Author: thefoodinterpreter

Quarantine Pathways

What we are realizing as we are slowly stepping out of the lockdown is that we followed rigid routines: reading, cooking, wandering in the city and in nature, watching the daily announcement of the civil protection and the chief epidemiologist.  In a sense we were walking on pathways that we deepened everyday. The first pathway was through nature, literary on the hill around the corner from where we live, or a little further away before and after the strict lockdown. We discovered new paths and took joy every time we saw wildlife (not the bears and wolves our son anticipated), but birds we had never seen before, swarms of butterflies and the usual turtles. We were walking mainly silently. The second pathway was through the city. We strolled past the Tsoladies (the ceremonial presidential guard), down to Zappeion. Our son had a precise map on his head with the optimal routes for his roller scooter, down to the level of pavement material variations. Of course the stroll was bizarre, passing through sites that were now …

Olive oil 2019

Another great year for Popi. She now has the confidence of a master producer, ready to show off her cool and tackle any small unexpected incident: A sack of olives forgotten in the far corner of the grove was picked up the next day. She could prove (contrary to everybody’s concerns ) that the olive press did not embezzle any of our precious juice to the advantage of the producer ahead of us! Olive groves produce a strong harvest every second year. 2019 was an abundant year and the hired workers plus friends and family worked for three days. The crew were Greeks, Albanians, German, French. The olives have to be shipped in the same day they are picked to the olive press, else the quality of the oil is degraded. A three day harvest implies three visits to the olive press, that stays open all through the night. There is interaction with producers that seem to be meticulous in their approach and there is always something to learn: this year Popi spotted a better …

Canapé Gaudi

Nothing prepares you for the sight of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You have seen pictures and documentaries about this unfinished cathedral, but the scale of its surreality hits you in the face, no matter the sheer number of tourists flocking to take their selfies. It is surreal in the sense of Salvador Dali, but on a giant scale, an extravaganza of architectural components, not unlike exotic fruits, that somehow fit together to something bigger than the parts. And what a great introduction to the Spanish cuisine. At its best is it not a combination of heterogeneous ingredients exploding in the palate? Inspired from tapas based on tinned seafood served in Quimet & Quimet, here is a not so obvious canapé. Greek strained yogurt and thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of your preferred crackers, drizzled with truffled honey and glazed balsamic vinegar. Enjoy with a glass of sauvignon blanc!  

fig salad

Figs, rocket and ‘xinotyri’ salad

When in Naxos we have more figs than we can handle. Just two fig trees produce such quantities than we do not even have to stretch more than where our arms reach to collect whole baskets. We feel somehow obliged not to waste such glorious fruits and we try to come up with new ways to prepare and preserve them. Two years ago we decided to use them for chutney. I do not remember with how many kilos of dubious fig chutney we ended up. This year we continued to explore. We wanted to combine with other local ingredients. Potatoes, fish and protocyladic art were opted out… but honey and xinotyri    – the local variety of goat cheese – were a hit! We adapted the following salad from Ottolenghi’s ‘The Cookbook’. Serves 4 600g figs ( approximately 8 large figs), washed and cut into quarters 200g xinotyri from Naxos ( or any goat’s cheese of your liking), cut into large chunks 100g rocket leaves (preferably wild) handful of basil leaves 2 Tbsp thyme honey …

happy easter

The bad conscience of a meat eater

Seht ihn! – Wie? – als wie ein Lamm. (Behold Him! – How? – As a Lamb.) -BWV 244 ,’Matthäus-Passion’ On Easter Sunday Greeks roast a lamb. That is, a whole lamb is skewered on a spit and roasted over charcoal. The spit usually pierces the scull of the animal or appears though the teeth, next to the prolonged tongue, in pure gore fashion.  Family and friends gather around the spectacle and celebrate Easter, preferably in gardens and yards in the countryside, among poppies, chamomile and daisies. Jesus is associated with the innocent lamb, scarified during Easter. What perverse association established the custom of lamb eating on that very day I do not know. Perhaps a suppressed kurgan inclination managed to resurface in the most sacred of celebrations to mock the orderly Christians, betting on the carnivore within. Or, even more bizarre, it has to do with something much more sinister and ancient: cannibalism. We have not completely lost the association to the living young lambs, sweet and innocent, recipients of our affection. Nevertheless we eat them, teaching …

Waiting for Santa

The Greek Santa visits on new years’ eve. He is Saint Basil, and comes from Anatolia. He was a major theologian of the eastern church, who excelled in the ‘nature of beings’, still ‘living among us, as he talks through the books’. He is very byzantine, and we have a description of his looks: “As of the character of his body he was long. Dry and lean, dark and yellow in colour of the face, long nose, cheeks and beard. His face was wrinkled and with some scars. He looked like someone who thinks”. He had an elder sister (one of the few early Christian women thinkers – Basil recorded a discussion with her ‘on the nature of the soul’) and a theologian-philosopher younger brother. One of his fellow students during his years in Athens was Julian the Apostate, the last pagan roman emperor. I prefer this austere Santa to the chubby guy on the slate (Tim’s Burton version excluded). He doesn’t smile and was probably not very agreeable, but he is closer to our hearts and …