Taxi service

Taxi service
TAXI SERVICE, for all your holiday needs while you are travelling in Hania. If you're coming to Hania and you need a taxi, maybe we can help you out. For quotes and prompt service, drop me a line at: mverivaki hotmail com

Friday, 28 November 2008

Nouveau cuisine (Καινούργια κουζίνα)

Living in a town where household shelving and wall units are especially reserved for the children's bedrooms and not the lounge, it comes as no surprise that people don't buy much printed matter, apart from newspapers, which are probably bought for another purpose: despite the excessive number of dailies for the population of the country, they are produced en masse, and are filled with supplements. While lounging on the couch letting some mindless trash pass my eyes from the box (or the telly, as we used to call it New Zealand), an advertisement came on for the weekend's Sunday papers, most of which had probably already been printed, except for, possibly, the front page. Only the giveaways count in a newspaper these days, which is how newspapers sell in Greece: DVD's, CD's, fashion and decoration magazines, bags in the summer, scarves in the winter, everything 'free of charge' with the 'more expensive' edition of the newspaper. If there's no supplement, you can be sure that the newspaper won't be popular; even if there is a supplement, the paper is probably only being bought for that purpose. In Greece, we rarely take out household subscriptions.

gourmet magazines
(Eleftheros Tipos offered a supplement with Mamalakis' recipes, while Kiriakatiki contained two supplements: one about beans and another about pumpkin)

A few weeks ago, there was a special Greek Gourmet magazine supplement in the Kiriakatiki Eleftherotipia, entitled Όσπρια' (Pulses - Beans). When he saw the advertisement on TV, hubby expressed great interest in procuring that particular newspaper, which we wouldn't have bought, had it not been for the supplement. My husband loves beans. He could eat fasolada every day, just like the Italians eat pasta as part of most main meals. He attributes his fanatical nature towards the humble bean to an unfortunate incident in his childhood, when he suffered from some peptic disorder. His mother took him to the doctor, who explicitly instructed her that her son should avoid all forms of gas-inducing food, which of course meant all kinds of beans. Much to his dismay, his mother would make fasolada for his father, another bean fanatic (the trait must be genetic - even one of the grandchildren seems to carry it), and cook a separate bland meal of boiled chicken and plain boiled rice for her son (which explains his present revulsion for chicken).

When the peptic disorder disappeared, and he no longer exhibited any symptoms of illness, he demanded a bowl of his mother's aromatic fasolada, but to no avail; his mother wanted to ensure that her son would never again suffer from any kind of peptic disorder, so she never let him eat any fasolada - for the next six years. One day, just before he became a teenager, my husband found a pot of fasolada simmering away unattended. He took the wooden spoon his mother used to stir the soup and ate a scoop of fasolada, just as it was, boiling hot. Then he ate another, and another, and another, until his mother came into the kitchen and caught him in the act.

"Get away from that pot!" she screamed, ranting lunatically out of fear for the worst, at the same time trying to expunge the spoon out of her son's hands. "The fasolada's gonna make your stomach explode!"

Her son made a run for it - but not before he took the pot with him. He ran a few hundred yards down the road, and hid in a nearby swamp (the present Gogoni Street in Hania), returning in the evening with the pot, completely empty of its contents. Since that day, nobody ever again attempted to stop him from eating fasolada, fava, lentil soup, black-eyed beans, chickpeas and yigantes, which pretty much covers the range of bean dishes his mother cooked in her kitchen.

So when he saw the advertisement for a 'free' magazine devoted wholly to bean recipes, he just had to have it.

"Don't bother," was my immediate reaction. "You won't want boiled lentils in your salad, mashed vegetables in your fava, kidney beans with bulgur wheat, grated carrot in lentil soup and yigantes with horta." He was astounded to hear these combinations being named by his wife, as I had never cooked them in our own home, nor had he heard of them being cooked in other homes. I explained to him the trend in Greek cuisine to 'update' an old favorite, use traditional ingredients in a novel way, basically, to cook in a more globalised fashion while still maintaining a Greek-Mediterranean element in the food. These new ideas were implemented by creative Athenian cooks, and are now permeating into Athenian restaurants, Greek food websites and younger people's cooking), but whose effects have not yet made an impact in the everyday Crete we live.

Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with inventing new recipes, revamping old ones, or giving a new look to age-old recipes. It just doesn't work in this environment, where people have been brought up on a traditional cuisine that hasn't changed much since the period of the Turkish occupation of the island. I don't need to tell you what might happen if I tweaked the basic recipes I use for my rotational weekly cuisine according to the season: the Third World War will break out from my kitchen.

I showed my hunter-hubby one of the recipes in one of the supplements: quails in a mustard and sage or tarragon) sauce, served with baked honey-glazed quince: 'Παπάρια' (paparia; 'balls'), leaving me simply to savour the photographs in the magazine for the time being. My reasons for rejecting someone else's recipe is based on other factors:
  1. Recipes (no matter how attractive they look) which use hard-to-source (therefore not local or well-known) ingredients are definitely not for my kitchen. It's great to try out new products, but do it on your own, unless you are sure that your family is more welcoming of new tastes, exotic aromas and quirky looking edibles.
  2. I sympathise with some people's abhorrence at mixing sweet or fruit ingredients into a savoury dish, although this is more a matter of how one has become conditioned to view food rather than a genuine dislike of the combination of sweet and savoury; these kinds of meals were probably never cooked in their home in the first place.
  3. When recipes call for the use of processed ingredients like ketchup, mayonnaise, baking mixes, and other unnatural or processed foods as their main ingredients, I feel they are simply trying to sell a product line, not trying to create a wholesome meal.
*** *** ***

In Hania, people are stuck on old food favorites. The previous generation of cooks will pass on recipes to the next generation. What is served at home is also served in tavernas. Our tourists are used to this; they say it helps them to recognise what they're eating:
"Stifado? Oh, we had that in XYZ taverna."
"Biftekia? Oh, that's what we tried in ABC taverena."
"Yemista? Oh, my favorite recipe website featured those once on a Greek food special."

