Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Saturday 30 November 2013

Centennial celebrations

Walking through the town today, from the stadium to the commercial centre, I searched a long long time to find some sign of the centennial celebrations of the Union of Crete with Greece, in the run-up to tomorrow's celebrations which are taking place at the old harbour. 
I finally came across these flags criss-crossed on an electricity pole (don;t be confused by the internaitonal flags - that's been there for years, all part of the cafe's decorations)..
... and a hastily erected arch (reminds me of chinatowns for some reason). 

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the Union of Crete with Greece, which will be marked by some very low-key events (possibly hiding behind the excuse of the economic crisis), the highlight being the raising of the Greek flag in the Venetian port, above the Naval Museum in Firkas, as a re-enactment of the event that took place 100 years ago. Where are the souvenir mugs, shot glasses, keyrings, USBs, hats, scarves, T-shirts, pillows, aprons, coaster sets, tote bags, magnets, raki bottles and whatever other marketing paraphernalia goes with such events? 

As usual, the Greeks generously give away their culture, while it will be others who will eventually be making money out of it.

©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 29 November 2013

Cold (Κρύο)

I wouldn't say we put it off - the house simply didn't feel that cold to us all this time. Last night, despite the warm clothes we were wearing and the fleece blankets we covered ourselves with, we still felt cold. It's the damp air that remains in the atmosphere which causes this sensation, and it doesn't go away without turning on some form of heating; insulating your house well doesn't mean that you will never need to use heating.
Winter's arrival in our house was a cause for celebration We even got our souvlaki delivered. Lighting a fire keeps the family together. We have all created our own little corner in the living room, so's we don't tread on each other's toes as we huddle together in the warmest part of the house. Even the location of the Christmas tree has been planned for; that's Greece for you: completely seasonal (as we await Persephone's arrival once again, να μας τα κάνει όλα καλοκαιρινά πάλι). 
Having not felt the full brunt of the cold so far this winter in our house, I asked my colleagues at work this morning if they had started using any form of heating in their homes so far. They were surprised to hear that we had only started heating our home so late in November.

I am slightly relieved to hear this. Climate change may play some role in experiencing delayed winter weather, but so does good insulation.

©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 27 November 2013

Uncle Leigh comes to Greece (Ο θείος από την Αμερική)

My friend Uncle Leigh came to Greece for a short vacation last month, all the way from Arizona in Australia - or did he say he came from Australia in Arizona? It doesn't matter at any rate; what matters is he was in the neighbourhood, he stopped by for some lunch, and he bought me some golden syrup. This is his story (and his photos), not mine

I love travelling on my own. I admit it does get lonely at times, but I am always among crowds of people, even though I may not know anyone, and I always find lots of things to do wherever I go. Travelling solo beats travelling with companions, who always want to see places that I don't want to see, or do things I don't want to do. And don't get me started on their vacation planning - it's non-existent. They don't even know where they'll be sleeping each night. Been there, done that, long long ago. I prefer to be a bit more organised in my older age. So I prefer to travel alone, because I end up doing so much more.

Even so, I wasn't sure about this holiday to Greece. I felt quite insecure for some reason, maybe it's all that stuff we hear on the news, that Greece is a broke country, that everyone's fleeing, that people are jobless, homeless, hungry. I suddenly started having doubts about my trip. I would have really felt better if I could call into a Greek neighbourhood and meet up with a friend for coffee or maybe go somewhere to eat, and I mean eat some of that really good Greek food they have there, or at least the Greek markets where I live seem to sell really good Greek food. I was looking forward to tasting it in its original setting once again. It's not my first time travelling in Greece. I felt like I needed a friend to tell me where to go and see these things, but I don't know anyone in Greece, and it's too late to cancel the trip anyway. I'm getting old now, and I always have a fear of falling and breaking something...
... but I needn't have worried about feeling alone. Here I am on my first day in Greece, wandering around the roads of Thessaloniki in the early evening, and all of a sudden a large group of people run past me. I'm thinking, this is some kind of political protest, but most of them seem to be wearing joggers' outfits, and they have some kind of tag on their t-shirts. Maybe it's a marathon; I never expected to see one so late at night, in all places like Greece.

