Comments on Dan Nosowitzs: Greek the Salad. Authenticity is a con.


Here is an interesting article i came across about Greek salad. There are many parts that I agree with and a lot that i disagree with, however I find the article interesting and ,as juicy as, the vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl after you finish the Greek salad.

Before you start reading I would like to make two notes. One: In Greek when we say something comes from the village it has two meanings. When it involves actions and behaviors it denotes something of lower quality and education, and/or simplicity. When it comes to food it underlines originality and freshness. So when you go in a bakery and ask for a horiatiko bread the reference is on the type of making. When you go and ask for tomatoes horiatikes it means you are looking for tomatoes that are fresh, juicy, and organic.

Secondly, because of this ambivalent meaning of the word horiatiko the salad was considered a lower standards food. Not because of its nutritional value, nor because of its quality. It was considered of lower culinary level value at the time. It was the simplicity of the food that made locals consider it a food not worthy of the attention received by foreign visitors. Thus a tavern owner that invested time and money in order to be able to create the infamous chicken a la creme and charge it for a few more drachmas now receives a shocker with an order of an ultra huge Greek salad that he charges for less than half the money. However the nutritional value was well known and this is why a horiatiki was never absent from the Greek table.

Finally I must say each region has a potential alteration in the Greek or horiatiki salad. In Crete for example cucumbers were changed to atzouria or ksilaggoura which can be considered a mix between a cucumber and a zucchini, however they belong in the family of melons (Cucumis melo). IMGP3235There was also the addition of an egg, potatoes and the famous Cretan green glistrida (Portulaca Oleracia).


To conclude and let you enjoy the article i must say that the part i agree the most with the author is the paragraph that argues: “On the other hand, there is no such thing as authentic food. The concept requires that all cuisines from primarily non-immigrant countries be thought of as static and unchanging, which of course they are not. Dishes are created all the time, even in countries with much longer culinary histories than ours. Existing dishes are modified. New influences change the way people eat. Regional specialties overlap, mingle with each other.” It is precisely this fact that makes the culinary world so amazing to explore and wonder with!


Greek the Salad

Authenticity is a con.
by Dan Nosowitz August 4, 2015

The Caesar is the most popular; the Cobb has its devotees; and I’m sure somebody must love a Waldorf, but the Greek is my favorite in the pantheon of classic American salads. Crunchy raw vegetables, theoretically juicy tomatoes, raw onion, dried oregano, and the salty/sour punch of feta cheese, olives, and maybe capers or pickled peppers—it’s a powerful, flavor-forward salad that’s hard to mess up.

Like many other classic American dishes (ground beef tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, General Tso’s chicken), the Greek salad is a domestic creation with a vague reference to some other country. It is common to find excoriations of the American Greek salad that claim that a dish called horiatiki (pronunciation is close to whore-YA-tee-kee) is the truly authentic Greek salad, the one Greeks love, the reason that any real, authentic, Greek person from Greece and not America would look at an American Greek salad and think, “Pah! This is not authentic!” (Horiatiki is a salad of roughly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and sometimes sweet green pepper, with feta cheese, olive oil, olives, and oregano. It has no lettuce.) Ahhhh, authenticity.


On the other hand, there is no such thing as authentic food. The concept requires that all cuisines from primarily non-immigrant countries be thought of as static and unchanging, which of course they are not. Dishes are created all the time, even in countries with much longer culinary histories than ours. Existing dishes are modified. New influences change the way people eat. Regional specialties overlap, mingle with each other.

When you talk about traditional or authentic food, it’s also important to remember that basically zero world cuisines were unchanged by the introduction of New World ingredients in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It took some cuisines an extra couple centuries to figure out how great corn, squash, chiles, potatoes, and, especially, tomatoes are. Greece was one of those. Tomatoes weren’t introduced to Greece until the beginning of the nineteenth century, and then a civil war further postponed widespread adoption, so it wasn’t until the late nineteenth and even early twentieth centuries that tomatoes became really popular in Greece, despite the fact that they grow readily in the sunny Mediterranean climate.

