Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Sunday 29 June 2014

California dreamin'

I was in Iraklio yesterday, close to the area of the Olympic stadium, built for the use of the Olympic Games held in Athens in 2004. Although the area doesn't show the same signs of disuse and neglect that the OAKA facilities show, it reinforces aspects of Greek identity in similar ways. The stadiums have a bigness to them that never boded well with small Greece, and the modernisation that took place in both of the surrounding areas was never really appropriate for the Greeks: no matter how much they seem to embrace modern trends, there will be some aspects of modernism that they will not be entralled with. This is the reason why these facilities look so neglected these days: they never really suited the Greek lifestyle.

My son was involved in a fencing tournament yesterday, which was held, not at the Pan-Cretan (Olympic) Satdium of Iraklio (shown below)...

... but right next door, at the LIDO, a small cosy gymansium built in just the right size for local use. The stadium was also in use ont he same day, and although fencing tournaments do take place in the Athens Olympic facilities (OAKA), the site today was seen as more appropriate: as the coach explained, if you live in a rented property of 80 square metres, and you are suddenly gifted a 2000 square metre space, at first you will be excited, but later you will realise that you prefer to live in the rented property rather than maintain such a big amount of space...

In the area of the Pan-Cretan Stadium, the roads have been done up to look like ... something like 'boulevards' and 'avenues', things I've seen in photos of places like 'California' and 'Miami', places that have names to the likes of 'Sunset Boulevard'.

Yes, it looks sleek and chic in many ways... but the rate of upkeep, and the fact that much of the land around this area is still in private hands, hasn't helped the general area maintain this sleek chic apperance.

Greeks don't prefer lifeless soulless places for their leisure activities. They will congregate in the dingiest looking places where there are many other like-minded people.

So places like parks and bicycle tracks and outdoor seating and wildlife and coastal roads will not attract people ... unless people are already installed there.
I was in the area in the morning, so this place was empty - by the end of the day, before my trip to Iraklio was over, the place was buzzing with life. 
Where there is a modern-style stadium, there is a modern-style shopping centre. In Athens it's called the Mall; in Iraklio it's called Talos. In the morning, the place looked quite empty because Greeks don't hang around at the mall all day long: the mall is for certain times. This quiet moment gave me and my daughter a chance to savour a little peace before we joined her brother at the fencing tournament.

Talos does not contain any traditional-style stores or eateries - they are all brand label type places. I let my daughter choose where to sit. Flocafe and Starbucks were side-by-side - she chose Flocafe. AS it was a special day, I let her choose what she wanted to have: I chose an iced chocolate (full of fat and sugar), and she chose a waffle with ice-cream (full of fat and sugar). If you eat like that most of the time, well, we all know what happens to you (obesity is oft discussed on the news these days in Western mass media - not so much at all int eh Greek media, though).

We did some shopping at Peacocks  and OVS, two brands we don't have in Hania, and then walked back to the stadium (oh yes, we walk everywhere in Iraklio, much to the surprise of my friends - my whole family knows why we walk everywhere) where we were just in time for my son's games. He is a very good fencer... and we knew he'd win first prize among the dozen kids participating in his age group... but his goals were not to win gold (he knew he could do that easily), nor was it to play well (he has been doing this already). His goal was to play the best that he has ever played. In a sense, he did this, because he didn't lose any of the rounds he played in. But his opponents still managed to score hits against him, something that made him realise that there is great room for improvement. (He told me about this at the end of the tournament. I liked that. It's called maturity.)

For a treat, I took him back to Talos to buy him some new clothes, and then I let him choose the place we would have our celebration lunch. (He hadn't eaten since breakfast, and we got to the shopping centre after 6.30pm.) Talos was slowly filling up. The cafe tables which were empty in the morning were now buzzing with human activity. Again, people weren't 'hanging around' at the mall - they were hanging around with each other. Greeks are very very social. If their friends were hanging around elsewhere, they'd flock there, not at the mall.

My son chose a place called Yankees. Its name gives us an idea about what kind of food it may be serving. If the name and decor isn't enough, the menu makes it obvious.

