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Friday, 25 November 2016

Cheats' Haniotiko Boureki

I ran into a couple of girlfriends in the supermarket the other day. By friends, I mean real friends, not the ad hoc kind we make on facebook. 'Ελα ντε that they are also on facebook and we are friends there too, which explains how they knew what I had been cooking recently.

"What a great boureki you made!" said one girlfriend.
"I wish I'd thought of making it like that!" said the other girlfriend.



Boureki is a very common favorite family recipe in Hania. (See my basic recipe here: http://www.organicallycooked.com/2007/09/boureki-courgette-potato-bake.html) While I was trying to remember how I made the last one we ate, and why it seemed to impress my friends so much, it occurred to me that I 'faked' it a little, by using 'cheap' ingredients.

"Did the family like it?" said one girlfriend.
"Did they notice the difference?" said the other girlfriend.

My husband noticed something different ("I prefer it without the pastry, the way you usually make it"), but my kids actually preferred it to my usual boureki, because it had a crunchier texture. But the family still doesn't know about the substitutions I made to the basic recipe, and they didn't seem to realise that I had made any. I don't intend to tell them, either. The boureki just looked different.

The whole issue could be phrased as a 'man' problem:
"My husband's always complaining that I don't buy mizithra much these days," said one girlfriend.
"When I refuse to mizithra, he goes out and buys it himself - and in bulk! Can you imagine what kind of money he's spending?" said the other girlfriend.

This will probably all sound like not so big a deal to most of my readers, but clearly for me and my girlfriends, it is. We can now draw some conclusions - among the three of us, despite our different age, socio-economic class, occupation and education, the three of us have many shared traits:
1. our families are quintessentially Greek, and their behavioural trends are more or less similar,
2. our husbands have fixed notions of what traditional Greek dishes are supposed to be made of, how they are supposed to look, what they are supposed to taste like,
3. our cooking habits are very similar,
4. we place a similar importance on ensuring that our families eat home-cooked healthy food,
5. our financial situations have changed over the last few years towards the worse.

It is this last point in particular that was really the basis of the conversation. We all know how to make a boureki, but it didn't occur to all of us how we can make it cheaply, without causing a domestic argument over the kitchen table. Differences in taste are immediately spotted by well trained eaters. Some are more open to variations, while others are not. (Look how well trained my family are, for instance: http://www.organicallycooked.com/2008/03/taste-sensation.html ) So you need to use all your powers of deceptiveness if you want to fool them.

It occurs to me that Cretan mizithra is difficult to find both in other parts of Greece and the rest of the world. So my latest version of the recipe for Haniotiko Boureki should prove very useful. Here are some useful tips on faking it:
- when you buy cheap ingredients, make sure to hide them in the fridge where your fussier members of the family can't see them,
- if some family members have a tendency to search the darker corners of the fridge (mine doesn't), then you should take off the packaging material and leave no label visible, repackaging the items in plain plastic bags,
- prepare meals when no one's looking,
- if anyone comments about how the meal feels/tastes/looks different to what it usually looks like, fake it even more by saying that you made it the same way that you usually do, by saying something like: "maybe the zucchini tastes different because it's out of season" (which it almost is at the moment), or "hm, the potatoes must be old" (they don't have a due by date, do they?). Just don't mention the substitutes (cheese in my boureki's case).
- if anyone insists that the boureki was made in a different way even though you say it wasn't, ask them to cook the next meal: you just provide them with the ingredients. This last one always works for me.

All over the western world, everybody's living standards are falling. So in effect, everyone is in crisis these days. Some of us are simply better at coping, like me an' my girlfriends. Just ask them.

I don't have much time these days for blog writing because I am incredibly busy at work (which basically means I am not unemployed, which is a good thing these days). I put up long posts on my facebook profile instead. Come and join me there if you like:  https://www.facebook.com/maria.verivaki 

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