“We always have a salad, this is a thing you always have at the table,” Aglaia Kremezi, a cookbook author, cooking school instructor, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Greek cuisine, told me. There are many ancient Greek dishes that we would recognize today as salads, one in particular taking shape thanks to the needs of farmhands. “In the original village kind of salad, it was a lunch you could take in a box and eat in the fields,” Kremezi says. You’d have a pepper, a cucumber, some cheese, some onion, and, importantly, some bread. You’d chop it all up and have a meal, right there in the field. The farmhand salad, which does not really have a name, is fairly similar to a Lebanese salad called fattoush and an Italian salad called panzanella. They all use some form of stale bread-like product (the Greek version uses paximadi, twice-baked barley bread that has a texture similar to a biscotti) to soak up liquid from a fresh vegetable salad.

Greek cuisine shares some similarities with western European cuisines like Provencal and Italian, but in many ways it’s more similar to the cuisine of Turkey, with which it shares a short border. As in Turkish cuisine, Greeks often start a meal with an array of small salads and plates—you’d have some cheese, some savory pastries, some salads, each one a separately prepared mini-dish that’s served all at the same time for you to pick and choose. These mini-dishes, when served in this way, are sometimes called meze, like the Turkish version, and sometimes called orektiko.

Horiatiki was not one of the salads Kremezi grew up eating, because it didn’t exist until the mid-nineteen sixties. “When you sat down at the tavern, you ordered tomato salad and feta cheese, and then whatever else you wanted to order,” Kremezi says. Tomato salad, sometimes with cucumber or onion, sometimes not, was its own dish. A big slab of feta cheese (sheep’s milk only, or if you must, a tiny bit of goat’s milk, says Kremezi), covered in olive oil and dried oregano, was its own dish. Olives, too, were separate. Horiatiki takes all of those disparate meze dishes and combines them into one big salad.

Horiatiki was created, and then adopted throughout the country, in response to Greece’s desire in the sixties to be considered a real urban power—a European country, not a Middle Eastern country, like Turkey. Horiatiki is a salad to compete with niçoise. And it showed off so many of Greece’s strengths: phenomenally powerful herbs, strengthened in flavor by having to struggle in the dry, hot climate; truly world-class cheese; incredible fruits and vegetables; and some of the best, strongest, fruitiest, most flavorful olive oil anywhere. If you were an American tourist in 1968 and you had horiatiki at a seaside tavern, your mind was blown. This was some good shit.

To Greeks, it was kind of silly. “My parents were snubbing it, saying this is an overpriced way of serving,” says Kremezi. “And the whole thing backfired, because tourists would order the horiatiki and nothing else. They would call them horiatiki tourists, cheap tourists.” The name is curious as well. In Greek, “horiatiki” means “village,” a term and concept that was anathema in the sixties as Greece tried to appear modern and European. “If you wanted to dismiss something, you would say ‘this is horiatiki,’ to mean, this is not good,” says Kremezi. “So for a salad to succeed with that name, it must have been a great salad!” It was, and is, a great salad, and soon it exploded in popularity all over the country. Now it’s found in any tavern, any resort, or any seaside fish shack in Greece. It’s also found year-round, though to Kremezi, ordering a horiatiki off-season is a clear giveaway that a diner doesn’t know what he or she is doing. “Horiatiki is a summer salad,” she says. “Now, of course, they make it all year round, but if people know their food, they don’t order horiatiki in the winter. In the winter we have the greens salad, mixed greens.”

In the US, Greek salad is a little different. It’s commonly found in diners, in pizza joints, and at any “American food” type chain. It’ll have a base of iceberg or romaine lettuce, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes (sometimes cherry, sometimes sliced), onions (usually red), and a dressing of olive oil, vinegar (usually red wine), and oregano.