Actually I enjoyed Thessaloniki a lot. It was very windy when I arrived, but the next day the sun was out. My suitcase was left in San Francisco and wasn't delivered until 36 hours later, so I was wearing the same clothes for 30 hours. I fell in love with Thessaloniki when I took a walk along the waterfront, where I eventually encountered the White Tower. Things have changed since I was last here, about five years ago - there seem to have opened up a lot more food places, and pastry shops: yum. Thessaloniki really wasn't too bad after all.

My next Greek destination: Crete. The weather remained quite good - not too much wind, and plenty of sun. The water was a bit choppy here. My first meal in Crete was at a taverna: rabbit stifado downed with some Mythos beer. I love rabbit; I practically grew up on it in Australia. We called it 'underground mutton' when I was a kid. When I paid my bill, the guy gave me a small ice cream desert on the house with some raki. I had two shots - it had very little taste (because it was chilled), with a subtle kick on top of the beer. I'm not a very good Aussie, as I don't drink very much now. Not that I was a big drinker before, I just drink less now. I was a little unsteady on my feet as I walked back to the hotel. But I suppose I did have a good first night in Hania.
Uncle Leigh was fascinated by the ease with which the locals solved their parking problems.

The next day I went to the Archaeology Museum. It's fascinating to see so many items unearthed that tell us something about how people lived and died in times long gone. As a white Aussie, I don't have much evidence of my past in this way, and any of those items and the things pertaining to indigenous Australians are very few. Most of my Australian history is made up for the tourists. I always feel like I'm missing out on something. I know my mother's family is from Ireland & Wales from the 1830s-50s and my father is from Belgium, but I have no connection with any of them. Back in the day of my forebears, a trip to Australia was usually one way, especially for my great granny; I think she's my five-greats granny.

Koum Kapi
I was walking along the seafront where the wall is, behind an old guy that was fishing. I passed by a taverna that looked like just a tiny place, on the corner of Akti Enoseos & Glafkou. Sitting inside was a group of five older blokes (I personally can relate to the term 'older') eating, drinking and talking until this other guy turned up with an accordion. I sat down at a table just inside the building. After a while the guy with the accordion started playing, and one of the guys started singing. I finished my meal and the owner brought me a dessert and a little bottle of raki, so I had a drink and then another and then another, until I finished the bottle (having also had a Mythos with my meal).

Manousos, the singing fisherman

The other men would accompany this guy (I was told his name was Manousos) when he sang (and drank). The expressions on his face and the gestures were amazing - he could be happy, sad, funny, quizzical, nearly anything. It was such a pleasure to be there. I asked the owner if they would mind my taking some photos and he said to go ahead. Some of the time he would then sing to me, and the other guys would join in on some of the songs, and this other older couple who arrived sometime after this all started would also join in with them. This guy seemed to be having the time of his life. Apparently he is a fisherman and goes in there quite often.

I stayed a long time because he was so funny, and at the same time so serious, enjoying himself so expressively. It was a delight being there. He sang to different members of the group, even blowing kisses to one, even to me. My lunch lasted about one-and-a-half hours there. I asked the owner if the songs were Cretan or Greek (they were Greek). Eventually, I staggered away. I didn't have to be anywhere, but I couldn't justify staying there, I certainly couldn't eat any more as I was completely stuffed, and I got quite tipsy. But I still had a bit of a walk to get back to the hotel and to get through the maze of Greek drivers. But I regret leaving so soon. After all, I could have stayed. What stopped me from staying on was guilt, I suppose, that I shouldn't have really been there. Now, I really wish I had stayed longer.

