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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Buying olive oil from a supermarket

This story goes back further - some useful pre-reading:
I don't buy olive oil because we have our own supplies of 'green gold', made from the harvest of the fruit of our own olive groves, but if I were living far away from my own supplies, I would have to work out how to keep myself supplied with quality olive oil, and I would probably do most of my shopping at the supermarket. So how does one go about choosing the product that will best suit one's needs?

In Crete, we always talk about λάδι (= oil) when we talk about olive oil. The more correct term would be ελαιόλαδο (= olive oil). But we generally assume that everyone is using the same λάδι in their food. We produce so much olive oil in the first place - there isn't a place in Crete where an olive tree isn't visible - that we naturally assume that everyone uses olive oil in their food preparations.
https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211156424883512

This bring us to another issue: Why do olive oil packaging labels use the words 'extra-virgin' to describe the olive oil? The answer to that questions lies in the acidity level of the olive oil: There will be times when your olive oil will not be extra virgin olive oil, because there are times when olive oil need not be extra virgin. Confused? I hope this post will help you. As you read through it, please DO open the embedded facebook posts, and check the comments in them, because this post is based on them. (If you can't see the facebook post, click on the facebook link instead.)

For a start, it should be mentioned that olive oil is more expensive than other cooking oils. That's what makes it the most controversial cooking oils in the world: Its high cost of purchase urges buyers to seek the best quality for the money they pay for it. Olive oil quality is determined by factors such as the following:
- Variety of olive used
- Location and soil conditions where the olives were grown
- Environmental factors and weather during the growing season
- Olive ripeness
- Timing of the harvest
- Harvesting method
- Length of time between the harvest and pressing
- Pressing technique
- Packaging and storage methods
(from http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/how-olive-oil-works2.htm)

Don't be fooled by things like the colour of the oil, the container shape/design, the label design and the brand name under which the oil is being sold: they do not determine the quality of the product you are buying; you may be paying a premium price for such things without realising it. Such factors all have to do with our perceptions of beauty, which as we all know is in the eyes of the beholder.

The International Olive Oil Council designates 'virgin olive oils' as: "the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.) solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration". But the end product is categorised in different ways, because of the many different factors involved in making olive oil. From the same species of fruit, Olea europaea L., we can have:

- Extra virgin olive oil, characterised by a free acidity of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams
- Virgin olive oil, characterised by a free acidity of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams
- Ordinary virgin olive oil, characterised by a free acidity of not more 3.3 grams per 100 grams
- Lampante olive oil, characterised by a free acidity of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams, which is not intended for human consumption (it has industrial uses)
- Refined olive oil, obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods, which is then characterised by a free acidity of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams
- Olive oil, consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils, which is then characterised by a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams
- Olive pomace oil, obtained by treating pulped olives with solvents or other physical treatments
(from http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/83-designations-and-definitions-of-olive-oils)

By the above definitions, my family's production of olive oil is always extra virgin because we never produce olive oil with an acidity level of higher than 0.8. This is no surprise as Crete's olive oil industry is based solely on the production of extra-virgin olive oil, while 80% of Greece's annual olive oil production consists of extra virgin olive oil. To distinguish between very low acidity and and higher acidity in the extra virgin olive oil category, we also have the designation of 'extra-extra virgin olive oil' when the acidity is no more than 0.3-0.4

From the above, we can understand that:
- Not all olive oil is extra virgin.
- Not all packaged olive oil has been produced in the same way.
- The acidity level of olive oil plays a role in its quality.
How virgin an olive oil is will therefore affect olive oil prices: Acidity is the key here.
https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211271807047994

There are also other factors involved in pricing olive oil: In the present olive oil producing season, Greek producers have received good prices for their product, based on the hindered production of other olive oil producing countries, namely Italy and Spain. Italy's trees were ravaged by disease in early 2016 while Spain's were highly affected by drought. Greece's trees do not yet show any signs of the Italian disease, while the very dry summer weather suddenly eased in December which saw a lot of rain in Greece. The rain came at just the right time for olive, as it is usually ripe by this time, and olive oil production is in its full swing at this time.