This Greek salad, not to be confused with the horiatiki, emerged at around the same time, in the sixties. (There are references to “Greek salad” before then, as early as the nineteen thirties, but these were bizarre concoctions of mayonnaise and cabbage and it’s unclear what, if anything, made them the least bit Greek.) Greek immigrants flowed into the US in their biggest numbers from around 1890 to 1923, when a law put a cap on immigrants; hundreds of thousands came to avoid the chaos of the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and World War I. Many of those found work, as immigrants tend to do, in restaurants. But Greeks, for whatever reason, managed to connect with Americans by creating or co-opting two very important American restaurant types: the diner, and the pizza joint.

Greek immigrants disproportionately ran both; most New York City diners, for example, are owned by people of Greek descent. Greek immigrants also found notable success in the pizza world. The inventor of Hawaiian pizza is a Greek guy who immigrated to Ontario, and the owner of the famous Mystic Pizza hails from Greece as well. Greek restaurant owners, while catering to the tastes of their new home, also inserted a few elements from home onto their menus, most notably in the Greek salad, an American riff on the concept of combining a whole bunch of Greek classic items onto one plate. With the success of both diners and pizza joints, generations of Americans have grown up with the Greek salad as a nostalgic touchstone.

There is no true Greek salad; horiatiki, aside from being only a few decades old, is also as fluid as any other dish. Some versions, says Kremezi, include herbs like purslane, a lemony succulent that’s also common in the northeast US, or rock samphire, an herb which grows out the sides of cliffs above the Mediterranean. Some might include sweet green peppers. She always includes capers. But what I found most interesting is what she doesn’t include: vinegar, and olives.

“In Greece we never add vinegar. Why do people add vinegar? Tomato is quite sour,” Kremezi says. “Why do they add vinegar, balsamic vinegar, these things? It’s beyond me.” She finds, as well, that olives, being very salty, throw off the balance of the salad. “Feta is already quite salty,” she says. She’s right; I never thought about it, seeing the Greek salad mostly as a salty and acidic kick in the teeth to balance out some greasy pizza, but it is not a particularly well-balanced salad. Kremezi’s version, though, is.

The basic elements of a good Greek salad are fairly uncomplicated. You need good tomatoes, in season. Heirlooms are perfect. This is a limited-edition salad, only ideal for a few short weeks in the summer, because you need top-quality tomatoes: they’re going to be supplying both acid and sugar. Get nice cucumbers (Kremezi likes either English or the curved, ridged Armenian type). Good quality fancy olive oil, preferably a heavy, fruity one. Good feta cheese—Greek, or Bulgarian, made of sheep’s milk, packed in brine. God help you if you buy pre-crumbled grocery store feta.

An underrated key to the Greek salad, whether American or horiatiki, is in the herbs. In Greece, most herbs and greens are gathered wild, and are powerful and unusual because of it. A jar of McCormick dried oregano is not really a good substitute. But fresh oregano is very easy to grow in pots, and absolutely delicious. Oregano is a key ingredient in Greek cuisine; Kremezi says there are more than twelve different varieties, all used for different things in different parts of the country, and that the best stuff is the wild type that’s never watered and is all the more potent for it. “But the fresh one,” like you would grow in pots, “I like the fresh one,” she says. “And I think it adds a very interesting touch to the salad. With the feta it’s very ideal.”



A Vegetarian Lent Reciepe: Marathopita

Μάραθος-Maratho (Fennel)  is among the most aromatic herbs of Crete. It is used very often in Greek and Cretan cuisine in order to highlight and give flavorful emphasis to different products, such as snails or cuttle fish. Maratho is mostly known in different cuisines for its very aromatic root, Finokio, which is used in salads. Crete though is one of these places that will give special culinary attention to the greens of fennel more than the root.


Fennel (Foeniculum Sativum) and its dietary properties have been known from antiquity. In Ancient Greece it was considered a therapeutic herb that assisted in problems related to indigestion or the urinary system. Dioskorides suggests that for people that have problems with the urinary system and pee “drop by drop” fennel is a remedy. Fennel is also an antidote to poison from mushrooms. It contains Vitamins A, C and B3, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.