It's also been getting a little chilly now. I went for a drive to Phalasarna, where I stopped and had lunch at a taverna that hangs off the side of the mountain overlooking the water, with lots of olive trees and houses. I had chicken fillet (that came with chips), a small horiatiki (salad), bread of course and a Mythos, all for just €10.30, together with a magnificent view thrown in for free. It was windy but not cold. I got back to the hotel during siesta time, so the shops were closed. I thought I might as well just keep on walking, around the Agora, still digesting my lunch. When I got back to the hotel, I took a little nap. I woke up one-and-a-half hours later, feeling very relaxed. I think it's the just-right weather. We've been craving this weather in Arizona for some time now; it only cooled down about three weeks before I left for my trip. We had some rain, and my backyard would be under water, but within an hour of it finishing, you wouldn't know it had rained, except for the increase in humidity. I hope it rains here in Crete only after I'm gone...
The Agora of Hania (central market)
I decided not to stick around for the public holiday celebrations in Hania. I've been in Greece before for the 28th of October. It felt like a good day to go and see Knossos (the web site said it was open on holidays), so I drove out to Iraklio. I can't stand the thought of taking the bus; I have a big problem with public transport. I've got my own time schedule, and I can't always work with theirs. I was up at 5:30 and left at 6:30. It took me one hour and forty-five minutes to get there. There are a lot of signs about speed cameras on the road - I don't think I broke only the speed laws but probably a couple of air regulations as well (I was practically flying). I was a bit worried, but there were times when a car came out of the blue and sped past me and I would be doing 100-110kph, so I didn't really worry about it too much.

I got to Knossos quite early, at about 8:15. The car park was empty. I then went over to the Knossos site - today was a holiday so it was free entry. Then this lady comes over to me and does her spiel. She tells me a private guide would cost €80, I said no and she dropped it to €60, but I said no again, so the other option would be to wait for a group of 8+ adults for €10. Going solo wasn't such a good idea, she said, as I could get lost in the labyrinth. I waited a bit over an hour before the group formed. It was enjoyable and informative, but she was a bit adamant about certain things (which I think are actually only assumptions). I was waiting for her to tell us what the king and queen's last words were when the tsunami hit. She didn't say anything.

It can feel a little daunting driving in these kinds of conditions if it's your first time.

After all that ancient history, I yearned for a bit more, so I left Knossos at about midday. I wanted to visit the archaeology museum in Iraklio. Well, that was a bit of a mess. I missed the turn and ended up down near the port. Then I saw a sign directing me to the city center and museum. I knew there were a couple of museums in the same area so I turned there. It was HELL - there were Greek drivers everywhere and I mean everywhere! The place was jammed with cars parked all over the place. People were stopped wherever, there seemed to be something going on close by, and some streets were blocked off. I followed a couple of other cars that looked as though their drivers were trying to get somewhere. I went through a few streets trying to get out of that mess, where I was practically praying to drive the car between the parked vehicles without doing any damage to them or me. I ended up at the waterfront again and headed for the port where I saw a sign for Hania, so I just took off.

As I fled down the highway, I'm thinking I need to sit and relax. I felt hungry, so eventually about a quarter of an hour before reaching Rethymno, I stopped and had some roast goat and another Mythos for lunch. There was nothing left for me to do when I got back to the hotel apart from having a siesta. In the evening, I took a walk to the old town, had some more to eat (this time it was beef stifado), and was hoping to top off the evening with some pastries on the way back, but by the time I left the restaurant  the pastry shops were all closed. Oh well, I can still fit into my pants, I thought, and there's always tomorrow.

The next evening, I found a place near the cathedral in Hania which looked like  a nice place to have a meal and people-watch. When I got there I saw something on the menu that I wanted: soutzoukakia. There was only one lady sitting there eating at this time (it turned out that she was part of the restaurant). I asked the waiter if the soutzoukakia contained pork. He sounded really offended! They turned out to be only beef, so I had them. Anyway, I'm halfway through my meal and they started closing up the place. So here I was, sitting outside on my own, having a meal. They didn't rush me or anything, even bringing me grapes and raki when I had finished. But most of the places around that area were also closed, or in the process of doing so at this time, so I didn't stretch it out.

I don't think the waiter was impolite as such when I asked him about the contents of the soutzoukakia. Maybe it was more like he was astonished that I would think they could be anything else but beef. I ask the question routinely of all sausage or mince dishes where meats could be mixed. I know that pork is substituted or added a lot these days to what were traditionally lamb and beef dishes everywhere, so unless a place is kosher or halal, you are for sure most likely to find pork there, even if it's not labelled as such. I had wanted to try soutzoukakia at other tavernas, but the menu mentioned beef and pork. I'm in a foreign country and culture, so I think it's perfectly normal to ask a question about a traditional dish. His amazement that I could even ask such a question makes me wonder what he was thinking. I could not take offence, but then again, I am not Greek. I don't know what he was trying to say, I guess.