They won't forget those words or those tastes easily; they appear in all the menus of all the tavernas in the region. The Cretan mayeirio delivery menu (aimed mainly for busy working people) doesn't differ vastly from such tourist menus; almost everything that appears in my recipe index is listed in a typical mayeirio menu card, arranged in the typical way a Cretan mayeirio displays its wares. The menu is in Greek; an English translation is provided with links to my own site recipes:

SALADS - APPETISERS Horiatiki with feta - Seasonal salad: lettuce/cabbage - Horta: stamnagathi/vlita - Beetroot - Feta per serving - Potatoes fried in olive oil BOILED MEAT Goat - Beef - Patsa soup ROAST MEAT Beef steak - Pork steak - Lamb chops - Pork strip (Greek pancetta) - Biftekia - Roast chicken STEWS Sheep guts with courgettes - Fricasse with lettuce or horta - Lamb stew - Pork with celery - Pork with peppers - Lamb with artichokes - Soutzoukakia - Beef stew - Lamb with beans - Yiouvetsi - Yiouvarlakia - Rabbit stew - Chicken with okra - Roast lamb and potatoes - String beans in tomato sauce - Gigantes beans with bacon - Spaghetti with mince SUMMER DISHES Moussakas - Pastitsio - Boureki - Yemista - Papoutsakia - Briam - Eggplants with cheese WINE House wine: red or white - Retsina - Beer - Soft drinks

'Nouveau cuisine' in Hania still has a long way to go. When I showed my husband a menu card from an Athenian mayeirio, he asked me who eats such food. Probably all sorts of people, mostly young people, progressive people, people tired of eating the same kind of food their mother makes at home, people game to try a new taste, people keen to avoid fatty meals with an excess of olive oil, people interested in new tastes, people on the road, people busy at work, hungry people who do not have the luxury of using fresh garden produce, the space to cook an elaborate meal or the time to do it. The menu card from this Athenian mayeirio reads very differently; there is not even any menu arrangement:

Meat soup with vegetables and cereals - Tuna cabbage salad with warm rice - Roast vegetable medley and cheese - Rocket salad with chicken, pineapple and mango - Boiled vegetables in a vinaigrette sauce - Green salad with smoked salmon and shrimp - Fried cuttlefish with eggplant sauce - Wholemeal pasta with broccoli - Wholemeal penne with sauce and goat's cheese - Yiouvetsi with shellfish or mushroom medley - Tomato carbonara - Salmon with dill and rice - Fried cod with skordalia - Moussakas - Meatballs with rice, sauce, peppers and mint - Meatballs with pasta and fennel - Lamb with coastal horta - Roast chicken with boiled vegetables - Rabbit with pergamon and mashed potato - Chicken with estragon and rice - Fillet steak with mushrooms and home-made pasta - Fillet steak with pistachio and rosemary
(The meals become progressively more expensive as you read the list...)

mayeirio athens mayeirio hania chania
The two mayeirio menu cards: for those of you who don't read Greek, which one do you think is from Hania, and which is from Athens?

The meals mentioned in the Athenian mayeirio sounds nutritious and tasty. But they aren't cooked in the traditional Cretan kitchen. Wheat may be added to a meat soup, but pineapple and mango would never feature in a savoury dish, even if both are readily available fresh (they simply decorate the supermarket fresh produce counter, or are bought by foreigners, from what I know), cuttlefish and eggplant sauce wouldn't be served together, neither would meatballs and fennel... and so on.

There are many many times when I wish for something different, even if it means I have to cook it just for myself; if it doesn't look familiar, my family generally doesn't want it. That being said, at least they know what they want; some people are still searching.

*** *** ***

I was recently inundated with weird and wonderful vegetables, which I had to use up somehow, even though I had never before used them in my cooking.

kohlrabi
(Until my uncles started growing it this year - just for fun - I had never even seen kohlrabi before in my life; purple on the outside, white on the inside, it smells and tastes of cabbage.)

I actually invented a recipe for a salad. Although recipe creation is not my forte, I think I pulled it off quite nicely. I thought it would look great in one of those cuisine magazine supplements. Now all I need is to figure out a name for it...

carrot daikon kohlrabi rocket salad
You need:
1 small Daikon radish
1 kohlrabi
1 carrot
1 spring onion
a few sprigs of parsley OR rocket leaves
salt
olive oil
balsamic vinegar (optional)
Grate the radish, carrot and kohlrabi into a bowl. Chop the spring onion and parsley or rocket finely, and add to the other vegetables. Dress the salad with salt and olive oil. A sprinkle of balsamic vinegar woudn't go amiss, either.

Enjoy as a side dish with a main course, or as a main dish with some good cheese (and red wine).

©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, 27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Day (Ημέρα των Ευχαριστιών)

Thanksgiving is a celebration of thanks, as its name implies. Although there is no such formal occasion celebrated with this same name in Greece, the idea of giving thanks is a common element binding all people in the world. Even if it isn't celebrated in some formal way, it probably forms a part of everyone's lives in some way.

The closest celebration that comes to my mind in the life of the Greek Orthodox is the Eucharist, a religious rite performed in the church involving food: consecrated bread (the body of Christ) and wine (the blood of Christ). The word 'eucharist' comes the word εὐχαριστῶ (efharisto) ), which continues to mean 'thank you' in modern Greek: "The Greek noun eukharistia (εὐχαριστία) derives from eu- 'well' + kharis 'favor, grace'. Eukharisteo (εὐχαριστῶ) is the usual verb for "to thank" in the New Testament" (from Wikipedia). During the Eucharist, people partake in a Holy Communion with the Lord, by eating the bread and drinking the wine.

There is always a time to give thanks to friends and family, as well as to the superior force that governs each person's fate. It isn't the purpose of this post to propound a theory about who or what that force is, or whether it should be personified as God or Allah or Yehwah. All people probably feel that they have been wronged at some point in their life, but I think, on the most par,t I see people leading greater misery than what I have been through. I believe that there comes a moment when we should all be thankful for many reasons, but are too selfish to admit that we are thankful.

I could talk about being very thankful that the economic crisis has had little immediate effect in my life, but that's probably got to do with the kind of lifestyle I live. I honestly feel it has very little to do with my immediate life, apart from price increases products and services. I'd rather be thankful for more meaningful things in life, such as always being employed no matter how low the pay is, never spending beyond my means, and having a roof over my head, plus the fact that I live in a climate that is tolerable.

Above all, I am thankful for the good health of my family. Having given birth to children who were not at all healthy in the most commonly understood sense (my son wasn't able to produce his own blood for the first 9 months of his life, while my daughter spent the first month of her life in hospital as a preemie), coupled with my parents' deaths (both from cancer), I think I am living in a dream world now, where my whole family is very healthy. If only we could be thankful for the meaningful things in life.

In the spirit of the origins of Thanksgiving, and given that, according to my site statistics, most of my readers are from North America, here is my culinary creation: not a traditional turkey dinner (you may be put off turkey after seeing what happened to them in Alaska, which reminds me of another reason to be thankful), but chewy chocolate pumpkin drop cookies, created on a whim, in my constant endeavour to feed my children healthy food. The idea of adding cornflakes to biscuits is part of Kiwi ingenuity.

chocloate pumkin cornflake drop cookies chocloate pumkin cornflake drop cookies

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN DROP COOKIES
1 cup of pumpkin puree (made by roasting the pumpkin till it is soft)
2/3 cup of sugar
¼ cup of honey
½ cup of olive oil
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (or more)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of salt
a cup of cornflakes

Mix together the pumpkin, sugar, honey, oil, baking powder, cocoa, cinammon and salt, so that everything is combined well. Sift the flour into the mixture and mix it in well. Then add the cornflakes and mix them in so that they are evenly distributed without breaking up.

Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto a well-oiled baking sheet. (I didn’t use parchment paper, but I noticed that they will stick to the tin if it isn’t well oiled.) Bake for about 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until they are firm – they will not harden like a crisp biscuit. Cool on a wire rack to avoid condensation.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS: Thanks for stopping by to read my musings!

©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, 25 November 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly (Το καλό, το κακό και το άσχημο)

Here's a selection of in-season fruit in Hania, each one with a strange exotic appearance and taste. Each one is unique, and although they are considered by some to be old-fashioned fruits, they have their own unique uses in the kitchen. They can also act as a talking point; put them in a bowl on your coffee table and they will easily replace the classic coffee table book, sparking interest by their own very unique roles in the history of the ancient world.

quince persimmon pmegranate
These autumn fruits are all being sold at the street market now: yellow quince, orange persimmon and crimson-yellow pomegranate.

The good...
rodi rogdi pomegranate

Pomegranate is one of my favorite autumn fruits. I was given these ones by an aunt. Its sweet, tasty flavour, in combination with the stunning colour of the fruit, make this comestible a beauty queen. Pomegranate has a lovely round shape, with a characteristic star-like cone at the tip. On opening the fruit, you will be surprised to find that it contains juicy red seeds. This is what is eaten from the pomegranate; the seeds are scooped out with a spoon, while the skin is discarded - it's as tough as leather. It makes a beautiful addition to a winter fruit basket. It has a beautiful name in Greek: ρόδι - rodi (in Crete, we also call it rogdi) - a derivative of the word 'ρόδο', meaning 'rose', referring to its shape, the colour of the fruit, its smell, or all of these.

One of my favorite stories from ancient Greek mythology involves the pomegranate. Despite their positive attributes, pomegranates carry negative connotations in ancient Greek culture. Persephone, daughter of the goddess of fertility and agriculture, Demeter, ate some pomegranate while she was living with Hades in the underworld, which is how the seasons are explained in Greek mythology: she ate six (no one really knows if she ate six seeds or six pomegranates), which is why we have six cold months and six warm months every year. During the spring and summer, Persephone is living above ground with her mother Demeter, while in the autumn and winter, she's underground keeping Hades company. Demeter is overcome with grief, expressing her loss in the bare trees and cold weather. Since pomegranates are so closely associated with the underworld, it is no surprise that these seeds are added to the boiled wheat cakes (the koliva) that are served after a memorial service held at the Greek Orthodox church for a loved one who has passed away.

The pomegranate has quite a different popular history in Armenia, where it grows in abundance; it is a symbol of joy, representing fertility, abundance and marriage. My Armenian students at the institute where I work tell me that its seeds are added to salads, pressed into a juice, added to a meat marinade, apart from being eaten fresh; pomegranates are eve turned into a wine. One of my favorite Armenian students was named Anahit. When I saw a box of imported pomegranates at the market bearing the name ANAHITA, I asked her about the history of her name and its relationship with pomegranates. She told me that Anahita was the Persian goddess of fertility, and is symbolised as holding a pomegranate in her hand; Armenia and the ancient culture of Persia have intertwined histories.

... the bad...
lotus persimmon lotus persimmon
lotus persimmon

With the appearance of an unripe tomato (both inside and outside), the exotic persimmon, λωτός (lotos as it is called in Greek), is considered a berry (a berry berry large one). If you see them growing on a tree, you'll think they look like luscious apples ready for picking. A bite off one of these, and you'll be searching for a bathroom to wash out their acrid taste. Then you'll start worrying that your tongue has grown furry; really revolting. They really are an acquired taste, something these fruits often seem to lack.

These were given to me by my uncles who gave me some advice about when to eat them. You have to wait until the fruit looks like a soft tomato. If it isn't wholly ripe, red, soft and juicy, it will taste very bitter; it needs to look as though it is rotten. The fruit is often picked before it is mature enough to eat, and ripens on its own over time. When ripe, it is pulpy rather than fleshy.

Its name in Greek sounds like 'lotus', the common name for another exotic fruit, but one that is totally unrelated to the persimmon. So what did the lotus eaters eat when they ate lotus - persimmon, or lotus fruit? Only Odysseus knows the answer to that one. Apparently, this fruit was so delicious, that Odysseus' crew didn't want to leave the island where they found it, and Odysseus nearly never made it back to his beloved Ithaca.

I've come across a lot of persimmon recipes over the internet, the pulp of the fruit being added to soft cookies, cakes, pies and bread. I was touched when I saw a persimmon walnut cake, made by my sinonomati
Maria from New York, using persimmons from her uncle's garden who lives in one of the oldest Greek neighbourhoods of New York, Astoria.

... and the ugly.
quince kydonia

Quince is a weird fruit. It's too tough to eat raw, but when cooked, it can be turned into either a sweet, or as a substitute for potato or root vegetables in a roast. My mother often made quince spoon sweet in New Zealand, which she bought at the Tory St Market in Wellington. Believe it or not, despite its ancient links, quince was growing in New Zealand well before New Zealand was colonised, and the Maori were using it as a food item. During my time in New Zealand, quince was already starting to sound like an old-fashioned fruit, although it is making a big comeback in cuisines all over the world, given the increased attention paid to natural food sources. Quinces looks like a badly formed apple - or maybe an overgrown pear. In its raw form, it has a hard woody taste. It undergoes an incredible transformation once it is cooked.

Quince is called κυδώνι 'kydoni' in Greek. Kydonia was also the name given to Hania in ancient times, a name that still survives in the town, especially in the form of Kydon, the name of a hotel, a TV channel, a sports club, and a whole host of small businesses in the summer resort town of Hania. Quinces were grown in Crete, from where they spread to other areas of ancient Greece, taking the name with them for this unusual fruit. The 'apple' that Paris gave to the ancient Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, might actually have been a quince; in any case, it was enough to start the Trojan war...

The quinces in the photo were being sold at the market; they are not as ugly as the ones I have seen growing on trees in the village. Their shape is usually asymmetrical, they have rough patches on their skin, and they also seem to have a dusty grey fur covering their skin. So why did I call it an ugly fruit? It's a bit like the ugly duckling. This yellow-on-the-outside, creamy-white-on-the-inside fruit turns a muddy brown as soon it is sliced through, like an apple. As it starts to cook, it seems to become bleached white, turning different shades the longer it cooks, uintil it becomes Cinderella pink. When sliced through - if your quince is slightly unripe, you'll need a good knife and a lot of patience to peel them - it exudes a sweet aroma; quinces have even been known to be used as air fresheners!

quince spoon sweet kydoni quince spoon sweet kydoni quince spoon sweet kydoni quince spoon sweet kydoni quince spoon sweet kydoni quince spoon sweet kydoni
(watch the muddy quince bleaching and blushing as it darkens while it is cooked)
quince spoon sweet kydoni
(I made this quince sweet using Nancy's recipe, which resembles my mother's method to cook quince; Nancy also details another recipe for grated quince. They are very similar to each other, and equally delicious.)