Since the acidity level of an olive oil is important in pricing the product, the acidity level is the very first thing that will be checked by a producer in Crete. This may sound incredible because in international terms, the acidity level is NOT required to be stated (see https://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/labeling-regulations#Primary). Acidity level can be implied from the name on the label, eg 'extra virgin olive oil' implies that the acidity level is no more than 0.8. But low acidity can also be reached by mixing and refining techniques; therefore, the original acidity level at the time of production loses its importance, (see http://www.oliveoiloftheworld.com/2013/01/22/acidity-levels-in-extra-virgin-olive-oil/).

If you rely on the information on the labels of the products you buy to provide you with all the information you need about a product - and you trust it - you can leave it at that, and feel that you are getting value for money. But if you know that olive oil producers are getting higher prices for their product based on the acidity level of the product, surely that should be just one more factor that you should be considering when you are buying olive oil. After all, most extra virgin olive oil labels state words to the effect of:

"... produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents..."

which one would think could be taken for granted. But very few packaged extra virgin olive oils will include the acidity level on the label. Most olive oil labels will include information about the origin of olive oil, and will even tell you if it is a 'mixie-mixie' kind of oil (my terminology, to describe a product that contains a mixture of olive oil from different countries). Why the need for such wording, and nothing about acidity?

Despite the fact that mentioning the acidity level of extra virgin olive oil on a label is not a legal requirement, many Greek producers of extra virgin olive oil still mention it. It's no surprise then, when a customer finds acidity level mentioned on the label of packaged olive oil of a Greek origin:
"My customer told me she was purchasing an EVOO from Greece with an acidity level of .3%. She wanted to know if the EVOOs I carried had the acidity level listed on the label like hers. Much like customers that look for the words first cold pressed/ing on the labeling because marketing tactics tell them to specifically look for those words,  her concern arose because of this newest method to market olive oil... the acidity levels of extra virgin olive oil mean very little unless someone has a medical condition where a .5% to .8% would cause stomach upset.  So long as the oil is real EVOO (and many are not even though they claim to be) there is no reason to choose based on acidity. It should be based on taste and what one wants to do with the olive oil." http://www.oliveoiloftheworld.com/2013/01/22/acidity-levels-in-extra-virgin-olive-oil/
If there is NO reason to choose extra virgin olive oil based on acidity levels, why does acidity level determine the price of olive oil? Ignoring the acidity of an olive oil may be misleading for a number of reasons:
- The lower the acidity of freshly produced olive oil, the higher the price it can command.
- Low acidity extra virgin olive oil has a lighter taste, which is why it's the best choice for drizzling over your salads.
- Higher acidity levels are better for use in cooking, ie the process of heating olive oil, because they reach a smoking point more quickly; therefore, cooking with a low acidity olive oil may feel like you're boiling your food rather than frying it.
- Very low acidity in olive oil is a sign of less ripening of the fruit, so it can taste more peppery, with a bit of a zing to it when it goes down your throat. This has to do with the sensory perceptions of the product: Some like it hot, some like it cold.
- High acidity olive oil cannot be labelled extra-virgin.
Is the acidity level of an olive oil really a non-issue, given the above information?

 *** *** ***
When I visit friends in London, I always bring some of our own extra-extra virgin olive oil supplies to them as a present. I put into a clean coca-cola type bottle (they are very strong) and securely fasten the cap. Then I seal the cap with cellotape. Then I place the bottle on a plastic bag and tie it up with cellotape, repeating the last step twice. I also checked the olive oil selection at the two supermarkets that I went to: Waitrose, Greenwich... https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211422859184203

... and Sainsbury's, Lewisham Shopping Centre.
https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211455161471740

Hardly any of the labels mention the acidity level of the product. I found only one in Waitrose (Morgenster, South Africa), and only one in Sainsbury's (Iliada, Greece). Both these olive oils were produced in one region, whereas the other olive oils were made from a mixture of olive oils produced in different places: in other words, mixie-mixie, according to my terminology. Without doubt, such oils are more difficult to control for quality. Own-brand labels are far more common than any other kinds of olive oil. Own-brand supermarket olive oils are a kind of '[generic' of olive oil, and they do not state the acidity level of the product. You cannot guarantee quality in such cases. Monovarietals (olive oil produced with one variety of olives) are rare, as are olive oils produced in specific geographical regions. Supermarkets are competing with each other for prices. And in London, it is only natural to assume that specialised products will command high prices, perhaps too high for the average shopper to consider paying at a supermarket counter.