When I get back to Arizona, I think my doctor is going to kill me when he finds out how much cheese, eggs, fried foods, meat and yoghurt I ate while I have been in Greece. I won't have to worry about my heart blockages. I should just watch that salt. I forget sometimes, now that I don't use it so much. I used to eat it as a meal on its own. I think next time I will have a grilled chicken breast with a small portion of vegetables. I am too much of a carnivore to miss out on my meat most of the time.

All in all, Greek people always seem friendly and relaxed. The hotel staff are such a minefield of information! They don't mind trying to help you in any way. It's just not like that where I grew up and where I live now. I was talking with one of the people working in the hotel, discussing things I read in customer reviews and the huge difference in views from one person to the next. If I could respond to some of these people, it's you get what you pay for in terms of accommodation. If you don't like the Greek or Chinese or whoever's food is being served in the place where you are staying, then STAY HOME and you won't have any complaints. And another major complaint you read about in those reviews is that people don't speak English where you are travelling! For God's sake people, I want to say to them, shut up, stay home or pay €100+/night and don't venture outside into the real world. You are in somebody else's backyard, but no one is obliged to go out of their way for you, so go along with the experience.

I went back to the taverna where I heard Manousos singing a few days later, and to my delight, Manousos was still there, sober this time. But... he left within minutes of my arrival. I was so unhappy. I asked the owner about him. Apparently, he comes in every time he finishes with his fishing. I hope he's still there when I am next to visit Hania. He makes me want to come back here.

The time came for my final Greek destination - Athens. I was staying in the centre, close to the central market. I wanted to go out for dinner, looking for something different. Turning to the west when I came out the door, then up and around and back down through the market area, I felt it looked very seedy. But I walk confidently, so I feel relatively safe, and I ended up back at the Plaka, where I had some dinner. Walking back to the hotel, the streets were relatively empty away from the Plaka and the major roads. I don't think there are many people staying at the hotel. A large group of young people left yesterday morning (they seemed like first year university students). I went up to the bar on the top floor of the hotel to see the city at night. To my delight, there were still plenty of tourists walking around, and a fair number of people including locals at the Plaka. Athens looked like it was buzzing.

I'd been having a great time in Athens, but after almost two weeks on the road most days, I needed a rest, so the next day, I just went to see the Evzones in their white uniform. I tried to get a few more pictures of them, and I managed to get two more in Syntagma Square, before a cop shooed us out. There was some kind of barricade set up. As we were leaving, I asked a cop if there was a ceremony or something about to take place. No, he said, there was a protest happening, so I took a couple more pics from the sidewalk and left. By the time I walked down to the other end of Syntagma Square, I heard an amplified noise and looked to the next street south of Ermou (Mitropoleos), and here come the protestors. There must have been a hundred at the most, and they kicked all the tourists away from the area in front of the parliament where the Evzones are. I couldn't for the life me understand what the fuss was all about. And only a hundred of them or so. Time for more food and some sleep, I thought.

I understand there are quite a few problems here in Greece with regards to working conditions. I was talking with the hotel manager who was saying the same thing. It turned out that the protest was against Sunday trading. I remember when I was younger that we had trouble about Sunday trading in Australia from the government and the churches. For years, when trying to find some beer or wine - just forget it, everything was closed. Anyway, my thought at the time with the low turnout was maybe everyone was working and so couldn't make it to the protest, not realizing that it was about that very problem.

I think I came to Athens at the right time, just when everything has been spiced up a bit. Last night, before I went to dinner, I could hear this murmuring noise, so I opened the door and hung over the balcony (feeling shades of Juliette), and along comes a group of Pakistanis or Bangladeshis, at least that's what I thought. They were half jogging down the street, chanting and rhythmically clapping, led by a policeman who was doing something that seemed like traffic control. There were more people in this group than at Syntagma Square, and I wondered what they were protesting about. They went up and down and across the streets in the area. I didn't have a clue what was going on, but this time, I didn't feel affected in any way. I just closed the door & drapes, turned off the lights, left the hotel and went to dinner in the opposite direction.

