopping morning), we did not feel cold. The slight wind kept the snow moving, which stopped it from settling, melting it and generating a slight sense of heat from the humidity. Luckily we got back home early enough to watch the snow turn into a blizzard at about 2pm; suddenly, the snowflakes were moving around as fast as a swarm of buzzing bees in a hive that had just been upset. Visibility dropped, the atmosphere fogged up, and it carried on like this for about an hour. That put the remaining day's itinerary out of whack - we would have to miss the concert we had booked to attend at the Hellenic Centre in Paddington St. The snow did not have to stop us from going - but it might have stopped us from coming back home.

Still, I only have good memories of my time spent in snowy London. It was an interesting experience. We took no risks, therefore we didn't fear it. The cold was bitter, but we kept ourselves wrapped up warm. Travelling further out of the concreted part of London and into the snowy countryside in the northwesternmost part of greater London, we experienced the eerie beauty of the snow-capped landscape. The snowy surroundings reminded me of a Dickensian Christmas, even though we were fast approaching Easter, albeit calendar, not Greek! Any part of our body that was not covered in clothing (lips, nose, fingertips) simply froze. The children's biggest disappointment was when our hosts told us that the snow we were seeing wasn't the type you could play in or make snowballs with - and if you stepped off the concrete and onto the snowy fields, your shoes would be trashed because they would become muddy (you needed gumboots).

The weather plays a significant role in our life. I'm a homebody; this weather would suit me to a tee. Not so my husband - it would drive him crazy to be stuck indoors most of the time. Cold snowy weather - it isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Speaking of tea, something I rarely drink in Crete, I ended up drinking gallons of the stuff in London. The cold weather makes it go down more easily. And you want to eat a lot. We did not have any difficulties scoffing down roast meat and floury potatoes, with crackling, Yorkshire pudding and thick gravy, followed by stodgy pudding and scones for tea.

This was the best meal I had during my stay in London. The cook must have been a good one to make it so tasty, but I think it was the love factor that she added when preparing this special meal, specially for us. Not only did the wine pair well with this feast - so did the weather.

(And if you want the recipes, here they are:)

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Saturday 30 March 2013


The villages surrounding my own are places I used to drive through frequently until the passing of my relatives who lived there; my daily routine these days doesn't lead me into these places, as I now feel I have little reason to go there. I felt a stranger there when I recently dropped my daughter off at a friend's house tucked in the midst of olive groves and orange orchards.

The surrounding villages smell of orange blossom now

I recall a time when I would walk with my father's sister in these fields, watching them in fascination as they picked the wild edible greens, as I remembered watching my mother picking similar wild edibles in a faraway country. After leaving my daughter, I stopped by the side of a road, close to my aunt's home, which reminded me of those times when I accompanied her on foot. We would walk slowly - there was no need to rush - stopping off wherever we found large clumps of dock, fennel and wild mustard.

Fields are covered in yellow oxalis

I was surprised - and indeed thrilled! - to find the same horta growing in the same place where I last watched my late aunt collecting them. I am often amused to find the same wild greens being sold at the fresh supplies stores, commanding high prices.

The dock is now on its last legs before it gets too hot to grow

We live in a mixed-up world these days. We are made to feel that we are trespassing over other people's properties, at the same time that we see fields untended, orchards overgrown, fruit rotting and trees growing so closely together that their trunks are no longer discernible. We are soon to be taxed on land ownership, even when that land is not productive. The next stage will be the laying of footpaths on the first roads that now line the fields, so that even what has been growing wildly and quietly on its own will begin to disappear as the last bastions of their abodes are eradicated.

Mustard greens are also thickening their stems

Although people are now finding more and more ways of economising, foraging is still not as popular these days as one would think it would be, given the money problems people are currently facing. But there is another problem with foraging in our times: petrol is expensive, so it's difficult to get to the areas where foraging is at its best. I happened to be at the right place at the right time; I would not have made this trip if it weren't for my daughter's outing. Not all areas are as 'pure' and undisturbed as the area where I was most recently foraging. The soil in the fields is often turned, so that wild edibles are often lost in the turmoil. The places where soil is less often turned are usually located near roads, leading to potential pollution from vehicles. Most of my finds were found in a small ditch located at a lower-than-street level between the fields and the roads, where animals do not graze and cars do not run them over.