Crete is a major producer of olive oil, so you may be surprised to see a similar 'small' range of olive oil products being sold at our supermarkets. This is probably because the average buyer of olive oil from the supermarket is NOT Greek! Most of us have our own supplies of green gold. Those who do not will probably not buy their needs from the supermarket... They will buy it from a producer they know, or go directly to an olive oil factory and buy it in bulk. What use is a 1L bottle of olive oil - or even a 5L canister of olive oil! - when the average amount of olive oil consumed per capita per annum in Crete is... 25-30 kilos?! It's a little lower for the rest of Greece - Cretans use more olive oil than other Greeks (and according to statistics, they eat more cheese too, even more than the average French person).

Even so, it is worth noting what local Greek supermarkets are selling. Not all olive oils sold in Crete mention the acidity level on their packaging. Here's what I found at LIDL, a German supermarket chain...
https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211586562956695?pnref=story

... and SYNKA, a supermarket chain founded in Hania:
https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki/posts/10211586529915869?pnref=story

I was mainly interested in extra virgin olive oil. All the supermarkets I took photographs in (both in London and in Hania) sell a variety of olive oil types, not just extra-virgin olive oil. I did not make a point of including the prices for all the olive oil labels I photographed. Sometimes price is misleading: is it a sign of quality, or is it a sign of status? Likewise, if you have a preference for 'organic', you may end up paying more money for organic olive oil, even though its quality as olive oil may be compromised.
No automatic alt text available.
Olive oil sold at SYNKA supermarket, Hania. Notice that you can also buy seed oil here too. If you don;t have your own supplies of olive oil, using seed oil to fry with will turn out cheaper.

To conclude, I would say that the best extra virgin olive oil is that which is produced locally. Buying your own country's production is probably the best way of going about buying olive oil for your own use. This includes non-traditional, new producer countries that have entered the olive oil market relatively recently, like South Africa and the US. If you are using olive oil in its raw form, you should be using only extra-virgin olive oil. If you are using it to cook with, you can buy non-extra virgin olive oil which will be cheaper. Finally, since most of the packaged extra virgin olive oil sold in a local Greek non-international supermarket chain mention an acidity level on the label, and it's mainly our tourists who buy such packaged products, you can bet that they are buying very good quality extra virgin olive oil to take back home with them.

©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, 31 December 2016

Askeletoura (Ασκελετούρα)

It's askeletoura time in Greece! In the same way, as the pomegranate, this bulbous plant is smashed jut before the new year on the ground before your front door, for good luck!

AskeletetouraDrimia maritima, is also known by the name of 'skilokromido', which literally means 'dog-onion'. This perennial plant grows up to 50-150cm when in flower, and has a very large bulb diameter of up to 18cm. The large leaves appear after flowering. Inflorescence is large with many white flowers with green or purple veins. It flowers from August to October; now, all we see of it is the leaves. It grows all over the place, especially in undisturbed plots of land which aren't normally cultivated. It's common all over Crete, and in the Mediterranean.


Some of my colleagues at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania run a Mediterranean Plant Conservation Unit. They have collected the following information on the traditional uses and folklore surrounding the askeletoura:

Protective properties were attributed to the askeletoura by the ancient Greeks. The askeletoura has served as a good luck charm since ancient timesand it was hung over the doors of houses. A ring dating back to the Minoan period, which was found in Mochlos, Sitia, Crete, clearly shows the bulb of the askeletouras hung above the stern of a ship, and  above the gate which is shown in front of the ship. Even Dioscorides praises this onion hanging over the door, and the great Pythagoras also followed this custom. This giant onion, which survives the summer drought to flower in autumn with its tall floral ears, symbolizes the power that people wanted to pass onto their lands and their homes. For the followers of Hippocrates, the askeletoura was one of the oldest medicinal plants. Athianios mentions it as 'myofonon' (meaning 'mouse poison'). Theophrastus wrote about it in "On Plant Histories". He mentions that it blooms three times a year, it has a high rate of germination in uncultivated fields, it grows and stays ageless, and it transmits its germination rate onto other plants that are growing closely to it. The ease with which it germinates and its agelessness were gifts endowed by Kallo, the fairy of beauty, who had sprinkled holy water over it as she came across it during her strolls in the moutnains and the valleys. This tradition also exists in Crete, which gives rise tot he saying that "the askeletoura never dies and will never disappear from the fields." In older times, people hung the askeletoura on the first of May on the doors of their homes to bring them luck, and on New Year's Day, they hung one in the doorway, for good luck. This New Year's custom continues to this day, but we also smash a the askeletoura (like the pomegranate) at the entrance of the house for good luck.


