Monday, 1 August 2011

Fried green tomatoes (Τηγανιτές πράσινες ντομάτες)

It's often said that the best meals with timeless value are those that originated among the poorest people, who had limited ways available to them to store food, so they would make very simple dishes using very fresh ingredients. No wonder such frugal dishes tasted so good. In our times, frugal cooking, and by extension frugal living, is often associated with a simple lifestyle, led by people who wish to escape the shackles of a consumeristic society, where every move one makes is governed by a pecuniary transaction. The crisis is nothing new to such people: they have lived in crisis-mode for most of their lives, without anyone really noticing. Frugal living often entails blending in with the background, keeping away from the limelight, but it doesn't entail evading taxes.

green tom batter
"Who can blame slaves for being cunning? They are constantly compelled to resort to it. It is the only weapon of the weak and oppressed against the strength of their tyrants." Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs, available for free download.

Frugal living is about to become close to impossible to accomplish now in Greeece. It was once so easy to live in the countryside, grow your own food, and work for a low income to make just enough money as needed to pay for services and food that you couldn't grow yourself, pay your taxes, and change your car once every fifteen years. Now that the state finds itself amidst a debt crisis that it cannot escape from, the only way it's found to pay its debts is by taking out more debts, which has shown not to work. Since it can't manage to nab tax-evaders and make debtors pay off their debts (a simple mind wonders why property can't be seized and bank accounts can't be blocked until arrangements have been made with the tax department), it's been decided that everybody, regardless of socio-economic status, income-earning ability or means, will pay a "Solidarity Levy" to alleviate this crisis (my own will amount to approximately 150 euro), amidst a regular monthly bill from the tax department for all sorts of other extra state levies, in an attempt to cover the debt. We've suddenly become slaves to the state.

 frying tom fried green tom
"I like a straightforward course, and am always reluctant to resort to subterfuges. So far as my ways have been crooked, I charge them all upon slavery. It was that system of violence and wrong which now left me no alternative but to enact a falsehood... It is a sad feeling to be afraid of one's own native country." Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs, available for free download.

It's our fault, we are constantly reminded, by the great financial minds of the European Union:
"Juncker said the Greek crisis had been largely caused by itself. "Between 1999 and 2010 wages rose 106.6% even though the economy did not grow at the same pace. The wage policies were completely out of control and not based on (gains in) productivity*," he said."
What Juncker or the reporter failed to mention was that the salaries which doubled in the last decade were state salaries and not private-sector salaries. Take my example: In 1995, I was receiving a net salary of 245,000 drachmas (equivalent to approximately 720 euro) as an English teacher at a private language institute for children in Athens. (It pays to note that this salary was considered very high at the time (a good salary for that time period was 150,000.) Seventeen years later, I receive 1134 euro (a 32-euro decrease since the new taxation laws came into effect last month) at a European-governed agronomic institute, teaching and correcting the writing of post-graduate students. Thus, true to form, Juncker’s statements are a collective lie. Our former hidden economies, which lay in the foundations of frugal living (spend less-save more, grow your own, recycle, don't throw away), are now being regarded as a form of freeriding which necessaitates that a tax be imposed, in order to stop us from cheating the state. As an example, rural water supply charges were to increase by 13% (through the addition of VAT tax), which would immediately have hit farmers. The amendment was, thankfully, withdrawn, when it was vetoed by a member of Parliament from Crete, who claimed that the government was trying to pass this law by cover of darkness (during a late-night Parliamentary session when it was presumed no one would take much notice).

tomato meal
"When a man has his wages stolen from him, year after year, and the laws sanction and enforce the theft, how can he be expected to have more regard to honesty than has the man who robs him?" Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs, available for free download.

Slavery never did anybody any good. In fact, it turned honest people into dishonest ones. It taught them to steal in order to survive, to lie in order to escape death, to hate because they could not find any reason to love their tyrants. Greeks are often accused of cheating the system - the stereotype will probably remain with them forever.

*As I read this, I recalled this past academic year's events: the institute's students' pass rate in the external ITP examination for proof of English competence was 75% this year, double what it was in all previous years. I single-handedly ran the course (with fewer teaching hours, more online work and some 'put-the-fear-of-God' tactics), after the departure of my two former colleagues who were involved in the same job with the same students - too many cooks used to spoil the broth...

Thanks to my facebook readers who gave me some good tips to make this really tasty dish of fried green tomatoes. This constituted yesterday's Sunday lunch, together with a Greek tomato-based salad, and a potato-and-tomato frittata.

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