These greens will be added to spinach, to make spanakopita

Do we really need to forage for wild greens? Nearly everything is available in shops, but at a price. But personally speaking, if I had to pay for everything I ate, my diet would be more restricted. My food wouldn't be that tasty - in fact, there would always be some taste missing from it, which can only be found in the wild. That's why my food is generally so tasty - it's not my technique, it's the carefully selected ingredients. Most produce I use is fresh, seasonal and local. If it isn't fresh, then it's probably frozen as soon as it was harvested - and its flavour remains at its prime.

The kids are learning to forage too - they learn by experience

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Friday 29 March 2013

On Greekness

Good Friday is a pertinent day to discuss identity. Just because it says Good Friday on the calendar doesn't mean that it actually is Good Friday. Calendar Good Friday and Easter Sunday in my New Zealand home was just a holiday and nothing more; to quote myself, from one of my older blog articles:
"This was purely a mini-break for us; we were still in the middle of our fasting period, the Great Lent. Calendar Easter meant nothing to us. We were not moved when we saw the Pope on television announcing to the world that Christ had risen. In fact, we thought he was lying."
It's more than twenty years since I celebrated a calendar Easter of the sort I describe above. There will still be a good number of people in NZ who are still feeling this way about Easter: in the 2006 NZ Census, 3252 people reported Greek Orthodox as their religion (while 10,000 reported Christian Orthodox, encompassing the Eastern European church, including Russia, Romania, Serbia, etc). But how many people still call themselves 'Greek' as opposed to 'New Zealander' is another question. 

Vassos Gavriel, Secretary and past President of the Hellenic New Zealand Congress recently sent me an analysis of the 2006 NZ census figures for Greek ethnicity:

In the 2006 Census, 2,355 people reported they had a Greek ethnicity and a further 63 people replied Cypriot (2406 in total). Of these:
* Half lived in Wellington (53%) followed by Auckland (20%) and Canterbury (8%).
* 53% were born in New Zealand, 23% in Greece, and 4% in Cyprus
* The older a person is, the more likely they were born overseas rather than NZ.
23% of under-25s reported that they could speak Greek, compared with 86% over 50 years of age. 
So we understand that in 2006, there were about 2400 people in NZ who regarded themselves as Greek. But as Vassos claims, it is hard to tell precisely how many Greek people there are NZ because "the Census uses reported ethnicity which is a concept that does not really capture the concept of Ellenismos (Greekness)". But statistics are open to many interpretations. There other ways of looking at markers of Greek identity in the Census, such as Language spoken and Religious Belief:
* 3401 people reported they spoke Greek. Of the 2406 Greek and Cypriots, 1,401 said they spoke Greek. This suggests that a further 2,000 people said they spoke Greek but did not report a Greek or Cypriot ethnicity. 
* 3252 people reported Greek Orthodox as a religion. Of the 2406 Greek and Cypriots, 1,479 said that they were Orthodox (an additional 320 reported that they had no religion and 117 reported only "Christian"). This suggests that a further 1,746 people who reported Greek Orthodox as their religious belief but did not specify that they had Greek or Cypriot ethnicity. 
What do these figures tell us? I think it is fair to say that some Greek-Kiwis are beginning to take on a Kiwi identity to the point that they don't feel that their Greek side is very dominant any longer. This may be the case of Greeks who have married Kiwis, and they prefer to drop their hyphenated identity status to adopt a socially more accepted neutral identity. Yes, they are of Greek heritage, but when given the choice to state their ethnicity where more than one option is available, they (sub-)consciously chose the one that they think really represents their status.

I would argue that the language data is more reliable than the ethnicity or even the religious data, in order to deduce Greek ethnicity in NZ. New Zealanders who claim to be able to speak Greek are most likely of Greek heritage, as learning the Greek language in NZ is mainly done in the home, not at an educational institute. The religious data confuses the issue: spouses of Greek-heritage Kiwis often become followers of the Greek Orthodox church in order to have a Greek Orthodox church wedding. So there is a different reason altogether for being a member of the Greek Orthodox church, as opposed to learning the Greek language, which you will most likely do by picking it up if you are brought up in a Greek-heritage family. Again though, there will be spouses who speak Greek even though they are not of Greek-heritage. 