Modern food for modern people...
Chicago, Ribs, Antiburger - total cost: €32 with 3 soft drinks and a bottle of water. 
... but only in the right company, which is still dictated by tradition, and tradition says 'people above places'. But even if we were to place some importance on the actual site, the view of Mount Juktas with its face of sleeping Zeus made perfect sense to us, as we found ourselves not too far away from the birthplace and final resting place of Zeus.

Mt. Juktas, as seen from the city of Iraklio, yesterday. Legend says it is the face of Zeus.

The Greek world always led with a radiance of its own, quite unmatched and never able to copied anywhere else by anyone. This will be the key to survival in a competitive world.

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Friday 20 June 2014

"When I finally let myself go to become one with the Mediterranean..."

I remember many years ago when a food blogger friend of mine from the US told me that she was very careful about the statements she made in her blog because she didn't really want to get her name in the local paper for saying something that stood out too much. I wasn't sure what she meant: unlike her, I really wanted to get in the paper for saying something that stood out.

Today, I got that opportunity; in conjunction with my colleague Yiannis Katsikandarakis, and Nebraskan blogger Shannon Moncure, our article was turned into the main feature of today's issue of the local paper, Haniotika Nea. In Greek newspaper terminology, we made into the σαλόνι = 'salon'; apart from' living room', it also refers to the main feature page in a newspaper, usually found in the middle (the part that holds all the supplements - today, there was a brochure from ΔΙΑΦΑΝΟ).

From today's Haniotika Nea

The article was based on Shannon's account of her experiences while in Greece during a summer school term from the University of Nebraska. The title of the article is based on Shannon's writings: "When I finally let myself go to become one with the Mediterranean".

Here is a translation of all the bits of text that include my name:

1. Maria Verykaki (Ok, somebody got my name wrong, but I don't hold it against them -  in a small town, it's preferable to be able to keep a certain level of anonymity), responsible for the Department of Engllish Studies at MAICh,

2. Saturday 24-5-2014: "A visit to the local laiki (street market) with agricultural produce"
Crete is a highly agricultural island. To be exact, Maria, the English teacher at MAICh, who was our guide, explained to us that it is due to this fact that the island felt to a lesser extent the effects of the economic crisis which started in 2008. Small-scale cultivation is an integral part of the life of the inhabitants of the island, which allows the island to be self-sufficient to some extent in terms of food, providing for most of their basic needs.

3. One of the seminars that the Nebraskan students took part in at MAICh was conducted by Maria Verykaki (see above), responsible for the Department of Engllish Studies at MAICh,with the title: "The importance of environment in the sustainability of Cretan society".

Most of the time, we hear about the negative aspects of the crisis, and how people are unable to cope; publicly stating that a certain sector of society has been shielded from the crisis is a pretty bold statement - and it's got my name attached to it.

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Wednesday 11 June 2014

Caryatids - #bringthemback

#bringthemback : "Last Saturday, on the 7th of June 2014, Greece had its moment inside London's British Museum. The Greek Soprano ΣΟΝΙΑ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΙΔΟΥ - SONIA THEODORIDOU together with six caryatids went to meet the one caryatid who is still separated from her sisters. The reception was overwhelming. People who were visiting the museum were moved to tears, and even the security which was hostile at first, joined them in the end."

The mainstream media has still not reported this event. The only English language reports that I have found on it so far are:
The caryatids make their way to the museum.

The caryatids are looking for their lost sister.

On finding their lost sister, Sonia was moved to tears.

After their visit, the caryatids leave the museum.

I thought the BBC might have written a word or two about it in their UK (not Europe) news. But no, there seems to be nothing. Instead, their UK news site today is topped with stories about a drop in UK unemployment levels, the shambolic state of the UK passport office, the continued search for a child lost a number of years ago, minimum wage underpayers, a princess's portrait, an author's philanthropy, an artist's perversion, among other stories. Sonia Theodoridou, who organised the event, cried when she came across the lost sister. The Greek woman's genuine grief did not move anyone in the mass media to write about what happened in the British museum last Saturday. 

Please share, if you care. If this does not move you enough, perhaps you have not been to the Acropolis museum, where the caryatids await their lost sister to join them. The question is no longer 'if', but 'when'.