Here is an easy to make delicious recipe that will satisfy your hunger and culinary curiosity during these fasting days in Crete as found in

Enjoy and Good Luck!!15604686779_1e2599ce03_o


3 bunches fennel

Some wild horta (greens) or spinach

2 shot glasses olive oil

½ kilo all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons

1 shot glass raki

Salt, pepper

Make pie dough : Mix ½ kilo flour with raki, 1 shot glass olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and some lukewarm water until dough is ready.

Filling: Wash greens and drain well. Then chop and toss lightly with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon oil and 2 tablespoons flour.


Separate dough into small round pieces the size of tennis balls. Make a small cavity in the middle of each and add a tablespoon of filling. Then enclose the filling and work into balls again. With a floured rolling pin, press each ball into a thin round, the size of a plate. Brush each side with olive oil and cook in a stick-free frying pan over very low heat for several minutes on each side until golden brown.

NOTE> In years past, housewives would cook them on a stone or sheet-iron over a wood fire, and accompanying wine was a must.”

6th of Aufust and The Grapes Are Alive With the Sound of Cicadas!!

Μεταμόρφωσις του Σωτήρος

We are in the heart of summer in Crete and at last there is a feeling of euphoria despite the economic situation of the country. The beautiful heat of the summer that admittedly came late this season brings warmth in the daily routines of the people. There is nothing more pleasing than walking around the island and get confused from the thunderous noise of the cicadas. A noise that assures that summer is here for good and nature needs to sing. A music that it is impossible to imagine summer without. In Crete at least. This melody also signifies that we are in a period where grapes are starting to mature.

The 6th of August in particular is a date that holds a specific significance in the culinary traditions of the island. On this day the Orthodox Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Christ. In other words there is the celebration of the apocalypses of Christ to his disciples that He is the son of God. This celebration holds a significant importance for two main reasons. First it falls right in the middle of the “Small Easter” in Crete, which is a term used for the 15 day lent period starting from the 1st of August and ending with the Assumption of Mary. Because of the importance of this celebration the Orthodox Church allows the consumption of fish which is normally forbidden during fasting. Thus traditional Cretan recipes use ingredients that highlight fresh fish. Okra with fish such as sea bream or sea bass, haddock with tomatoes in the oven, anchovies marinated with parsley, onion, olive oil and vinegar are only a few examples.This is one of these special days where people meet on the street and wish blessings to each other for happy and prosperous years to come.

The second important reason the 6th of August holds a significant role for the people of the  island is that today the first bunches of grapes are cut. In the morning mass farmers bring a few of their grape production in church. The priests gather them in front of them in big baskets and after a few blessing wishes they are offered to the attendees. Once the mass is over the priests go together with the farmers in the vineyards where a blessing takes bless with holy water. Once the ceremonial rituals are finished the farmers can start with the years harvest if the the grapes are mature enough.

evlogia proton stafilion ton avgousto

There is a large number of villages in Crete that have churches dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ out of which a very large number have Christ as the protector of their village or city. To be completely honest i am trying very hard not to think of at least a section of a church in a Cretan village that is not dedicated to Christ. One of the most characteristic sites that celebrates the “day of Christ” as the locals call it is the mountain of Youchtas or Giouhtas. A place of former worship towards Zeus today celebrates the Orthodox King of Heavens and thousands of believers go to the 800 meters tall mountain top in order to pay their respects. On the night before the walking trails that lead to the top and the church look like snake bodies made of light due to the lightening devices people hold in order not to loose their path.


Religious beliefs walk hand in hand with the culinary culture of Cretans. The 6th of August is one of these days that highlight the relationship between the natural and the divine. A visit in any of the rural villages will pay out your time and effort. Besides the cicadas will bring you a sense of euphoria anyway. If you decide to visit any of the Cretan villages in the evening the music of the cicadas will change into the Cretan folklore music that will perk the village squares.

Ten of the Greatest Books in Food Studies

Although this is not a post about the culinary culture and tourism of Crete here is an article with culinary culture books that are really worth your time!! Enjoy reading!!!