The language-religion figures are not too different. Approximately 3400 people speak Greek, and 3200 are Greek Orthodox. That gives us an average of 3300. That pretty much tallies with my own research data, from my 1990 MA thesis in Greek language and maintenance in the Greek community of Wellington. Coupled with the figures for Greek ethnicity, which was approximately 2400, we get a rough idea of what is happening inter-generationally: people continue to speak Greek and/or are members of the Greek Orthodox church. Having said that, however, among this group, there are some people who believe that their ethnicity is better reflected as 'New Zealander' rather than 'Greek'. 

My conclusion (without seeing the 2013 census figures, which were gathered on 5 March) is that there are probably about as many as 4000 people who regard themselves as of Greek heritage in New Zealand, which could include the 'strayed' offspring of Greek-heritage Kiwis. The truth is that just because someone has Greek-heritage ancestors does not necessarily make them Greek. What defines people as Hellenes is not the drop of Hellenic blood in their ancestry - it a feeling more akin to an emotional concept
Greek artist ALEKOS FASIANOS believes that Greekness is a concept that few people can understand: "Greece is a concept that we carry inside us, and that concept is constantly changing, it can't remain the same. We now wear jackets and trousers, but ancient Greeks wore tunics, but we continue to be Greeks. It's the environment ... that makes you Greek. Greece is that thing... Maybe if I hadn't been born in Greece and I wasn't here, I wouldn't draw like I do, I would be doing it differently if I were elsewhere."

Personally, I find it difficult to classify as Greek those cases of Kiwis who clearly have Greek heritage but do not have any affinity to Greekness, such as the sad case of the woman with the very Greek nam(who also happened to have two young daughters who could also be classified as 'Greek' in the same way as their mother) who was found dead on a hill in Wellington about a year ago. This is because (and I regret to say this because I didn't know the woman myself and I therefore have no right to speak on her behalf) in all probability she (and her daughters) would never have chosen 'Greek' in a census form to describe their ethnicity/identity. 

This case is similar to many other examples that visibly exist in NZ. To take another example, it is difficult for me to mark as Greek the young woman who gave my son a haircut in a Cuba Mall salon in Wellington, in 2004. She asked us where we were from (because we were speaking in Greek) and when I told her we were from Greece, she told us that her grandmother was from the Greek island of Chios and she came out to NZ when she married a Kiwi after WW2. The girl had Greek heritage, and she acknowledged this as a part of her history; but when pressed to define her identity - well, that is a different story: she is a Kiwi, and if I told her that she was actually Greek - well, I'd be overstepping the boundaries of freedom of expression. There are many similar cases of people with Greek heritage who acknowledge in their personal history that one of their ancestors was 'Greek', but they do not regard themselves are 'Greek'. (You can find these stories elsewhere in my blog in a series of articles about Greek language maintenance in NZ. The first part is here: ttp:// and the last part contains a synopsis, found here:

I wonder what the new 2013 census figures will bring forth regarding Greek ethnicity in New Zealand. Certainly, with the current rise in Greek migration due to global financial crisis, there are bound to be some changes to the figures. And with a greater visibility of Greekness in the wider community, perhaps more of those estranged Greeks will seek out their heritage.

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Thursday 28 March 2013

Fennel (Μάραθο)

As you drive to and from the airport of Hania, you will come across an amazing sight - a tall graceful with bright yellow flowers, surrounded by bushy fronds.

It is Ferula communis, also known as the giant fennel. Even though it looks like fennel weed, which Cretans use a lot of, it isn't actually a proper fennel species. It doesn't smell of fennel at all; it is completely scentless, a little like the fronds of the fennel bulb.

The aromatic edible fennel is the one on the bottom right hand corner.  
The large fennel-like bush is the giant fennel which hasn't bloomed yet.
If you care to look around in the same area where the giant fennel is growing, you will come across the real fennel weed, which also grows wild and is used in many Cretan dishes, notably the marathopita (fennel pie).


Fennel grows in bushes, and only yields a flower when it is close to the end of its season. Fennel grows most of the year round, by roadsides and rivers.

These fennel pies were part of the offerings served to the first tourists to land by plane in Hania for this season.