Well, it's a good thing today is my last day here. According to the weather forecast, there was supposed to be light rain, which turned out really wrong. It rained off and on during the night. I needed to get to an ATM, so I left the hotel to find one, but I found that the ATMs were closed, with metal shutters covering them. There were more demonstrators all over the place. There was one group I passed on Stadiou St and I could hear more on Leoforos Venizelou near the Academy of Athens. I continued on to Syntagma Square where I saw the last couple of groups leaving. I wandered some more to go and see the Museum of Greek Music Instruments, but on the way the heavens opened up and dumped themselves onto me. I had a brolly with me, which was about as useful as a tissue in a swimming pool. I got to the museum and the thing was shut! What a totally wet waste of time. So I just went back to the hotel, stopping at an ATM a couple of streets from the hotel which was, thankfully, open.

I think I've been lucky. It's my last day here, and it's the first time in all my trips to Europe that it has rained. I can't really complain about the museum being closed. It's just another excuse to come back, apart from everything else that keeps me coming back to Greece. I wonder if it's rained in Hania. And if Manousos is still fishing. Or singing. Or both.

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Tuesday 26 November 2013

Frugal chicken and broccoli pie

The broccoli season is now in full swing in our garden. I cut no less than 8 perfect heads of broccoli from the garden at the weekend, and chopped them into perfect florets before puting them in the freezer. Having just used up the very last of our frozen spinach from the previous season in a spanakopita the other day, I felt that the broccoli made up for its loss.

Here's my first broccoli meal for the season, from a Betty Crocker recipe for self-crusting broccoli and chicken pie.
I didn't add more grated cheese on top of the pie - there's more than enough protein in it already.
We don't have Bisquick in Crete (or maybe we do at AB supermarket, where all foreign tastes and imported Western staples seem to be found), so I made a substitute, as stated on this wikihow site. My pie is not gluten-free, as stated in the original recipe.
The recipe yielded a medium sized pie (about 6 pieces) and 3 muffin sized pies.
There was some mixture left over, so I also got three muffin-sized pies, made in separate ramekins. With all the specials going these days on chicken, eggs and cheese at various discount supermarkets, this was turned into an incredibly frugal meal to make. It was also very easy to whip up for an evening meal.

Because I was in a bit of a rush, I stuck to the original recipe. But if I make this again, I would add a spicy agent to jazz up the taste. I had my piece with some sriracha sauce to go with it, for some extra spunk.

©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 25 November 2013

Happy meal

Here I am, driving down the bottleneck, stopping at the traffic lights, and this guys knocks on the window of the driver's seat, holding something.

We're celebrating our twientieth today, he said, as he offered me a pork skewer, some bread and a Temenia soft drink (local company) as well as their takeout menu card.

If you are passing by Koumbes rotisserie/souvlatzidiko, stop by and say hello and you'll get the same.

©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 24 November 2013


And the winner of the Dako's in a jar giveaway is...

mia maria! (Please send me your address.)

The names of the post commentators were written on separate pieces of paper, screwed up into a ball and placed into an empty ice-cream container. My son picked out one randomly.

Thank you to all for taking part.

©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 23 November 2013

On cremation (Aποτέφρωση)

We spent the morning at our olive grove, trimming grafted trees and clearing the field of the cuttings which we burnt in piles. It was a good day for this, as it was not windy. Although the day started off with a few drops of rain, it turned into a very fine day.

- Wouldn't you like to have your ashes scattered here on this grove, if you were cremated? I asked my husband.

- No.

-But you like it here, don't you? You come here often enough.

- No.

- You'd be visited often by all your descendants ...

No comment.

- ... the sun would be your constant companion, and you'd be in the company of the gods because you can see the highest peaks of Crete from here.

- Not interested.

- You'd be close to your earthly works, like all these olive trees... My husband has seen them grow and produce fruit, burn down to the roots, re-grow as wild type species, and he recently grafted them, one by one, to make them grow as domesticated olive species.

I think I detected a hint of interest in the alternative method I proposed of being disposed after death.

- Surely you don't expect to be visited often at a cemetery? We never visit anyone's grave unless we attend a funeral.

- I am not getting cremated.

Graves are so small and cramped. In Greece, you share them with so many people. Cremation sounds so much more liberating.

©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 22 November 2013

Smoke (Καπνός)

At first sight, this photo is unremarkable. It has been taken from the balcony of a house on a rather wet day, and shows part of the urban sprawl in the horizon.