Tropics of Meta

pakistani desi chicken manchurian Chicken manchurian, desi style

In addition to taking over America’s public imagination – isn’t everyone a “foodie” these days? – Food Studies has firmly established itself as a serious academic discipline over the past decade. While the majority of popular food studies books fall into one of three categories (single commodity histories; explorations of individual ethnic foodways; and often problematically universalist and racially and class- biased works of food politics), many of the best critical works view the study of food as offering the possibility of a radically cross-disciplinary and trans-national re-engagement of key topics in studies of the Americas. This list offers some of the most important texts that examine food through the lens of topics that are central to disciplines such as History, English, Cultural Studies and American Studies: race, class, gender and identity, immigration, community and diaspora, social and labor history, empire, globalization and state formation.

M.F.K. Fisher,

View original post 1,146 more words

Animals, People and Crete: Because of Cecil

It is not hard for someone to notice the digital noise that take place in the internet world because of the murder of Cecil, the emblematic lion of Africa. A noise that nonetheless is surprising if one takes into account that there are thousands of similar murders being done like this for even sillier reasons. Expensive shoes for example. Fancy lady bags. Cozy furs to show off. The dialogue became dramatic because the murderer (it is perhaps the lighter expression i can used for someone that hunts for fun) made a choice to kill an animal that was considered emblematic for a nation, a scientific community and a world renowned university. Unfortunately though the killing of animals such as Cecil, takes place on a daily basis for shocking reasons, with shocking brutality and a shocking empathy from the rest of the world. However the relationship between animals and humans, or better say humans and nature was always one based on mutual respect and a balanced co-existence. Crete is an island where this balance was essential. I say WAS because what i am about to describe does not reflect modern Crete 100%. So i will use the murder of Cecil, being king of the animal kingdom, in order to express my opinion on animal-human relation based on times of the past.


From the times of Minoans animals used in Crete had a very special role. Some were considered sacred while other were considered hard workers and excellent companions. snakes for example were animals that were thought to bring luck in the household. The Godess of Serpens, one of the most emblematic images of the Minoan world, was depicted as a female statue holding one serpent snake on each hand and was considered the goddess of fertility.


Minoans were also famous for the Tavrokathapsia.  A sport like ceremony dedicated to Posidon (God of the Seas) where athletes were performing acrobatic acts on bulls. The bulls (in contrast with other similar sports today) were not required to be killed since they were considered important animals. It was a bull that gave Minos the power to become King of Crete on the day the division of kingdoms between him and his brothers (Sarpidon, Radamanthis) was decided. It was also a bull that was the choice of Zeus’s transformation in order to kidnap Europe and bring her on the shores of Crete. Let us also not forget the Minotaur, the emblematic creature that lived in the Labyrinth. The bull was such an important animal that its horns was the symbol of the Minoan Kingdom.


Later Times

We have described in previous posts that animals were hard workers for the people of Crete. Cows were animals meant for the fields. Plowing could not be done without cows and their loss meant a catastrophe for the local farmer. The “couple” or zevgari-ζευγάρι as it was called because there were always two, was also responsible for the time of barley harvest. One of their jobs was to pull the heavy “volosiros-βολοσυρος” in the threshing floor so all the wheat seeds could come out from their shell.


Hunting was never a popular activity in Crete. It was certainly done, but it was never popular. On the contrary it was mostly part of the necessity for survival and it involved the killing of very small animals. Rabbits and grouses were the most popular animals for hunting. However the land of Crete was (and still is) very fertile and there was little to no need for hunting in order to ensure survival. Eating meat was more a festivity food. Taking a life for food was not simply an act of bravery and skill. It was an act that highlighted the importance of life and taking one was part of pleasing the gods or guests. Even today when a shepherd kills a lamb on a guests name is in order to honor him/her with his most precious of products. It is not to showcase bravery, nor manhood.