Whenever I see quince, whether it's at the market or on the fruit trees in the village fields, I always remember my mother turning it into a spoon sweet, and the unforgettable aroma that filled our New Zealand kitchen when she cooked it. Spoon sweets are old-fashioned syrupy fruits, served on a dainty plate with a glass of water, maybe after a cup of Greek coffee, to lighten the palate of its bitter flavour. This whole synthesis is brought out on a silver tray lined with a quaint crocheted doily. Most people have done away with unnecessary furnishings and textiles in their hoses these days, but you can still see this tradition continued in the houses of senior citizens, whose velvet armchairs still carry an anti-macassar on their backs; don't forget the set of three nesting tables to keep the offerings close to the guest!

There is still a place for spoon desserts in our times. They are often served at the end of the meal in tavernas, sprinkled over strained Greek yoghurt. This makes a fantastic end-of-dinner dessert, much lighter than ice-cream, since spoon desserts contain no fat, and the yoghurt is usually not sweetened. Quince spoon sweet is also a perfect dessert for Christmas, with its pinky-red hues. Serve it with a spoon sweet fig, and you're looking at Christmas on a plate. And if you do want to make it in time for Christmas (which, my children keep telling me, is only a month away), you'll have something ready to serve on the day with trifle, ice-cream, pudding or yoghurt.

This is my entry for this week's Weekend herb Blogging, hosted this week by Scott from The Real Epicurean.

©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, 24 November 2008

Greengrocer (Μανάβικο)

I just came back home after having spent 436 euro on next year's road taxes for my car, our pick-up truck, and my husband's taxi. While I was there, I saw:

hunger strikers protesting against the lengthy delays in trying to get the green card to work legally in Greece (you can read about their cause here and here)...
hunger strike hania chania

... public employees (the most privileged sector of Greek society) trying to be reimbursed for their medication because the pharmaceutical unions refuse to supply the state with medication for people receiving such a benefit, as they (the companies belonging to the unions) have not been reimbursed by the state for their services for the last three years (and they'll be paying for doctors' visits from now on too for the same reasons - doctors haven't been reimbursed by the state for the medical care they provided to them since the beginning of the year - read more about it here)...
public servants hania chania

... economic migrants waiting to get lucky by being picked up for one or two days' worth of temporary work, either in construction or in the agricultural sector (the local TV station reporters were asking people on the street what they thought about this situation, as it is a regular daily sight in our town, not a one-off, nor is anything done about it by the state, eg round-ups of illegal immigrants by the police to keep them off the street)...economic migrants hania chania


... and this lovely greengrocer's shop, located in the town centre on a quiet side street across the road from where the economic migrants were waiting to be picked up.
greengrocer hania chania

Isn't it a beautiful sight? It makes you forget about what is happening across the road.

The owner of thegreengrocery has parked two pick-up trucks in front of it, to advertise his produce. Apart from these luscious greens, he also sells other fresh produce and general grocery items inside his store where the cashier is also located, and keeps packed crates all over the sidewalk, leaving us just enough leg space to pass by and admire his wares.

©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, 22 November 2008

Milk (Γάλα)

In the western world, milk is one of the most revered basic food items: it is the first meal an infant receives as soon as it is born, the only food a human being produces from her own body. Milk is so versatile in its use that it is able to be processed naturally into a huge variety of different kinds of food items - cream, cheese, yoghurt; with the addition of sugar, it becomes one of the most sought-after hot-weather refreshments in the form of milkshakes and ice-creams. It contains a range of nutrients, and has taken on the role of one of the most basic items on the breakfast table. It is simply unimaginable for a Westerner not to have some milk in some form in the morning, whether it's warmed up in a cup of cocoa, tea or coffee, or in a bowl of cereal, or in the form of yoghurt or cheese.

Στο δυτικό κόσμο, το γάλα θεωρείται ένα από τα βασικά τρόφιμα: είναι το πρώτο γεύμα που λαμβάνει ένα βρέφος αμέσως μόλις γεννιέται, το μόνο τρόφιμο που παράγει το ανθρώπινο σώμα. Το γάλα είναι τόσο ευέλικτο και ευπροσάρμοστο στην χρήση του που είναι σε θέση να υποστεί επεξεργασία, δημιουργώντας μια τεράστια ποικιλία από διαφορετικά είδη τροφίμων - κρέμα γάλακτος, γιαούρτι, τυρί μαλακό, τυρί σκληρό, κλπ. Με την προσθήκη ζάχαρης, καθίσταται ένα από τα πιο περιζήτητα αναψυκτικά του καλοκαιριού, το παγωτό. Περιέχει πολλά θρεπτικά συστατικά, και έχει αναλάβει το ρόλο ενός από τα πιο βασικά στοιχεία του πρωινού γεύματος. Είναι αδιανόητο να μην υπάρχει σε κάποια μορφή στο πρωινό μας.

In 2006, the top 20 milk-drinking countries of the world included Greece. In 2003, the country that eats the most cheese per capita was Greece, with feta cheese accounting for 75% of all cheese eaten in Greece. Cows, sheep and goats are all employed in milk, cheese and yoghurt production throughout the country. This information should all lead one to believe that milk is freely available in Greece; unfortunately, that only happens when the milk-producer farmers are dumping it, complaining of low subsidies, low prices and high middleman's prices. Milk prices are generally determined by the demand, supply and agricultural policy system. In Greece, it is the consumer who gets the worst deal; the cost of milk in Greece is absurdly high in comparison to the average salary of a Greek worker. This is why I get very tetchy when my children don't drink all the milk in the glass, or they eat their cornflakes, but leave the milk in the bowl...

Το 2006, η Ελλάδα
ήταν ανάμεσα στις 20 χώρες του κόσμου που κρατούσαν την πρωτιά στην κατανάλωση του γάλακτος. Το 2003, η πρώτη χώρα στη κατανάλωση του τυριού ήταν η Ελλάδα: η φέτα αποτελεί 75% όλων των τυριών που καταναλώνονται στην Ελλάδα. Αγελάδες, πρόβατα και κατσίκες, όλα απασχολούνται στον τομέα των γάλακτοκομικών ειδών. Αυτές οι πληροφορίες θα πρέπει να μας οδηγήσουν να πιστεύουμε ότι όλοι έχουν εύκολη πρόσβαση στο γάλα. Δυστυχώς, αυτό συμβαίνει μόνο όταν οι γαλακτοπαραγωγοί αδιάζουν τα δοχεία στο δρόμο, ως ένδειξη διαμαρτυρίας για τις χαμηλές επιδοτήσεις, τις χαμηλές τιμές και τα υψηλά κόστα των μεσάζων. Οι τιμές του γάλακτος γενικά καθορίζονται από τη ζήτηση, την προσφορά και την πολιτική του αγροτικού συστήματος. Στην Ελλάδα, ο καταναλωτής ζημιώνεται πιο πολλή από κάθε άλλον, αφού το κόστος του γάλακτος στην Ελλάδα είναι πολύ υψηλό σε σύγκριση με τις υπόλοιπες χώρες της Ευρώπης, προπαντώς αν λαμβάνει μέρος σ’αυτή τη σύγκριση το μέσο μισθό ενός Έλληνα εργαζόμενου.