Take a better look, and you can see the wood smoke rising from the chimneys of the houses in the distance. Although the weather has not yet reached freezing levels, it was cold enough to turn on some heating, whether that means you push a button or light a fire. A few puffs can be seen here and there in some of the hilly rural areas, with a greater concentration of smoke above the denser housing areas.
We've invested in a new set of cheap light fleece blankets to drape ourselves with while watching television and we (ourselves) laid some good quality insulation on the roof during the summer. This has proved a boon for keeping the heat out in the summer as well as removing the feeling of rising damp in the winter. We haven't started using our wood fire yet, but the weather is now getting quite chilly in the evenings, so it's a case of putting off the inevitable for as long as we can. 


Yesterday was a local public holiday in Hania (in honour of the region's patron, the Trimartiri church, which honours the Presentation of the Virgin Mary), which meant people were at home during the day, which explains the high levels of visible smoke during the day time hours, when the temperature fell quite suddenly, after a sunny warm spell in the morning. 

Bonus photo:
More smoky hills this morning, but this time, not from wood burning - there was a severe rainstorm last night with thunder and lightning, and then we wake up to warmish weather, the sun peeking through the clouds, and the rising damp evaporating as the morning sets in...

If you would like to take part in the giveaway, there are still two more days to go before I announce a winner.
Just leave a comment on the Dakos in a jar post. 

If you would like to be in for the 100% Greek food giveaway I am organising through my blog just leave a comment on the Dakos in a jar post. 

©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 21 November 2013

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal cuisine (Και φτηνό, και Ελληνικό)

Most Greeks these days buy their food according to the way their pockets are feeling: we look around for bargains, but at the same time, we look for food that represents our Greek tastes and eating style. There is a greater insistence on buying Greek products on the part of Greek consumers: some chicken wings and legs. despite the crisis in their pocket, they actively seek out Greek products. I was at LIDL the other day where I came across what looked like cheap fresh chicken. I did my sums, and realised that this chicken was slightly more expensive (only slightly) than the frozen chicken legs that I had bought from another supermarket. "The other supermarket's were probably not Greek though," another shopper said to me when we were comparing prices together. She was right - they were packaged in Belgium, which doesn't necessarily mean that the chicken was Belgian. LIDL often comes under fire for selling sub-standard food, lacking taste and quality. But it's selling Greek food, and that's really important to Greek citizens at the moment.

Last night's dinner consisted of 10 chicken wings (800g for €2.17: about €0.55 per person among the four of us), which I fried buffalo-style, each cut into two pieces, with some of my summer-preserved tomato sauce. To simplify things, the antioxidant properties of olive oil are not lost when it is heated; the antioxidant properties of tomato (carotenoids) break down, unlike in olive oil which resists, but it has been verified that they too are still not lost (from some recent research from MAICh).

LIDL also sells a lot of pre-packaged food that does not require a long cooking period. Cheap convenience food is also being sought in discount supermarkets, not just as a way to keep the food budget of a household down, but also to help people to get a meal on their plate in quick time. Many of these products do not originate from Greece, but Greek people's food choices are no longer necessarily Greek in nature; they are more likely to necessarily be cheap. The consequences of unemployment have led to rapid detrimental effects in the home environment. Unemployment does not give people the luxury of preparing the slow-cooked traditional Greek meals that they may have been raised on. People are on the move in such a way that they do not necessarily spend so much time at home in this way, even if they are not employed. Suddenly, they find themselves in new situations that are constantly changing. And if they are one of the lucky ones to be still working, they are working longer hours than before - sometimes, there is little time available to cook.
While I was shopping at LIDL, I picked up this frozen paella (€3.29). I had no time to cook a meal for the next day, so I told my 11-year-old to follow the instructions on the back of the packet, and she cooked this for lunch yesterday for the family (they said they liked it - but  at €1.10 per person, it wasn't as cheap as I normally cook, from scratch).