Cretan folk healing does not use the plant as an internal medicine. It uses it externally, in bandages of mashed bulbs, as a drug for the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. The mashed bulbs were also used with flour as a poison against rodents. In September, the askeletoura blooms, bringing forth a long stick full of flowers. When watered, the askeletoura does not bloom; Greece can be very dry in September. Farmers carefully observed the flowering of the askeletoura. When the floral stem of the askeletouras was looking very bright and full of flowers, the barley yield would be good. In the year when it did produce a stem, farmers believed that the crop would be destroyed. In the area of ​​Rethymno, Crete, when the 'lantzouni' (as they called the stem) was full of flowers, they would understand that the winter would be heavy, while when it was half full, the winter would not be so cold. Children used the dried stems as a toy, making various objects with them. The askeletoura is also a very good bee plant, as it contains a lot of nectar. 

In this world full of prophecies of doom and gloom, it's reassuring to see the askeletoura continuing to grow undisturbed, despite the calamities that have befallen Earth, our only home. Its constant presence is a sign of great hope. 


KAΛΗ ΧΡΟΝΙΑ!
Happy New Year!


©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, 22 December 2016

Hosafi (Χοσάφι)

Here's an article I wrote last year for The Greek Vegan's Nisteia magazine


The Hellenic people, from which modern Greeks descend, were found throughout the ancient world, where they set up colonies due to their trading interests. The Hellenes settled in various regions east of modern-day Greece known as Asia Minor, areas which are now part of modern-day Turkey. But these places continue to be strongly linked to the spread and influence of Greek language and culture. Cappadocia in central Turkey is still known by its ancient name where many Greeks settled after Alexander the Great conquered the region, which had extended its borders by the time of the birth of Christ to include the coastal area of the Black Sea, named by the Greeks as Pontus Euxeinos ("the Hospitable Sea").

 Cappadocia

In 1922, the Exchange of Populations between Greece and Turkey forcibly repatriated approximately 1,000,000 Christian, Turkish-speaking Greeks from Asia Minor, their ancestors' homelands for many generations, to Greece. Greece was understandably unable to cope with such an increase in population and many of the refugees eventually left Greece for the New World. A great many made their permanent home in America and brought with them their language and proverbs, their myths and legends, their songs and music, and of course their foods, like this recipe for hosafi, offered as hospitality to guests.

Refugees form Asia Minor being houses in Athens at the National Theatre

Hosafi is a fruit compote still made in many parts of Greece and the Greek diaspora with significant numbers of descendants of refugees originating from the population exchange. The food customs of the Greek Pontian migrants were different from those of Greek people living in Greece. Apart from the use of what were then regarded as exotic spices in cooking, like cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg, the Asia Minor Greeks also brought urban culinary traditions to Greece, at a time when Greece was still very rural-based, and in these ways the population exchange instantly expanded and enriched Greek cuisine. 

Hosafi

Many of the recipes of the Asia Minor Greeks are of course based on the availability of ingredients in their former homelands. Hosafi, also known as housafi, cleverly embodies all these territorial and climatic limitations. It is made with fruits that are gathered in warm weather, dried during cool weather, and eaten in cold weather. Drying fresh products is one of the oldest methods of preserving known to man. Reconstituted with a little moisture, these products retain all their flavor and make nutritious meals. 

The simplicity of the dish - boiling together various dried fruits, sweetening them with sugar or honey and adding spices and/or wine for flavour - allowed it to be made any time of the year. The recipe’s ingredients are both meat and dairy free; hence hosafi was and still is made during lenten periods in the Greek Orthodox calendar, such as before Easter. But the different colors of the various fruit added to hosafi give it a rich appearance; it is this aspect that gives hosafi a place at the Christmas table, as a dessert served after the main meal. The leftover syrup from the making of hosafi is also very tasty as a between-meals palate cleanser; Greek Orthodox priests would imbibe it as a 'power drink', particularly useful when fasting rigorously for long periods. This is presumably where hosafi gets its name from: in Turkish, 'hoşaf', means 'stewed fruit', which comes from the Old Persian 'hoş ab', meaning 'pleasant water'. 

