Sunday, 4 October 2009

The general elections (Εκλογές)

Greeks are going to the polls this weekend, deciding on the country's future. As they have always been very passionate people in every sense of the word, in aspects of their lives, so politics is one topic that gets most of us overheated. Love 'em or hate 'em, our politicians are getting the whole country worked up at the moment as we await the results of today's general elections, which nearly always take place before the end of the four-year term the government is entitled to stay in office.

You may be wondering what the elections have to do with food, and how I am going to fit food into the general picture of the elections. Here's a story I overheard recently from my taxi-driver husband.

He has a colleague (let's call him John) who has very close connections with big-name politicians; in other words, John is a man of great 'pull' (referred to as 'meson' in Greece). This does not mean that he can do you any favour you want; in fact, he executes no favours at all. What he can do instead (if you vote for the political party of his affiliations, or at the very least, you show great interest in voting for his party) is invite you to political meetings where his parties' Members of Parliament are speaking, give you early warning of forthcoming developments, get you a free ticket on the ferry boat when you travel at the same time as him, etc. Such favours are cheap, but to the ordinary man (women are just too clever to fall for such cheapskates), this may seem like entering another world.

John had often invited my husband to political meetings, like the Christmas dinner of Mr XX, the cutting of the vasilopita of Mr YY and other get-togethers where some pomposity or other was talking, at the same time as raising money for 'the cause'. These get-togethers are always accompanied by a dinner, costing somewhere between 10 and 20 euro. My husband had been to enough to know how boring and terribly long-winded they were, without much action or any significant outcome.

During the current round of electioneering, my husband was invited to many of these meetings once again, but decided that he wouldn't attend. As election day got closer, John became more pestering: he would call him on his cellphone, persistently if he did not answer it, to ask him to meet with him so they can go to these dinners together. On one of those occasions when my husband did not answer his phone until the third time it rang, he told John that he simply wasn't interested in going along to hear the same old tired promises that his cronies were going to tell them.

"But wait," cried John pleadingly, "this time, the food's free!"

This still did not tempt my husband. After avoiding John for a couple of days after the event, he finally bumped into him a week before the elections.

"Where have you been?" cried John as soon as he saw him. "You don't know what you missed out on!" My husband became anxious: the thought of missing out on all those political favours that are usually granted just before elections made him dizzy.

"So what happened? he asked.

"All that roast meat, the pilafi, the wine!" replied John. "You had none of it!"

prime minister's country house
Did I tell you that I recently met the (now former) prime minister at his country house?

Greek saying: Στο τέλος της ημέρας, ότι φας και ότι πιεις (sto telos tis imeras, oti fas ke oti pyees - All that counts at the end of the day is what you eat and what you drink).

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