The milk cost saga has intensified with the recent discovery that melamine was added to milk sold in China, creating a wholly unsatisfactory image of milk, given its importance in the daily diet of people right around the world (thankfully, we've been assured that no such milk was detected in the milk sold in Hania).

Η πρόσφατη ανακάλυψη ότι προστέθηκε μελαμίνη στο γάλα που πωλείται στην Κίνα δημιουργεί μια εικόνα καθόλου ικανοποιητική για το γάλα, λόγω της μεγάλης σημασίας στην καθημερινή διατροφή των ανθρώπων σε όλο τον κόσμο (ευτυχώς, έχει διαβεβαιωθεί ότι δεν εντοπίστηκε τέτοιο γάλα να πωλείται στα Χανιά).

We are constantly bombarded with TV and newspaper reports claiming that Greece has the highest price for milk per litre in the whole of Europe; it is also claimed that the price of a litre of milk in Greece is much higher than other countries where there is a high level of milk consumption, such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand. I've also seen prices floating around on the internet for the price of milk in Greece, and they do seem rather high. But what I haven't seen anywhere (except in one free monthly newspaper published in Hania, "Καταναλωτής" - katanalotis, meaning 'consumer') is a price index of the cost per item listed by brand name and supermarket chain (because, let's face it, most of us do our shopping there).

Βομβαρδιζόμαστε συνεχώς από τα δελτία ειδήσεων που ισχυρίζουν ότι η Ελλάδα έχει την υψηλότερη τιμή του γάλακτος ανά λίτρο σε ολόκληρη την Ευρώπη. Υποστήριζετε επίσης ότι η τιμή του γάλακτος άνα λίτρο στην Ελλάδα είναι πολύ ψηλή.

milk inka supermarket hania chania milk marinopoulos supermarket
(INKA - left - and MARINOPOULOS milk counters)

Here are some 'tricks' to watch out for:
  • TV reports blaring out the word 'milk' on the screen with an extortionist's price tag next to it seem to treat milk (and other food staples like bread) as if it is something akin to Coca-cola, a brand name, or a frappe coffee at a cafe; neither are basic products or staples!!!
  • The phrase 'the price of milk' does not denote a brand name; but milk is never sold brand-less, as it used to be in other parts of Europe, in a plastic bag tied at the top!!!
  • generic supermarket packaged milk is much cheaper than any of the milk brands sold at a supermarket, and it is always lower than 1 euro, the benchmark price used during last summer's milk boycott, in which consumers were asked to boycott milk brands that were being sold upwards of 1 euro per litre.
  • What kind of milk are those reports talking about? Fresh short-life milk (lasts up to five days from date of bottling)? Fresh long-life (ie highly pasteurised; lasts at least three weeks from date of bottling) milk? UHT milk (can be left at room temperature till it is opened, and lasts a year from time of bottling)? Canned milk (became specially popular after the Chernobyl crisis, when it was believed that people's health might be at risk from the contamination of the earth)? Special category milk, eg infants' formula, Ca-fortified, cholesterol-lowering, etc (which is, of course, sold at a premium)?
Milk is not just 'milk' these days.

Μερικά "κόλπα" που πρέπει να προσέξετε:
Το γάλα είναι βασικό προϊόν: η τιμή του δεν μπορεί να συγκριθεί με την τιμή τιμή της Coca-Cola, ή του φραππέ που πίνουμε στην καφετέρια!
• Η φράση «η τιμή του γάλακτος» δεν χαρακτηρίζει εμπορική ονομασία
. Όταν αγοράζουμε γάλα, ειναί πάντοτε συσκευαζμένο. Δεν πωλείται ποτέ χωρίς συσκευασία, οπότε ποιά μάρκα ενοούν τα δελτία όταν λένε ότι αγοράζουμε το γάλα σε μια συγκεκριμένη τιμή;
Το γάλα που πωλείται με την ονομασία του σούπερμάρκετ είναι πολύ φθηνότερη από οποιοδήποτε άλλα γάλατα που πουλάει η ίδια αλυσίδα σούπερμάρκετ, συνήθως λιγότερο από 1 ευρώ, η τιμή αναφοράς που χρησιμοποιούνταν κατά τη διάρκεια του περασμένου καλοκαιριού στο μποϊκοτάζ των γαλακτος, στον οποίο οι καταναλωτές καλούνται να μποϋκοτάρουν το γάλα που πωλείται άνω του 1 ευρώ ανά λίτρο.
Για ποιο γάλα μιλάμε; Φρέσκο γάλα μικρής διάρκειας (μπορεί να διαρκέσει έως και πέντε ημέρες από την ημερομηνία εμφιάλωσης); Φρέσκο γάλα μακράς διαρκείας (δηλαδή υψηλής παστερίωσης - διαρκεί τουλάχιστον τρεις εβδομάδες από την ημερομηνία εμφιάλωσης); Γάλα UHT (μπορεί να μείνει σε θερμοκρασία δωματίου μέχρι που το ανοίξετε, και διαρκεί ένα χρόνο από την στιγμή της εμφιάλωσης); Γάλα κονσέρβας; Ειδική κατηγορία γαλακτος, όπως π.χ. γάλα για βρέφη, εμπλουτισμένο γάλα, κλπ (τα οποία φυσικά πωλούνται αρκετά);

Το γάλα δεν είναι
πια απλή λέξη στις μέρες μας.

SUPERMARKETS in HANIA
In Hania, a summer resort town which turns into an agricultural production unit in the winter (unemployment is lower here than other areas of Greece, and people tend to be more affluent), with a population of about 60,000 in the greater area (which increases ten-fold in the summer with tourists), we have two major supermarket chains serving the greater area: INKA (the only local chain) and CARREFOUR (the former Champion-Prisunic stores, aka MARINOPOULOS). Their prices are similar for many products.

Σουπερμάρκετ της ΧANIA
Στα Χανιά,
μια πόλη που μετατρέπετε σε θέρετρο το καλοκαίρι και γεωργική μονάδα παραγωγής τον χειμώνα, με πληθυσμό περίπου 60.000 στην ευρύτερη περιοχή (η οποία αυξάνεται επί δέκα φορές το καλοκαίρι), έχουμε πολλές αλυσίδες σούπερμάρκετ που εξυπηρετούν την ευρύτερη περιοχή. Από τον έρευνα, φάνηκε ότι οι τιμές μεταξύ αλυσιδών δεν διαφέρουν πολύ στις τιμές του γάλακτος.