Every household in Crete had a goat, chickens and bunnies that were all part of the household. Treating them properly made sure the family would survive even at hard times. Most of them were killed for food only when they were too old and could not be productive anymore, or in special occasions. In the rare occasion a family owned a pig, the gathering of the entire village was required for its killing and every participant had the chance to take a peace in order to celebrate Christmas.



Unfortunately today in Crete this balance between nature and culture is not so evident. Stray animals are a huge problem on the island that demonstrate the lack of basic understanding of ownership and responsibility. The past times were sure more brutal than they are today in terms of how immediate and raw the killing was, however it was done with respect and honor towards the animal that until the end was the responsibility of an entire household. Taking care of animals was a lesson learned from a young age.

Nowadays in most parts of larger cities of the island the meat and where it comes from is as impersonal as everywhere in the world. The same applies for the shopping of products that derive from killed animals. The disgusting image of Fur shops every 200 meters on the north coast of the island proves there is little to no concern on the amount of animals literally murdered for their skin. The God of the 21st century hears by the name MONEY and the sacrifices required are many more than a pig for Christmas.

I am not sure whether i should call this article a culinary tourism article, a excuse to complain, or a gentle way to show the urgent need to bring back to our everyday life the balance required for a life with values and respect. Cecil was a lion in Africa that has a sad end and caught the attention of millions around the world. What about the massive killings of seals, whales, bears, crocodiles and so on? What about the hero status of protagonists in shows in History channel that kill animals for a living regardless of the purpose? What about the monstrosities that take place in world countries in the name of culture?

People in the past had no idea how insignificant they were in comparison to the universe that surrounds them, yet gave every respect to the co-inhabitants of this marvelous world. Now that we know the universe is so vast our insignificance is terrifying, we became more brutal and violent towards our host and “roommates” than ever before.

From a culinary perspective i must say i do not think going vegan is the way. Nor is it to deny our cultural values and beliefs. Educating ourselves though from a very young age is. Putting ourselves in the right perspective and sense of belonging certainly is. Understanding and coming close to nature definitely is. I am afraid Cecil is not going to be the last dead animal due to unlimited human stupidity and greed. Lets hope though that people that result in such actions will slowly feel the frustration and fury of the rest of us.

Top 3 Lamb Dishes in Crete

Crete is an island that despite its unique geographical location and huge coast line that at times seems endless is a place with flavors developed around the mountains and hills of the island. As we have explained before the people of Crete were not very fond of the sea. The constant attacks from different enemies that wanted to conquer the island, as well as, the difficult conditions of life for people in the cities close to the shore made life very difficult. On the other hand the hills and the mountain tops offered a safe and relatively productive environment for the people to maintain a descent life through agriculture and herding. Meat for the people of Crete was a celebrational dish! Animals were workers and active members of the society which meant that if you killed your animal for food before it was time, the household would loose a powerful source of income and an important hard working member. Therefore meat consumption was limited to game, poultry, and lamb or goat. Lamb was a good protein source because usually there were more than 1 lamb in one family, thus loosing one did not mean the end of the world. So today we will present you the top 3 lamb based dishes in Crete according to tasting crete.

1) Antikristo- Αντικριστό

The number one dish in Crete when you talk about lamb is Antikristo. The name derives from the cooking method which literally means “across the fire”. This technique is very popular among the mountain areas of Crete where lamb is the predominant economic source. Shepherds cook lamb this way because it is easy to prepare and cook. The only thing you need is fire and salt. Before you place it across the fire you make sure you place salt everywhere.


The next step is to place it across a large fire and just let heat do the rest. Some more gourmand pallets will often smear the skin with olive oil with a branch from rosemary. Similar cooking techniques are used in Latin America as well. The idea behind it is that it does not need constant attention, so the shepherds could go about their business and occassioanlly through a look at the food. Secondly slow cooking makes the meat soft, while salt dehydrates it resulting to a crispy skin. Perhaps an interesting note is that this is a dish that is prepared and cooked by men. If you come across one of the places they serve Antikristo do not miss the chance to try this exquisite delicacy.

