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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Interim

For such a simple country lifestyle centred around an office job, routine chores, home cooking, a garden, and now that it's summer, an hour or two spent at the beach every now and then, my daily life has suddenly become - but probably always has been, as I now realise how subconsciously unaware of the reality of my life I may have been - too complex to note everything down that is of interest to write about in a post. Sadly, I am quite a few posts behind in my life (for a long-time experienced blogger, this is a novelty for me), and if it weren't for my habit of taking photos that remind me of a moment when a picture could say 1000 words, I would probably forget them all with the passing of time. For this reason, I don't want to dwell too much on the past - there are records of that which can be used for historical purposes; I would prefer to deal with the future time from where I find myself at this moment.
This amazing urban garden conceals a story of great personal effort.
I will admit to one thing about my writing, and that is that I rarely rely on sources other than my own personal experiences and photos. My photos are here and there, clicked, stored, re-stored, uploaded and blogged about, so at the moment, I do not have any fear of losing my memories. Apart from mainstream Greek/English newspapers and the occasional article from my Facebook newsfeed (I don't actually 'do' Twitter), I read little else on the web. I do not regret admitting that I do not read other blogs: I would be too easily influenced by other bloggers' work, which would mar the originality of my own work. So the inspiration for my posts comes from within me as much as possible. I like that - it's what gives my work some edge.

Through typed Skype messages, my kids cooked their first omelette on their own.
I generally don't do any research on myself: who is reading me, who is quoting me, who is interested in me. This worries many writers, but I have a feeling that these worries are mainly market-oriented. Since I have nothing to sell, I do not need to worry about who is copying me. I attribute this to a declining interest on my part in perpetuating any myths or creating any glorification about myself. We've seen this happen too often to people who suddenly find themselves in the midst of the public eye, and their careers fall as sharply as they rose. As a mother and family-minded person, this is quite frankly the last thing I need in our lives.

OMG & 3LOL - souvlaki bar near the Venetian harbour
So it was a pleasant surprise to be interviewed by the BBC4 radio Food Programme which has prepared a show on Frugal Food, to be aired this weekend. The frugal life is suddenly arousing some interest among the wider public. I was informed that I was the only non-British food blogger to be interviewed, as a kind of exception was made given that I was living in a country that is going though severe economic austerity. From a recent article in the Food section of the Guardian, I also notice that one of the food bloggers (Jack Munroe) whose writing did actually interest me enough to follow her blog was also interviewed for the same show, which gives me some satisfaction, as if I have carved some kind of niche for myself.  Both our blogs are seen as controversial for the simple reason that we, from different ends of Europe (Greece vs England), living in different environments (rural vs urban), are telling the world that we can do it. By showcasing frugality, we become the butt of all prejudiced jokes: people consider us misguided and untruthful, judging from the comments on the mainstream media whenever Jack Munroe's frugal lifestyle come up in the news. Damn us then: I've decided that there is no point preaching to the unconverted. For this reason, I support private individual cases rather than public collective efforts, where I have more control over how I can help.

My turn to speak at the Symposium
While I was at Amari for the 2nd Symposium on Greek Gastronomy on Food, Identity and Memories in Greece and the Diaspora, I was in for another surprise. When I arrived, I was told that two people had been looking for me since the previous day - the first day of the Symposium - as I could only attend one day. (What a shame, since I missed out on the discussion about Greek cuisine as a part of cosmopolitan cuisine in food compaigns of Lidl supermarkets in Poland, which falls within my interests.) The two people who were seeking me out were speaking in the session scheduled right after my own. Their papers dealt with diaspora identity issues. I had spoken about Greek Cuisine, Greek identity and the economic crisis just before these two people, who referenced me in their own presentations.
Poster presentation of Greek cuisine food campaigns by LIDL supermarkets in Poland (Magdalena Serafin)
Marina Fraggou dealt with Gastronomic identity as expressed in the arts (novels and films) in the Greek diaspora. Through very interesting journeys in different lands where Greeks have migrated and congregated both in past and present times, she showed how the food of the diaspora can differ as much as the range of immigrants (for trade, for a better life, or as victims) that the Greeks represent. She finished off with a slide showcasing my blog's motto: Linking Greek food with Greek identity: you eat what you are (or who you want to be). Right after her presentation, Gail Pittaway - who just happened to be a teacher at my high school at the same time that I was a student there! - talked about the Greek food writers of New Zealand in A Greek culinary Odyssey to New Zealand, the furthest shore. She used my previous work, written in New Zealand, Stories of Greek Journeys (referenced in Wikipedia). Neither researcher realised that I would be at the Symposium, so it was a surprise for them to meet me, as it was for me to hear that I was being referenced in this way.
The Agricultural August exhibition is set to start tomorrow.
All in all, it has been a very busy month of July this year, and it is not over yet - there is still a week to go, which signals the beginning of the Agricultural August festivities in Hania, an event that my institute takes part in annually and concerns all the staff. This was the first year that this event has gone abroad (it was in Germany last week).
Lentil stew is one of the most frugal but also the most enjoyable Greek meals you can cook - every Greek has a favorite φακές recipe, usually based on the way their mothers made it in their home. 
August is already weighing heavily on me, as I think of our regular line-up of Cretan diaspora visitors and friends. 2013 may be viewed as a horrible year for Greece, but my successes cannot be viewed as random snatch-and-grab chances for a moment of 15 minutes worth of fame. There must have been something about 2013 that made it a good year too - perhaps those who think that it was a bad year are the kind of people who always see the glass half empty rather than half full: the middle is a hard slog.

The photos are all random shots from this month so far.

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