CIMG5577lidl hania chania.
LIDL supermarket in Hania, selling brussel sprouts and children's ski suits; Brussel sprouts are NOT grown in Crete, and most Cretans would be hard-pressed to imagine how such a vegetable grows. I was very lucky to have seen them growing in the middle of winter in a garden in Colchester, England. Moreover, it doesn't snow here, while our mountain range, Lefka Ori, does NOT have a ski centre! LIDL (a German discount supermarket chain) sells many products suitable for and familiar to Northern Europeans; no wonder many tourist residents in Hania often do their supermarket shopping here, especially since they are used to spending much less of their monthly income on food items than the average Greek. Given that Greeks exhibit the typical consumer society habit of buying what they don't need, they are the perfect targets for German products that may have not sold well in Germany. The locals of the town never knew what an advent calendar was until the advent of LIDL...

I prefer to shop at INKA, which always stocks local produce at reasonably good quality, although I've found MARINOPOULOS to be slightly cheaper for some generic products. There are also other supermarket chains operating in Hania, such as LIDL, DIA, SPAR (under the name CHALKIADAKIS); these chains are not as widespread as INKA and MARINOPOULOS (I went to Spar once in the last six months, while i have never used DIA). The pricing policy may differ between supermarkets, but milk has become a known-value item (KVI as it's known in the trade), especially since the milk boycott; a store selling it at too high a price would earn the nickname 'farmakeio' (drugstore).

MILK TYPES
In our house, we need a litre of milk per day in the summer months, rising to 1.5 litres in the winter. Being the chief cook and shopper in my household, I should be an expert in supermarket prices, and how to choose what I'm going to buy from the wide range of milk types available. So why do you see so many different brands of milk on my kitchen counter?
  • 'Blue' milk - 3.5% fat - is for the children;
  • 'Green' milk - 1% fat - is for the adults;
  • Calcium-enriched milk for yiayia (she has osteoporosis);
  • I always look out for specials on milk, which occur frequently as various brands compete against each other;
  • I buy a mixture of brands to make sure I'm not buying only the cheapest product, but also a better quality (price is often associated with quality, not just in psychological terms) whenever I can afford it, but I do not buy milk that costs more than 1.50 euro per litre (a litre of petrol costs less than this!!), as I consider it a luxury product, given the benchmark set during the 2008 milk boycott, urging consumers to buy milk sold at no more than 1 euro per litre;
  • I hardly ever buy fresh short-life milk, as it is always imported from the mainland, it never reaches Hania the day it was packed, and given it's five-day-maximum use-by date, we might not consume it before its expiry date. In any case, I would have to go to the supermarket on a daily basis to ensure that we are adequately supplied with milk if I were to use short-life fresh milk on a regular basis.
milk greece milk greece
A range of milk products, all sold as 'fresh', with prices ranging from 0.98 to 3.05 euro, from three different supermarkets in Hania. The gingerbread biscuits in the right-hand photo were bought at LIDL, in the futile hope that my family might appreciate my taste in sweets...

MILK PRICES: November 11-14, 2008
Only refrigerated milk is investigated; all other packaged milk (UHT, canned, powder) is inferior to refrigerated fresh milk, and this is what was being referred to during the milk price boycott; this is also the kind of milk that the media focuses on when they report rising milk prices. There is a 0.01-0.02 cent difference between INKA and MARINOPOULOS. All prices were calculated from the largest packaging available for each brand, and are presented as the euro price per litre. Milk produced in Greece is clearly stated; we all prefer a home-grown product over an imported one.

Τιμές του γάλακτος
Ο έρευνας έγινε τον Νοέμβριο 11-14, 2008. Μόνο τα γάλατα ψυγείου διερευνούνται (δηλ. όχι UHT, κονσέρβες, σκόνη. Αυτό είναι το είδος γάλακτος που τα ΜΜΕ επικεντρώνονται όταν συζητούν την τιμή του γάλακτος. Υπάρχει μια διαφορά μεταξύ 0,01-0,02 λεπτά μετζξύ τις αλυσίδες σουπερ μάρκετ. Όλες οι τιμές υπολογίζονται από τις μεγαλύτερες συσκευασίες που διατίθενται για κάθε μάρκα, οι οποίες παρουσιάζονται ανά λίτρο. Το γάλα που παράγεται στην Ελλάδα κατονομάζεται, αφού είναι σαφώς ότι όλοι προτιμούν ένα εγχώριο αντί για εισαγόμενο προϊόν.

It may be a fact that a single person who only needs up to a litre of milk a week will not be able to buy fresh milk at this price, since they are more likely to prefer to buy a smaller quantity sold at a more expensive price, but that's the cost of single living; I could complain about frontistiria prices instead...

Είναι γεγονός ότι ένα μόνο πρόσωπο το οποίο χρειάζεται μέχρι ένα λίτρο γάλα την εβδομάδα δεν θα είναι σε θέση να αγοράσει φρέσκο γάλα σε αυτή την τιμή, δεδομένου ότι είναι πιο πιθανό να προτιμά να αγοράζει μια μικρότερη ποσότητα που πωλείται σε ακριβότερη τιμή.