Despite being a foreign supermarket chain, originating in the country that many Greeks blame for the country's woes, cannot be chided for its efforts to sell their Greek customers what they want: putting aside the gimmicky food (eg the festive desserts and posh-looking black sepia-flavoured pasta it is selling at the moment in the run-up to Christmas), it has a lot of Greek-flag labels on its food products. Under its own private label, it sells beans and rice grown in Greece, pasta made in Greece with Greek flour, Greek fruit and vegetables, Greek eggs, and Greek chicken. What's more, it sells all this food cheaply, the main consideration these days when people go shopping, which is obvious from the move to private label shopping in Greece in recent times, at unprecedented rates. It's a matter of finding the magic combination of cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal - and it is still possible to eat cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal, but you need to be well organised and well informed to take advantage of the offers available at the supermarkets, as I've mentioned before in previous posts.

Egg and potato omelette (30 eggs for €3.33 at LIDL, small potatoes for €0.38/kilo at INKA), bagged rocket for €1.19 at LIDL, some pomegranate from our tree, and for some indulgence, locally produced wine (Kudos, Dourakis) for €6.50 at INKA; our evening meal two nights ago.

Greeks eat like most Westerners these days, with a Greek twist. During the 2nd Symposium of Greek Gastronomy: Food, Memory and Identity in Greece and the Greek Diaspora, I spoke about Greek cuisine, Greek identity and the economic crisis. My conclusion was as follows:
"As Greeks, we all share a common concept of what constitutes Greek food, but we are Western Europeans at heart and our food and lifestyle choices reflect this. The economic crisis has westernised us even more. Despite having less money, we all still eat - we are not starving."
The economic crisis means our pockets are not so full of money these days, but there is still cheap locally produced food to be found in Greece, and non-Greeks know this - they like our food too.

If you would like to be in for the 100% Greek food giveaway I am organising through my blog just leave a comment on the Dakos in a jar post. 

©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 20 November 2013

It's not all Greek to me

Following on from a recent post about the novel Greek food products entering the Greek food market both in Greece and abroad, it was recently revealed in an article by Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker that the founder of Chobani now regrets calling his product "Greek yoghurt"; he wishes he had called it "strained yoghurt" instead, which is what Greek yoghurt is supposed to be, the element that differentiates it from other forms of yoghurt. But in the US where Chobani operates, yoghurt can be labelled Greek even if it isn't produced in Greece, or even made from Greek raw ingredients. So what exactly is Greek food, then, if you can label a product Greek no matter where you find yourself in the world?

In reality, that is, strictly speaking, not possible everywhere. Whereas you can call a non-Greek yoghurt Greek in the US and Australia, you can't do that in the UK. So Chobani yoghurt can't be sold in the UK as Greek yoghurt. In the UK, Chobani labels its yoghurt as 'strained' (even when it's got strawberries sitting on its bottom). What is being labelled as 'Greek yoghurt' around the world highlights the issue of Greek food labelling: the 'Greek yoghurt' label rarely denotes yoghurt made in Greece, and it is never made with Greek milk to begin with when it is made abroad, where there is a Greek food craze, especially concerned with yoghurt.  

So what exactly do we mean when we talk about a Greek food product? This is an issue that I discussed at the 2nd Symposium of Greek Gastronomy: Food, Memory and Identity in Greece and the Greek Diaspora
"Is a Greek food product one which is produced on Greek soil? Does it include finished products made in Greece with imported ingredients? What about a product with a mixture of origins and/or ingredients? This causes endless confusion for shoppers in Greece, who are constantly on the lookout for Greek products: since the crisis broke out, people's priorities lie in the direction of choosing Greek products over non-Greek. But are they able to satisfy their desires?"
Right: Beef born in France, raised in France and Greece, slaughtered in Greece.

If you look carefully at the labels on the fresh meat sold at the supermarket butcher's counter, you will notice that it says 'ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ' (meaning 'Greek') or 'ΕΓΧΩΡΙΟ' (meaing 'domestic'). Greek meat is often regarded as meaning the meat from an animal born/raised/killed in Greece. But some fine print often accompanies even the basic labels. Beef sold in Cretan supermarkets, for instance, is often 'born' in France, where it was 'raised' up to 5 months old, after which it is brought into Greece where it continues to be raised, until it is finally 'slaughtered' in Greece. The meat from such animals is sold as 'Greek' meat. The recent horsemeat scandal has heightened awareness about the origin of a meat product and turned people away from imported meat - but Greek meat is rarely purely Greek anyway (and it is generally more expensive than imported meat).