2)Tsigaristo- Τσιγαριαστό


Another Cretan dish based on lamb that epitomizes simplicity is Tsigariasto. In this dish lamb is prepared on a frying pan. In older times meat that was not consumed on the first day was “refreshed” on a frying pan with the addition of olive oil and a little bit of onion. This way it could be served again in order to be consumed. Today Tsigaristo is prepared on a frying pan or a pot. After you saute the onions with olive oil you add the seasoned meat and let it cook in slow fire for about an hour. In case the meat is from the day before the time of cooking is much less. At the end you add a bit of lemon and hey presto!!


3) Lamb With Golden Thistle- Αρνακι με Ασκολύμπρους.

In contrast with the Αντικριστό- Antikristo, this recipe is one that requires the experience and elegance of a lady on the stove. This dish is the ultimate celebrational dish and the one that combines the majesty of Cretan nature, the meat protein basis of the Cretan diet and the skills of an experienced cook for the egg-lemon sauce or fricassee.

The golden thistle or as scientists call it Scolymus hispanicus is a flowering plant that has been used in cooking and medicine since antiquity. It is a type of chicory and it has thorns which make it hard to pick. But as always in nature, what has thorns means it has nutrients. Its use has been very popular in Crete despite the fact that the plant grows in other parts of the Mediterranean also.


Combined with lamb it is the perfect Sunday lunch food. Here is a recipe from a very interesting Greek blog :

1 kg askolymproi cleaned (which means that if you find them not whole you need more)
1 kg lamb meat
3 scallions
1 medium onion
Half cup oil
2 eggs
2 lemons (juice)
A few sprigs of dill or fennel (optional)


Peel the Askolymprous and wash very well. Saute the onions and scallops with olive oil in a pan and add the meat. When changed color, add salt and add refreshing water. Bring to boil over medium heat until meat can be pierced with a fork. Add the askolymprous (and dill or fennel if used) and some water if needed. Set to boil until the roots are thoroughly softened. Usually Askolymproi need  more time than lettuce, spinach and generally tame grasses we use at fricassee. Once the ingredients are prepared remove from heat.

When you are ready beat the eggs until they become a homogeneous fluid, and add the lemon juice slowly and steadily (make it look like a thread) without stop beating. Once you are finished with the lemon add the broth from the meat and askolymproi preparation. Make sure the broth is not boiling hot but warm.  Once your fricassee is ready return it to the pot where you kept the meat and greens. Shake well  so the sauce can go everywhere. If the food is not warm enough place it back to minimum heat so it gets warm but be careful not to loose the sauce from overheating.



Thoughts of a Culinary Traveler in Crete at the time of Crisis

057 - Κρήτη  1911

In this political and economic mess we find ourselves in Greece one cannot but start thinking of alternative ways in order to make a living since conditions can and will go only worst. Pessimism is the conquering feeling that derives mostly from the disappointment betrayal creates. Because i think most Greeks at the moment feel betrayed in one or the other way, let alone scared. Within this emotional framework there was an urge to search of the past and try to figure out how did people manage to survive, prevail, evolve and eventual conquer during their harsh times. It is indeed impossible to compare the economic size, nor the interdependence that economies are characterized with. In earlier times each country was responsible for its house economics and if it went to hell so be it. Nonetheless times are hard and a stroll in rural areas of Crete are a good starting point for reflecting and generating ideas on what next.

Any person that enjoys nature, regardless of the extend of his/her culinary orientation, will be astonished by the green color one comes across in the mainland Crete. Endless fields of olive groves and vineyards are refreshing to the eye in the summer heat. It can even be surprising considering Crete being an island. Every few meters there is pick up track parked on the sides of a dirt road. It only takes a few seconds before one can notice a head, covered with a huge hat in order to create as much shadow as possible, pops out from a vineyard. Now is the season to prepare the grapes before harvest. It only takes 2 more week before the harvest begins.