DELTA Greek short-life; DELTA (trading under the VIVARTIA conglomerate) is one of the leading milk distributors in Greece.
1.30
Lidl GALPO Greek own-brand* short-life; LIDL is a discount supermarket, whose quality is checked according to German standards. The food products are not always of the highest quality, but it is known to stock mainly own-brand products at very cheap prices. 0.90
OLYMPUS Greek short-life; OLYMPUS is a small company based in Trikala (Northern Greece). According to recent laboratory checks, it is believed to maintain an extremely high quality in milk production, and has gained points over its immediate competitor, DELTA. Their packaging is also more appealing: bottles rather than tetrapaks.
1.61**
DELTA MMMILK long-life; this milk is being sold with a 0.30c discount since summer.
1.23
NOYNOY FAMILY long-life; NOYNOY (trading under the Friesland conglomerate) is one of the leading milk distributors in Greece. It took FAGE's place in the competition between milk companies after FAGE stopped trading in fresh milk. The milk is of German origin, not Greek.
1.35
FAGE GALA-10 Greek long-life; FAGE was once one of the leading fresh milk distributors in Greece. It opted out of the fresh milk trade, due to the fierce competition associated with this line of business, and now deals in all other milk products except short-life fresh milk. They also sell their milk in bottles rather than cartons.
1.35
FAGE FARMA long-life; this milk is being sold with a 0.30c discount since summer.
1.08
Carrefour ALPS own-brand* long-life; Marinopoulos own-brand.
0.91
MEVGAL "Your milk every day" long-life; this milk replaced MEVGAL's original Greek product, being sold at 1.48c per litre. During the milk boycott, MEVGAL was selling it with a 0.50c discount. It was clearly profitably unviable, and MEVGAL ceased producing it. The current product, of German origin, has a similar packaging.0.98
OLYMPUS BIO long-life; organic, 'bottle'.
1.99**
MEVGAL Ariani long-life; buttermilk, 'bottle'.1.79**
NOYNOY Calci-milk long-life; calcium-fortified.2.03**
DELTA Daily long-life; sold in different coloured packaging, each one making various claims as a specialised milk product; 'bottle'.
2.20**
KRIARAS fresh goat's milk short-life; this is the only fresh milk product made in Crete, using non-bovine milk. All other fresh milk sold in Cretan supermarkets is produced from cow's milk.
2.40**
DORNA BIO long-life; this Greek-Swiss company (Romanian milk) originally starting selling this organic milk at a very cheap price (1.44). It also carried 2-for-the-price-of-1 promotions. I bought it regularly until it suddenly raised its prices practically overnight (about a year ago), and the 2-for-1 offers ceased...1.89**
OLYMPUS ZOIS (LIFE) long-life; this Greek product was being sold with a 330ml orange juice giveaway, whose value did not exceed 0.60c. As our oranges in the village are not yet ripe, this was a chance for me to procure some fresh juice. Yet more bottled milk as well as bottled juice...
1.58**
* INKA does not have its own brand fresh milk
** These products are being sold at a premium price, over 1.50 euro per litre, which is much more than the cost of a litre of petrol.
ΔΕΛΤΑ* – μικρής διαρκείας. – 1,30
ΓALΠO* – μικρής διαρκείας. – 0,90
O
ΛYMΠΟΣ* – μικρής διαρκείας. – 1.61**
ΔΕΛΤΑ MMMILK
μακράς διαρκείας – 1.23
NOYNOY FAMILY
μακράς διαρκείας – 1.35
ΦAΓE ΓΑΛΑ-10 μακράς διαρκείας – 1.35
ΦAΓE ΦΑΡΜΑ – μακράς διαρκείας – 1.08
Carrefour Άλπες
– μακράς διαρκείας – 0,91
ΜΕΒΓΑΛ Εχεις γάλα – μακράς διαρκείας. 0,98
O
ΛYMΠΟΣ BIO μακράς διαρκείας, βιολογικό – 1.99**
ΜΕΒΓΑΛ Αριανι – μακράς διαρκείας – 1.79**
NOYNOY Calci
– μακράς διαρκείας, εμπλουτισμένο με ασβέστιο – 2.03**
ΔΕΛΤΑ Daily
– μακράς διαρκείας – 2,20**
ΚΡΙΑΡΑΣ* φρέσκο κατσικίσιο γάλα – μικρής διάρκειας – 2.40**
ΔΟΡΝΑ – μακράς διαρκείας, βιολογικό – 1.89**
O
ΛYMΠΟΣ ΖΩΗΣ – μακράς διαρκείας – 1.58**
*Ελληνικά γάλατα
** Τα προϊόντα αυτά πωλούνται σε τιμή
πριμ, πάνω από 1,50 ευρώ το λίτρο, που είναι πολύ μεγαλύτερο από το κόστος ενός λίτρου βενζίνης.

CONCLUSIONS
  • An average price for milk according to the above table (NOT including any of the products being sold at premium prices) is 1.14 per litre of fresh milk, in an affluent Greek island town, transportation costs included. It is well below what is being reported by the mass media. This is what I am actually paying, since I buy all types of milk in the non-premium price range, taking advantage of discounts and special offers. If I simply stuck to the cheapest range of refrigerated milk available, it would still be less than 1 euro per litre, 0.90-0.98 to be precise, in the three supermarkets I frequent.
  • The longer the shelf-life, the higher the pasteurisation process.
  • The more local the production unit, the more expensive it is.
  • The more expensive milk is, the more likely it is to be sold in bottles than tetrapaks, the latter being much easier to dispose; they can be folded down, whereas the plastic bottles used for milk packaging cannot even be crushed. Your rubbish bin will fill up in next to no time with air...
  • The more specialised the milk product, the more expensive it is.
  • Milk produced furthest away from the selling point is usually the cheapest.

ΣΥΜΠΕΡΑΣΜΑΤΑ
• Ο μέσος όρος των τιμών του γάλακτος, σύμφωνα με τον πίνακα (μη συμπεριλαμβανομένου τα προϊόντα που πωλούνται
άνω του 1.50 λίτρου άνα κιλό) είναι 1,14 ευρώ ανά λίτρο φρέσκου γάλακτος. Είναι πολύ πιο κάτω από αυτό που αναφέρεται από τα μέσα μαζικής ενημέρωσης. Αν απλά αγοράζουμε το φθηνότερο γάλα που διατίθεται στο ψυγείο, θα εξακολουθούσε να είναι μικρότερο του 1 ευρώ ανά λίτρο, 0,90-0,98 για την ακρίβεια, στα τρία σούπερ μάρκετ όπου έγινε ο έρευνας.
Όσο πιο μεγάλη διάρκεια, τόσο υψηλότερη είναι η διαδικασία παστερίωσης.
Όσο πιο τοπική η μονάδα παραγωγής, τόσο πιο ακριβό είναι.
Όσο πιο ακριβό το γάλα, το πιο πιθανό να πωλείται σε φιάλες μπουκαλιο΄θ αντί για tetrapaks, η οποία συσκευασία είναι πολύ πιο εύκολη να πετάξετε.
‘Οσο πιο εξειδικευμένο το γαλακτοκομικό προϊόν, τοσο πιο ακριβό είναι.
• Το γάλα που παράγεται πιο μακρυά από το σημείο πώλησης είναι συνήθως
το φθηνότερο.


The cost of living is generally lower on an island, but so are the salaries. Many agricultural products are cheaper because people often grown their own; milk is only available cheaply to people who have milk-producing animals on their property. We have orange and olive trees, and a well-maintained garden, but no animals; therefore, we buy 'imported' milk in the same way that someone on the mainland buys it: in a tetra-pak or plastic bottle. If anything, packaged milk should be more expensive on an island than in an Athenian supermarket if transportation costs raise prices. So, which milk do you buy?

Το κόστος ζωής είναι γενικά χαμηλότερο σε ένα νησί. Πολλά γεωργικά προϊόντα είναι φθηνότερα γιατί οι άνθρωποι συχνά καλλιεργούν τα δικά τους. Το γάλα διατίθεται φτηνά μόνο σε ανθρώπους που έχουν ζώα παραγωγής γάλακτος για την ιδιοκτησία τους. Το συσκευασμένο γάλα θα πρέπει να είναι πιο ακριβό σ’ένα νησί απ'ό,τι πωλείται σε αθηναϊκό σούπερ μάρκετ αν το κόστος μεταφοράς αυξάνει τις τιμές. Αυτό δεν ενδεικνύεται από τον έρευνα.

