Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lunch (Μεσημεριανό)

I often joke with my family that I hardly ever serve them freshly cooked food. Every weekday, the main meal is almost always one day old because I always cook the next day's lunch on the previous evening. Most working women are much like me, with one exception: most of them are well versed on the ways of the pressure cooker. I never bothered with learning how to use a pressure cooker myself, because for the first ten years of married life, I worked in the afternoons/evenings, never in the morning, so I had the time to cook the main meal during the day, before I went to work.

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Crete. It's still called μεσημεριανό (midday meal), even though most of the time, most people will eat their 'lunch' after work, which is any time after 2pm, up until about 4pm.It's not a family affair any longer. Even in my own food-centric home, where many traditional culinary rituals are still maintained, I find that this is no longer possible, because of the different hours we all keep. None of us finish work/school at the same time, hence we all eat lunch at different times.

Even after work/school, there are afternoon activities, but the next day's meal still needs attending to. My biggest help is the freezer. I'm very close to emptying out the 5-drawer freezer that had been filled up during last summer with prepared tins of moussaka, boureki and papoutsakia, which I always cook without defrosting. They need no other preparation on a week night apart from being cooked. Bean stews are also good choices in this respect. Although not mandatory, it is preferable that the meals I cook on a weekday yield enough servings for two days, so that the next day, they become heat-and-eat meal and I don't need to cook every night.

I saw this pork roll (what we call ρολό in Greek, from the Italian 'rollo') after work, while I was doing my supermarket shopping. This is just what I want to cook after work: it must be simple to prepare, it must keep 'fresh' until the next day and it must be a heat-and-eat when it's served.

The Greek working day was, until relatively recently, based around a siesta. Only supermarkets and multi-national companies were open without a break from morning to night. Not only was there a split-hours timetable, but it was also seasonal, changing after the summer to winter hours. The split work day in Greece, and most of Southern Europe where this kind of set up was also in place until it was brought under scrutiny during the contemporary modernisation of united Europe, is very much based on the agricultural working day, ie the farmer's working hours: get up early to start work, toil in the fields, stop working at the hottest part of the day, go home for lunch, have a midday nap, then go back to work (but not so intensively) in the afternoon.

For many years, this set-up also worked for doctors, lawyers, accountants and all businesses, except public employees, whose normal working hours have always been consecutive, with something like a 7-8am start, finishing at 2-3pm. Although this has now been changed to 4pm with the recently introduced new laws, there are still no guarantees you'll find everyone at their post at such a 'late' hour. A good number of employees, in both the private and public sector, aren't used to working past 3pm, even with modern comforts like heating and air-conditioning (albeit both very costly to use in the economic crisis), but there are now more and more businesses working consecutive 'European' hours. For example, our accountant's office works until 5.30pm every day without afternoon hours, a relatively recent change for his office, which used to work the split-hour shifts in the past.

Greece has been told she needs to become more competitive in the global world, which will entail a change in people's work patterns. Greeks may need to work more hours than they already do (according to this article, they work more hours than other Europeans). They also need to work more productively, with noticeable results. Their work needs to be standardised into the European framework of the regular work day, which is now sounding to be more like a myth created by the Western world, similar to the need for an 8-hour evening sleep and eating a large breakfast, which is probably more beneficial to cornflakes manufacturers than to the children that are fed hi-sugar hi-fat cereals. 

Interestingly, amidst all these changes that have been demanded of Greece and Greek citizens, no one has mentioned any need to change her food. Greek cuisine clearly does not need a revamp.

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