Don't let the likes of the BBC create your news. Try creating the news yourself.

©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 8 June 2014

Black Angus

My life is very busy as of late, noticeable by the times I don't go to the supermarket. Last Saturday, rather than traipse around town buying from my regular small-scale suppliers, I decided that life felt too short at this moment in time, to actively support the local shopowners, who I adore because they know me and my sharp observation skills, and I know them and their pass-one-over methods, and I get some great conversations out of them. So I headed down to the local supermarket to do the weekly shop and to pick up some meat for Sunday lunch while I was there.

Supermarket meat is often sold more expensively (at least, here in Hania) than small-shop meat, so I was aware that I would be spending more money in this setting. I wanted some mince for my freezer bifteki: Greek beef - €10.98/kg, Belgian beef - €9.59/kg. The Greek beef looked pinky-red, like it usually does, because it rarely allowed to 'sit' for longer than 2-3 days before it's sold, The Belgian meat looked just a little darker, but I preferred the shape of the cut. I chose the Belgian beef over the Greek, mixing in some Cretan pork (€6.78/kg) into the mince mixture - remember that in Crete, it is far more common to buy fresh mince that is prepared before you after you have chosen the pieces of meat that will be minced for you.

While I was at the supermarket yesterday, I also found US Black Angus at the same meat counter, selling at €9.69/kg. Like the Belgian beef, it was cheaper than Greek beef. Black Angus is one of the most highly rated beef products in the world, and we can get it for LESS than Greek beef! I've never tried Black Angus before, so I thought it was time we did. I asked the butcher to cut me three large slices.

I'm not sure what the problem is with Greek beef. Over time, it has developed a better texture. It's not as stringy as the foregin stuff. But you still can't cook it in a pan, like you can do with Black Angus. Although I'm not still convinced that beef should be eaten medium-rare with its pink colour, for the first time in my life, I am cooking beef in Greece in the oven, and I can already feel how tender it is, as the knife slides through so easily.

My first foray into Black Angus will be in a Greek-style recipe. After pan-searing the fillets, I placed them in the oven in a tomato-based sauce with the regular seasoning. It's cooking now. My husband keeps asking me: "Are you sure this will be edible?" Greek beef still has that nasty reputation of being tough. It needs a facelift if it's going to survive in this money-poor world, when cheap foreign imports are invading its domain.

Black Angus stays tender throughout the cooking period and it is very juicy. But it lacks the aroma of Greek-raised meat. I guess it's true that you are what you eat - if grazing animals eat aromatic plants, their meat smells like it too.

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Tuesday 3 June 2014

Local, seasonal, fresh

I had a rather busy time last week, mainly enjoying friends' visits, and hosting work guests. A Mediterranean function, whether work or home related, is always experienced with food, some of which I cooked, and some of which I ate out. As I dined with my diverse range of guests, I explained the food to them.

At the moment, local food in Hania consists of a lot of zucchini recipes. Restraurant cooks and home cooks alike are cooking a lot of zucchini and vine leaves. The reason for this is quite simple: that's what is abundant at the moment! So when my friends from Holland came to visit me, I served them  boureki and dolmadakia.

When we went out for lunch the next day to Dounias, my friends wanted to try the dolmadakia there too, and Stelios, the owner of the restaurant, treated us to some zucchini cooked with eggs.

Later in the week, I went on a work function with Spanish, Italian, French, Albanian and Portuguese colleagues, to the Milia resort in Hania, where zucchini was the main ingredient in most of the dishes: boureki, boiled horta and kolokithokeftedes. Fava, a popular bean dip, was aklso on the menu.

And at the end of the week, when some friends from New Zealand visited me, I decided to cook the same food that the Milia resort served, which wasn't very hard, since our garden is producing a lot of zucchini at the moment.

On the one hand, it may sound boring to eat the same food all the time; on the other, it's sensible to be using local seasonal fresh produce in your food. If it's mainly zucchini, then you;ll be eating mainly zucchini, I guess! Eating fresh, local and seasonal is a mainstay of Crete's hidden economy. You eat what you have, and you don't go hungry.

©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.