Image result for cappadocia clay pots
Clay pots used in traditional cooking, Cappadocia   

Cappadocia is a very mountainous area, which should make one wonder why early settlers chose to live there, rather than on lower ground which gives better access to food, water and transportation. In early civilizations, people felt safer in the mountains, as they were better protected against invaders. Hence, once the Hellenes converted to Christianity, they built their churches and monasteries safely within the confines of the rocky tops of the lunar-like landscape that makes up Cappadocia, while the people lived in the underground city of Anakou (known in modern Turkey as Derinkuyu), where they also kept their livestock and food stores. The region’s remoteness created a strong sense of spirituality within the community, which provides a great source of shared wealth for the Greeks with origins from the area. This idea gives a better understanding of why the Sumela Monastery, built within the cliffs of the Pontic Alps, still holds great significance for the Greeks whose ancestors lived in Asia Minor. The monastery is no longer in operation, but annual pilgrimages still take place.

Soumela Monastery


The Cappadocian Greeks in particular undoubtedly had to be very well prepared for food shortages during the colder months of the year, when fresh food would be harder to find at high altitudes where summers would be hot, winters cold and snowy, and rainfall sparse in this semi-arid region. A cellar full of supplies would be vital in such places during the winter, as access to more temperate zones would be difficult during snowfall, and a dish like hosafi, bringing the sunshine of summer days, would be a most welcome treat. 

Hosafi, by Kalofagas

The variety of the colours of the fruits in hosafi reminds me of the shiny balls on a Christmas tree, so having hosafi on the table would have once been seen as a comforting sight at this dark and climatically difficult period. We're all still searching for that sliver of light to get us through these darker times. May we all find it soon.

ΚΑΛΕΣ  ΓΙΟΡΤΕΣ!
Season's Greetings!

©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, 8 December 2016

Trans

Just another day in the life of a Mediterranean cabbie.

Last weekend, while I (ie my husband) was first at the Agious Apostolous taxi rank, I picked up a fare at Hrisi Akti, just a few metres away from the stand. Dusk was beginning to fall and there weren't many people at the beach. On seeing the taxi, the woman waved out to me. She sat in the back of the cab. I asked her where she was going to. She looked a little lost. She was tall and well groomed, Her clothing choices made her stand out as very well dressed. 

"Well, I don't really know where I am," she said, "but I walked out here from the lighthouse, where I'm staying, at a hotel close by there." 

"You walked out all the way from there?" I was very surprised to hear this. She said she wanted to get a bit of fresh air, and had lost track of the time. She would have walked along the coast, which is quite empty now that the tourist season is over. 

I asked her for the hotel name, which she seemed to remember. She was from (another Greek town) and she was staying in a high-end hotel in Hania for a week, on business. She said she liked the town very much, telling me about the how the Venetian port had made an impression on her. She was in a chatty mood, laughing a lot as she talked in a carefree sort of way. We talked so much about the town in that short ride to the hotel, that I didn't have any time to ask her about her line of business. When we arrived at the hotel, I gave her my business card, should she need another ride. That's how I picked up another fare from her, when she phoned me yesterday, to take her to the airport. 

When I arrived at the hotel, she was waiting at the lobby with her suitcases. She seemed to have a lot of luggage. I helped her with the cases and she sat in the front passenger seat. She was immaculately dressed, perfectly coiffed, and well made up. She had a decolletage you could dive into (husband's choice of words) and get lost in (again, not my wording). 

"So how did business go?" I asked her. She said Hania was good for trade, but not as good as Iraklio, where she was based last week. "My phone rang every half an hour here," she said, "but in Iraklio it rang every ten minutes. I made enough money to cover my expenses. Hania is more beautiful than Iraklio, but it doesn't bring in profits."

"It's a bigger town," I reminded her. And then I realised that I had not asked her what line of business she is in. "So what do you trade in?" 

"I trade in myself!" she exclaimed, with a ring of laughter in her voice, as she swept her hand in the air from head to toe. I suppose I could have guessed, but I don't see why I should have guessed. No one can really guess what anyone is doing these days because we are all doing so much. Our appearance as Greeks is very global, so the traditional way of regarding people by their appearance is pretty much gone. 

She explained that she conducts all her business online these days, and she is well connected with other people in the same trade. So through the internet, people will know where she is available and when. This is how the locals who needed her services would know where she was coming to Crete. She also said she never flies Ryanair because of their baggage restrictions, preferring Aegean Airlines. "I need to carry my makeup bag, laptop, day bag and travel documents. Ryanair would leave me in the cold if I tried to get all that through." I noticed how well dressed she was: everything she wore was a brand label, including her accessories. 