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Wednesday 27 March 2013


The following is a scam email I received yesterday, which would have turned me into a rich person overnight, were it a real life scenario:

Paul Morgan
To Recipients
From:Paul Morgan ( 
Sent:Wednesday, March 27, 2013 12:21:56 AM
To:Recipients (
I write on behalf of I and my colleagues to confirm whether your company will be able to provide transportation for 4 delegates that will be coming for 7 days tour in your area.
Please find below the details of the transportation schedule;
(1). Date of transfers: Tuesday, 18th of June 2013 to Monday, 24th of June 2013 (7 days) 
(2). The duration of the transfers will be 8 hours each day,that is; from 10am to 6pm every day, within a radius of 200km in your area. 
(3). Number of persons: 4 persons 
(4). Driver required 
Kindly note that any of these vehicles will be alright for the transfers during those dates; (a car or van). Note also, that 2 or more vehicles that can serve the same purpose will be a better option.

Advise the availability and TOTAL COST for the 7 DAYS transportation for the mentioned days with a driver.

Thanks for your anticipated co-operations. 
Yours sincerely,
Paul Morgan

Knowledge of my husband's job (cabbie) comes from my blog. But no mention is made of the place name, there are English grammar errors, and - my personal favorite blooper - a 200km radius in my town would require an amphibious vehicle.
This kind of scam is more obvious than the one being played out in real life. While Europe is at war, some countries are profiting, while others are barely surviving, and some are being annihilated. When old weapons stop working (eg salary cuts and higher taxes), new ones are being invented (eg savings confiscation). 
The economic destruction of Greece was a gradual process - we learnt and continue to learn how to cope with it. The economic destruction of Cyprus was a complete, almost overnight, annihilation. Can anyone deny that Europe is in a state of war, without sounding dismissive, insensitive and totally ignorant? It's our own fault, we have been told, but we were powerless to do anything about it, except to run away, which we didn't do.
Now, all we have left is to wait and see, hoping that the destruction will eventually stop, which it will do of course, because when everything is destroyed, there will be nothing left to destroy. Hence, it will stop.
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Tuesday 26 March 2013


While in London, we passed through Borough Market quite by chance; we were supposed to be making our way to a rail station, when we chanced on it. Borough Market is now seen as an expensive tourist attraction, but it's also seen as an amazing place where the best of European (and English, in case they don't quite see themselves as part of the mess) food is showcased. 
The whole family tried a range of cured meats and cheese. This reminded the children of their promise to our London hosts, that they will cook them a meal. It was a Friday night, and a rather cold one; the kids chose some saucissons to use in a carbonara. 
Alone, in someone else's kitchen in a foreign country, by being resourceful and opening cupboards and drawers...
... they found the necessary tools and kitchen equipment...
... and produced this very splendid meal. 
'Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers - Romeo and Juliet, Act 4, Scene 2.
(quote sighted on the South Bank, near Shakespeare's Globe Theatre)

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Monday 25 March 2013

The fish that became fishes

Sorry, no recipes in this post, but I hope the photos help. March 25 is the traditional day to eat salt cod - known as bakaliaro - in Greece.

This piece of boneless bakaliaro (salt cod) has ben desalinated by lying in fresh water, changed on a regular basis, for two days. It needs to feed 5 adults and 2 animals.

The skin of the fish is removed - it's a little too tough for chewing, but a cat and dog will be able to manage it easily. Half of the filleted fish will be cut into small pieces, while the rest is flaked.

The cod pieces are set aside, while the flaked fish is mixed with onion, herbs, spices, breadcrumbs and an egg, to bind it into fishballs.

The fishballs are moulded and fried in hot olive oil, in small batches (to keep the oil at a high temperature).

The fish pieces are small; to make each bite bulkier, they are floured and then dipped in an egg batter.

When they are fried, they come out much larger than the original fish pieces, making a more substantial meal out of each piece, so that each bite counts as two.

I got 13 pieces of fish and 14 fishballs from one 800g fillet of salt cod (€~8/kg on supermarket special).

The skin and remaining batter can be fried in the oil that was used to fry the fish. Nothing is wasted because nothing needs to be wasted.

It may sound like too much food to add fried potatoes and Greek-style coleslaw to this dish ...

... but if you have made such an effort to cook such a good meal, why not go one step further and create enough for more than one meal? Preparing this kind of meal requires a lot of effort. If you are working, you really can't do this every day.

There were just enough leftovers for another meal the next day. Cooking a fresh meal every second day is what I call a bargain.

©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.