Thursday, 27 March 2008

Filo pastry - phyllo (Φύλλο)

This is my filo pastry maker. He works in a little basement with a few stairs that lead up to the road, on an old street behind the Agora of Hania. How can the street be old? It's dusty, and the pre-war buildings look very tired from the weight of the metal and glass that has been added to them to modernise their appearance and make them attract tourists. There's also a site with ancient ruins further down the road, sectioned off with wire netting, to keep people and their rubbish out.

When I visited the pastry maker today, he was in the middle of stretching out a piece of dough. His hair and eyelashes were tinged with flour, and so was the staircase and the banister.

Good morning, can I take a photo of you while your working?
Sure, do you want any filo, or should I just go back to work?
Oh, I want a kilo of filo, too!
OK, I'll get it for you first.
He comes up the stairs.
Thick or thin?
Thick, please, for kalitsounia (of course I wanted it for hortopita, spanakopita, kalitsounakia, tiropitakia and spiral pie, too, but I kept this to myself). How long have you been doing this job?
Oh, years and years, over 50.
You've been running around like that for over 50 years?!
Yes, and I don't think I'll ever stop until it's time to go away for good, if you get what I mean.
We laugh together.
Exercise is good for everyone. I can't sit around in an office, never ever. I notice that he is a very slim man for his age.
Is that your father? I point to the photo on the wall.
No, no, that's the owner's father, the young lady who you see here many times. I was a friend of her father's. A kilo of... oh, it's more than a kilo. Would you like me to remove some?
No, no, I'll keep it, I'm sure I'll need it.
Here you are. I pay him. Now you can take your photo.
He goes downstairs. The tourists are starting to come in now, and they take photos of me. Every year, they take hundreds of photos. I've seen myself in the same pose in photos taken by different people hundreds of times. Tourists love this sort of thing.
Is it difficult work?
What, stretching the dough? This is peanuts. The difficulty was when we didn't have mixers and I had to mix the dough myself. Those were hard days, I can tell you...

I watch him stretching the dough. When he's finished, the filo (phyllo) covers the whole table in a perfect square with rounded corners. It is then covered with hessian sacking material, which keeps the dough soft and allows it to breathe without drying out. It is then cut up into smaller squares to make it easier to package it and for customers to work with it.

When I finish the video, I thank him and say good-bye - until I need more pastry. Why bother making my own? This is the real thing.

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Kalitsounia fried
Kalitsounia for Easter
Kalitsounia in the oven
Hortopita (spanakopita)
Sfakianes pites
Summer kalitsounia
Spiral pie