Our arrival at the airport signaled the end of a very interesting conversation, like many I have with strangers who introduce me to details of their life that are often very different from my own. I wished her a safe journey and expressed my hope that I will see her again. "Don't worry," she said, "I have your card." She didn't have a card, but she gave me details of her escort agency, including the website which listed all her services. She was a real professional. 

©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, 25 November 2016

Cheats' Haniotiko Boureki

I ran into a couple of girlfriends in the supermarket the other day. By friends, I mean real friends, not the ad hoc kind we make on facebook. 'Ελα ντε that they are also on facebook and we are friends there too, which explains how they knew what I had been cooking recently.

"What a great boureki you made!" said one girlfriend.
"I wish I'd thought of making it like that!" said the other girlfriend.



Boureki is a very common favorite family recipe in Hania. (See my basic recipe here: http://www.organicallycooked.com/2007/09/boureki-courgette-potato-bake.html) While I was trying to remember how I made the last one we ate, and why it seemed to impress my friends so much, it occurred to me that I 'faked' it a little, by using 'cheap' ingredients.

"Did the family like it?" said one girlfriend.
"Did they notice the difference?" said the other girlfriend.

My husband noticed something different ("I prefer it without the pastry, the way you usually make it"), but my kids actually preferred it to my usual boureki, because it had a crunchier texture. But the family still doesn't know about the substitutions I made to the basic recipe, and they didn't seem to realise that I had made any. I don't intend to tell them, either. The boureki just looked different.

The whole issue could be phrased as a 'man' problem:
"My husband's always complaining that I don't buy mizithra much these days," said one girlfriend.
"When I refuse to mizithra, he goes out and buys it himself - and in bulk! Can you imagine what kind of money he's spending?" said the other girlfriend.

This will probably all sound like not so big a deal to most of my readers, but clearly for me and my girlfriends, it is. We can now draw some conclusions - among the three of us, despite our different age, socio-economic class, occupation and education, the three of us have many shared traits:
1. our families are quintessentially Greek, and their behavioural trends are more or less similar,
2. our husbands have fixed notions of what traditional Greek dishes are supposed to be made of, how they are supposed to look, what they are supposed to taste like,
3. our cooking habits are very similar,
4. we place a similar importance on ensuring that our families eat home-cooked healthy food,
5. our financial situations have changed over the last few years towards the worse.

It is this last point in particular that was really the basis of the conversation. We all know how to make a boureki, but it didn't occur to all of us how we can make it cheaply, without causing a domestic argument over the kitchen table. Differences in taste are immediately spotted by well trained eaters. Some are more open to variations, while others are not. (Look how well trained my family are, for instance: http://www.organicallycooked.com/2008/03/taste-sensation.html ) So you need to use all your powers of deceptiveness if you want to fool them.

It occurs to me that Cretan mizithra is difficult to find both in other parts of Greece and the rest of the world. So my latest version of the recipe for Haniotiko Boureki should prove very useful. Here are some useful tips on faking it:
- when you buy cheap ingredients, make sure to hide them in the fridge where your fussier members of the family can't see them,
- if some family members have a tendency to search the darker corners of the fridge (mine doesn't), then you should take off the packaging material and leave no label visible, repackaging the items in plain plastic bags,
- prepare meals when no one's looking,
- if anyone comments about how the meal feels/tastes/looks different to what it usually looks like, fake it even more by saying that you made it the same way that you usually do, by saying something like: "maybe the zucchini tastes different because it's out of season" (which it almost is at the moment), or "hm, the potatoes must be old" (they don't have a due by date, do they?). Just don't mention the substitutes (cheese in my boureki's case).
- if anyone insists that the boureki was made in a different way even though you say it wasn't, ask them to cook the next meal: you just provide them with the ingredients. This last one always works for me.

All over the western world, everybody's living standards are falling. So in effect, everyone is in crisis these days. Some of us are simply better at coping, like me an' my girlfriends. Just ask them.

I don't have much time these days for blog writing because I am incredibly busy at work (which basically means I am not unemployed, which is a good thing these days). I put up long posts on my facebook profile instead. Come and join me there if you like:  https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki 

©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.