milk inka supermarket hania chaniamilk marinopoulos supermarket

Another contentious economic sore point is found in milk prices: well before the crisis, when a litre of milk was being sold at about the same price as a litre of petrol. After a long well-targeted campaign, the average price of a litre of milk decreased. These days, I pay about 1.80 for a 1.5-litre carton of milk, and about 1.67 euro for a litre of petrol. But the Greek milk I buy is often sold discounted - all year round! A 1-litre carton of Greek milk is advertised as costing €1.66 (the same price as petrol at this very moment in Hania), and discounted to €1.33. I don't buy 1-litre cartons of milk because they are sold more expensively than 1.5-litre milk cartons (we don't get anything more than 2-litre plastic bottles here, unlike in the UK where you can buy a 3-litre bottle). But truly cheap milk in Greece is never of Greek origin; Greek milk consistently continues to be more expensive than imported milk. During the crisis, people tend to buy cheaper products, and the cheapest milk on the Greek supermarket shelves is consistently not produced in Greece...

The well-known Greek-origin company that made 'Greek yoghurt' famous in the US consistently uses non-Greek milk in its production - the above photograph is 2 years old, which depicts the time when this company began using some Greek milk in its yoghurt production (as a result of the crisis, of course). But that did not last long - it has since stopped using Greek milk (and is no longer registered as a greek company), but it too has slightly lowered its prices, after being one of the most expensive yoghurt brands being sold in Greece - despite not being made with Greek raw ingredients. 

Coincidentally, not all yoghurt produced in Greece is labelled 'Greek'; if it's produced in Greece, it is technically a Greek product, but if it isn't made with Greek milk, it's not labelled 'Greek'. When it's labelled '100% Greek', you can be sure it's made with Greek milk. It's incredible that the Greek flag sign that is used to denote products made in Greece did not even exist before the crisis...

Just for the record, the giveaway I am organising through my blog (click here for details) consists of 100% Greek food.

©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 19 November 2013

Nouvelle Greek cuisine (Νέα ελληνική κουζίνα)

I'm in the kitchen, cooking my frozen garden-grown fasolakia...

... when husband calls out to me: "Come and see!" So I rush into the living room to see what he's watching on TV, which happens to be an ad for a new food programme (the man's-heart-stomach thing is not just a cliche). Dr Cook does leg of lamb, roasted floury potatoes, and other very pretty looking food that reminds us of nothing to do with traditional Greek food, but something from the web pages of the slick fashionable food-based webzines.

Post by Organically Cooked.
Nevertheless, Dr Cook (Yiannis Loukakos) represents the trend that Greek cooks are moving towards - international cuisine with pretty plating. This is also the way that Greeks want to cook.

Right after the Dr Cook ad comes along another ad featuring yet another new-TV-season food programme on the same channel: I've just come from the Polis - Από την Πόλη έρχομαι (as Greeks, we all know that 'Polis' refers to Istanbul when it was still known as Constantinople), which has been filmed entirely in Turkey.

Post by Organically Cooked.
Now, this cook (Μαρία Εκμεκτσίογλου) seems to be doing things along traditional lines, piling mountains of traditional food on platters, a bit like the way I present my own food in my kitchen. Although plating is also important in 'poLItiki kouZIna', the ingredients in combination with the spices and cooking techniques are what arouse the senses. And this is also the way urban Greeks like to think we cook, using an Asia Minor granny's secret recipes.

Both these two new shows, which are to start being screened on the same weekend, give us a hint of the dilemma most Greeks are facing these days - should I stay (traditional) or should I go (global)?

On the same channel yet again, another food show has already started screening: it's called No Recipe and it features the Greek celebrity chef Dimitris Skarmoutzos, often nick-named 'the chef with the tattoos'. he's teamed up with FAGE yoghurt, which uses his recipes on their packaging.

He uses a mixture of travel and food (a bit like Ilias Mamalakis used to do) to present his own recipes using unusual Greek ingredients.

Not everyone will be able to watch these Greek food shows, as they are only being streamlined in Greece. (If you do not live in Greece or you don't have a Greek IP address, you will need the help of a hacker.) This group of Greeks will be waiting to see what their local food markets will offer them in terms of Greek products.

Click here to see what's being sold abroad as Greek food - and take part in the giveaway, if you like, of a Greek product that is being specifically targeted for the foreign market.

©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.