A little further there is a melon field or “bostani- μποστάνι” as we call it in Greece. The melon field looks more like a garden with a variety of different seasonal products planted for domestic use. Zucchinis, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, young onions, and tomatoes are making the plants heavy. The local farmer throws a look and when he realizes there is no danger he cleans a cucumber and passes it to me in order to calm the thirst. The natural continuation of this gesture after me thanking him is a small chat. In this conversation the advice emphasis is on the urge to pass on knowledge of nature because young generations are going to need it. “You will need to know these things for your children” he says. “All the things you take for granted will make your life harder. Things will change and you must be prepared for everything. Even if you will not have money you will be able to produce your own food. This knowledge is what will keep you alive”. I could not but smile and agree. What does it matter if you know fifty different aspects of philosophical and empirical analysis if you cannot produce basic food?

The road leads to the small village. It is around 11 am and all households are finishing their lunch. The small alleys and cobbled roads that work like a maze around the central square of the village are a perfect combination of white from the calcium walls and a million colors from all the flowers on the yards and patios. Add the million different shades of green from the basil, the oregano, the lemon verbena, the apple geranium, and the marjoram and the picture is complete. You see for the Cretan –nikokira/νοικοκυρά/ εν οικο κυρα- lady lord of the house (as would more appropriately be used in Greek language). The doors are open so the air current can make the house cooler, and they are all covered with this special curtain from rubber stripes to prevent the flies from coming in. The sound when walking in these alleys is constant and pretty much the same. It comes from the spoons when they hit the casserole as the food is preparing, the bubbles from the boiling sauce or water, and the women talking. To my ears this is music.

greece2 167

As a consequence the smell in these alleys is a mixture of herbs, roses, jasmine and something that is cooking. Most powerful this time of the year is the tomatoes sauce. Now tomatoes are at their best and farmers bring it in large amounts in order to make sauces for the winter months. Every so often you will see the house ladies come out of the house in order to pick some more basil in order to enhance the taste. If they see you, they will always greet you with a smile and gentle look. One of my favorite images is an older lady coming out of the house with her hands freshly washed cleaning them on their apron in order to come and pick one or two branches of basil so they can continue their magic in the kitchen.

No matter how you turn in this labyrinth of alleys you end up at the meidani-μεϊντάνι the village square. The dizziness all the aromas and the summer heat create is obvious to the regulars of the local cafe or kafenio-καφενείο. The image of all the elder men sitting under the shadow with a coffee and/or a cigarette quickly makes you aware this is the boiling pot of everything that goes on in the village. From politics, to farming information, to gossip, to philosophy this is the place to be if you want to find out about the place you are visiting. Stories, myths, legends, songs, traditions, and culinary heritage starts and ends here. Once you are spotted by the locals you have to spend some time in the kafenio. They will buy you the coffee and ask you about where you come from and what business brings you in their home. After all, as Kazantzakis says, for the Cretan the guest is a small God. Naturally the conversation is around politics and how the recent government has handled the situation. Perhaps for the first time in recent history there is a unanimous call that this years income from harvest and agricultural production is going to hell. A million examples come up and another million opinions unfold. A good guest is and must be a patient listener. It does not take long before people start leaving in order to attend to their wives calls for lunch. It was also my call to stand up and continue my day.


My reflections on this walk were that regardless of what is going on around life goes on. It does not ask questions. It does not care what you think or believe about life, politics and economics. All that across my way emphasized me with the most emphatic way that i need to start learning the basics. I need to go back and appreciate the given, small, happy moments of life. That woman that came out with to pick up her basil did not ask questions. She did what she had to in order to make sure there is enough food for winter. Not only that, she did it with flavor and gusto regardless of her problems of health, family issues or whatever.

A walk like this helps you put some things in perspective. It is not so much the romantic, traditional, rustic character of the village life that might calm the soul of the visitor. Neither the smells and aromas from every household that make your heart full of butterflies and your mouth drool. It is the simplicity of life we realized we lost. Sure this does not mean you need to forget what you are doing, neither to stop chasing your dreams and hopes. What needs realizing though is that perhaps all we need to do is understand that the simpler we make things the easier we will go through this mess.