Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vegan tzatziki (Tζατζίκι νηστίσιμο)

71 years ago, on the 28th of October, 1940, the Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, said NO to the Italian ambassador to Greece when he delivered a message to him which asked that the Italian army be allowed to pass through the country in order to secure strategic positions.

Flags like this are used to decorate schools on days national events are commemorates.

Today, the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, said YES to Germany and France, when he accepted to pay for a haircut with Greece's sovereignty.

It had to happen some time. The sad truth is that Greece was never able to make any objective decisions that would benefit the whole country. Most (I personally believe all) the decisions taken in Greece for the last three decades benefited only certain groups of people; there were few decisions that actually worked in the interests of all people. Greece had been allowed to govern herself subjectively for many years in this highly discriminating manner, and somebody had to pull the plug on that.  

On the eve of a the commemoration of a nationally important historical event, it is a Greek custom for children to recite poems and sing songs that re-enact the event.

It couldn't be a Greek him/herself that could have done it. It had to be a foreigner. George Papandreou is often regarded as a foreigner by a lot of Greeks because (like me) he was born and educated outside Greece. But when national issues are at stake, Greeks will remind people like us that we aren't foreigners and they will expect us to behave 'like a Greek', which means that we mustn't punish people in power, we must turn a blind eye to the corrupting practices of our peers, and we must keep handing out political favours. We can't shake that one off, no matter what we do; hence, sovereignty is meaningless - the privilege Greece enjoyed for so long was abused at the highest level. 

The children sang this song with oblivious enjoyment yesterday at the γιορτή while their parents and teachers looked on with sombre faces as they took in the meaning of the lyrics (you can find them here). Nikos Xilouris sings it with a Cretan accent, which is why he says οχτροί and not εχθροί ('ehthri' = enemies); the rest can be translated online.

But today, George Papandreou's glowing; in the end, he got his way: Rogue EU member Greece borrowed lots of money, which she doesn't have to pay back in full, without being thrown out of the EU club or the eurozone. "Ναι!" he probably said, "take our sovereignty, just give us a haircut."

This little girl got stage-fright during her turn to recite the poem which she had learnt off by heart. Her teacher (with the blond hair) coaxed her as much as she could, but to no avail. But when her grandmother came to the stage and held her hand (she had probably helped the child to learn the verse), the girl obliged and said her poem. 
Don't criticise Greeks for being too close to their family clique; the Greek state has consistently failed them, so they only have family to fall back on.

With the smaller Greek debt, the more taxes and the consequent loss of sovereignty, I hope that my children won't have to put up with as much nepotism as their father had to tolerate. He often reminds me that even though he was a good student at school, he never got the end-of-year prizes because they were given to the 'right' students (ie the children of the local dignitaries). He also never had toys, not even those that were given away freely to poor children; they were only given to the children of people who belonged to some workers' union (eg public servants). He wasn't given a position in the cycling team either, even though he had bought his own mountain bike and was one of the better members of the team he exercised with: there were other 'more important' members of society who had to be attended to. And finally, he never got a job based on his skills and qualifications, because he didn't know the 'right' people. No wonder he found it easier to take over his father's taxi. It seemed so much simpler than making promises that he didn't want to make in the first place, and what's more, there was money in his pocket. 

With the final link of the μέσον shackles broken, maybe there is some hope for his children that they will live in a fairer society.

*** *** ***

So, fewer debts, but no sovereignty. Hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch, is there? It's getting much harder to get something for nothing. Here's a very frugal/vegan/lenten tzatziki for those harsh times to come, but take note: it's only frugal in blessed places like Crete, where tasty 100% Greek strained yoghurt costs more to acquire than a fresh avocado. Avocados are available almost all year round in Crete, like oranges, due to the different varieties that ripen at different times in the year.

You need
2-4 ripe avocados (if you live in Hania, don't buy them; ask your friends/neighbours if they can procure some from their village fields)
the juice of one lemon (ditto)
2-3 cloves of garlic (this is usually imported from China, as there is not enough being grown)
a few drops of olive oil (our own production, of course)
a dash of sea salt (we are lucky to be given salt every year which a friend harvests from rocks)
a sprinkling of red pepper
1 large cucumber, peeled and grated (we have half a dozen left over from the summer garden)

If you use an electric blender, you will get a smoother puree; my vegan tzatziki is extra-frugal because I didn't use electricity.

Chop the garlic as finely as possible. Cut open the avocado and scrape the flesh out of the skin. Add all the ingredients (EXCEPT the grated cucumber) in a bowl and mash well with a fork till well blended. Then add the grated cucumber and mix that in very well. Allow to rest in the refrigerator to give the flavours time to blend.

This vegan tzatziki can be served during lenten periods, when normal yoghurt-based tzatziki isn't on the menu.

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