©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, 20 November 2008

Mid-November harvest

Some days are worth a million dollars.

rainbow hania chania
To view more wonderful skies from around the world, visit Sky Watch.

Fresh from the garden, picked yesterday, after five consecutive days of on-off rain in Hania, during which we saw this rainbow in the morning before I took the children to school. It's getting cold, cold enough to eat all day, which is why everything I cook gets consumed as soon as it comes out of the oven or the saucepan.

november harvest

Admittedly, the peppers are smaller and the tomatoes fewer, but that eggplant doesn't seem to have diminished in any way...

©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, 19 November 2008

Pumpkin (Κολοκύθα)

One huge pumpkin can go a very long way, without a bit of it going to waste.

I was recently given a pumpkin by my uncles, tenderly raised by their green fingers, in the midst of an olive grove, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. This pumpkin was about the size of a long oval summer watermelon. It didn't weigh as much as a watermelon (which would have weighed at least ten kilos), because of its hollow interior. When I first brought it home, everyone wondered what I would end up doing with it, including myself.
"You're not feeding us pumpkin every day, Maria," lamented my husband.
"What can you cook with pumpkin, Mum?" asked my adventurous daughter.
"I don't like it, Mum," my white-food-only-please son declared.

Pumpkin is not a popular vegetable in Crete. It is sold in greengrocers', but it is not often asked for by customers. Pumpkin is usually cooked by those who have pumpkins growing in their gardens, or people given pumpkins by local farmers. In Crete, they are usually turned into savoury pies. Some farmers use pumpkin as animal feed. Just lately, pumpkins have taken on a decorative nature, due to the rise in popularity of American culture and their association with Halloween. Decorated pumpkins are sometimes seen in ex-pat American-Cretans' homes.

An American friend of mine told me how delicious pumpkin is when you fry it. Fried food may be unhealthy for you, but at least we fry our food using only olive oil. My mother-in-law loved this fried pumpkin; in fact, we all did.

pumpkin pumpkin chips frying pumpkin chips fried pumpkin chips
Pumpkin chips, by Dimitra Sergakis: dredge the pumpkin chips in seasoned flour, then dip in ice-cold water and shake off excess water, then dredge again in the flour, and cook in very hot olive oil till crispy, then drain on kitchen paper. Cook in small batches to keep the oil hot...

Despite smelling like heaven as it was cooking in the oven,
Susan's cake wasn't very popular in my house. Where did I go wrong? I didn't; my Cretan family is simply not used to ginger, cinnamon and clove aromas in their cakes and sweets. These spices are very reminiscent of autumn and cold weather; they are not overly used in the local cuisine, hence my family simply wasn't accustomed to them. Some argue that it is all in the genes; either you have a predisposition for certain foods, or you don't want to go near them, an explanation often given for lactose intolerance in certain cultural groups, eg Asians and Native Americans.

Despite my Greek genes, I was brought up in a gingerbread and gingernut culture, and all those Northern European recipes that were popular in the New Zealand climate, with cool summers and cold winters. In Crete, cinnamon and cloves are mainly used in honey-dipped sweets like melomakarona (Christmas biscuits) and baklava. But my pumpkin cake did not go to waste. Half was shared among my colleagues at work (it was a big hit), while the other half was eaten by the children during their morning break at school - sliced, with chocolate spread on one side. They loved it.

roast pumpkin pumpkin cake pumpkin bread pumpkin bread cake
Susan's pumpkin bread: she has a very good technique for softening the pumpkin...

Pumpkin soup is always welcome in the winter. It goes well with curry spices, some more heavy aromas that are not common in the Cretan kitchen; another recipe enjoyed principally by myself (which is why I didn't make it with this pumpkin this time round - I'm waiting for the next pumpkin to arrive).

The famous Gordon Ramsay pumpkin soup that I've been making long before I found out who he was...

The pumpkin cookies made an excellent bento school lunchbox filler. To make sure that the children would eat them, I added cocoa and cornflakes. The pumpkin pulp went by unnoticed. But it was there, making these biscuits extra healthy.

chocloate pumkin cornflake drop cookies chocloate pumkin cornflake drop cookies
My very own pumpkin cookies, specially created for Thanksgiving (recipe will be posted on 27 November), based on the idea of using cornflakes in a New Zealand biscuit, the afghan.

I originally made the pumpkin gnocchi as a way to use up the pumpkin excess in my kitchen, after seeing a Sunday newspaper supplement featuring Aglaia Kremezi's pumpkin recipes. She tells us that the Spanish conquistadors mistook the pumpkin for a new variety of melon. As I was making the pumpkin gnocchi, I suddenly had another idea for making pasta with the same dough...

pumpkin egg dough pumpkin gnocchi
Aglaia Kremezis' pumpkin gnocchi, oil and seasonings added ...

... pumpkin fettuccine, using my late mother's pasta machine. This was an absolute hit in the house. The children were most intrigued that they could make their own spaghetti; they now want to make it every week...

pumpkin fettuccine
home-made pumpkin fettucine home-made pumpkin fettucine and puttanesca
Fettuccine a la puttanesca using pumpkin gnocchi dough...

But the most spectacular pumpkin recipe of all was Susan's pumpkin honey pie. One taste of this, and you're sure to think you've gone to heaven. It warmed up the kitchen and sent a delicious smell through the air. I called the pie μελόπιτα - melopita: 'honey pie' - which is kind of true: it contained honey, eggs and spices, and pumpkin of course, but I preferred not to admit that part, just in case everyone got frightened into thinking that everything they ate would be turned into a pumpkin, like Cinderella's story. Half of it was enjoyed by my colleagues, while the other half was eaten by my family.

pumpkin honey pie pumpkin pie

If I could make this pie a second time around, I'd have it with some ice-cream, garnished with some whipped cream and topped with a spoonful of syrupy Greek grape dessert. If my family were a little more open-minded concerning international cuisine, I'd make this pie a staple part of a Christmas dinner.

Last but not least, not even the pumpkin seeds went to waste!

roasted pumpkin seed
Roasted pumpkin seeds: as Elise says, don't bother opening them to eat only the seed; they taste good whole.

None of this pumpkin was binned, except for a very thin layer of outer skin. The whole pumpkin was treated with the respect it deserves as a food item and a commodity. It constituted a substantial part of our meals, was eaten in a variety of different forms, and was enjoyed by a lot of people. In these hard economic times, it doesn't make sense to shirk at the thought of cooking the same food when you can cook it differently using the same ingredients in a different combination. We cannot afford to waste food any longer.

This is my entry for this week's Weekend herb Blogging, hosted by Siri from Siri's Corner.

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