“REGRETFULLY WE ARE BANKRUPT”: FEAR CUISINE

“We will not allow it to be said again ‘Regretfully, we are bankrupt’. I will give, we will give our all in order to save the country,” prime minister George Papandreou said, referring  to the phrase “Regretfully, we are bankrupt” with which  prime minister Harilaos Trikoupis had announced in 1893  that the Greek government was unable  to cover the repayment of its debts. Greece already had declared two bankruptcies in 1827 and 1843  and that one was not going to be the last one. In 1932, a time of global economic crisis,  Greece was led again to bankruptcy… its last loan repaid on 1967. 

Four bankruptcies,   International Financial Control Commissions overseeing the payment of the country’s large external debts, foreign interventions in internal affairs…. since independence, Greece has had a short history of precious autonomy.  

File:Oil painting of the Greek Parliament, at the end of the 19th century, by N. Orlof.jpg

Oil painting of a session of the Parliament, with P.M. Harilaos Trikoupis at the podium. Late 19th century.

It is interesting  that the memories of the 1893 bankruptcy are not forgotten.  
An economic crisis caused by the closure of the French market of the currants- which was the most important Greek export item-  and the overproduction of the fruit, prooved disastrous both to the Greek state and to the rural Greece.  The urban districts were affected too, since many citizens had lent large sums to the currant farmers to enable them to carry on new plantations.  
The currant crisis, the excessive borrowing  and the effects of the Long Depression soon were transformed into a huge  income crisis   and  contributed to the bankruptcy of the Greek government.  The subsequent few years were extremely harsh for the Greeks since the national economic crisis was combined with political instability, social unrest and massive emigration, especially to the United States and to the big cities. 

And when serious economic chaos occurs, the impact on food is obvious enough:  many people  don’t have money to buy it and many families find themselves dealing with dramatic situations. 

However, cookbooks published during this period  don’t reflect the reality of hard times. The recipes call for the best ingredients and  only a few of them are really cheap,  just as they always had been;   Addressed to the upper and middle class, who experienced hardship but could afford to buy food, cookbooks also offered a kind of escape choosing to be rich in spirit than providing instructions for non- expensive meals.     
Women’s magazines and periodicals were not a source of inspiration for those who could read, didn’t have enough money and wanted get creative in the kitchen, either;   But reading behind the lines you can have a sense of crisis: advertisments for cheap meat,  the final cost of some recipes,  more recipes for leftovers, frequent use of currants and  substitutes such as stafidine* for sugar.  Many recipes were included for desserts…  sweet taste calms the fear.

But four years after the bunkruptcy and soon after the military defeat in the ill-advised Greek-Ottoman War of 1897, Greece imposed on  International Financial Control in the form of financial “aid”.  Women magazines offered more money- saving recipes and tips on how women can win the crisis on the home front.  Things had become very, very hard.

“STAFIDINE PUDDING

Boil 640 gr milk and soak  450 gr old bread in it for one hour. Knead the mixture.  Add equal amount of currants  and 450 gr stafidine syrup. Mix them well, add the zest of one lemon (finely chopped), and 2 beaten egg yolks.  Knead again, beat the egg whites until frothy and add them to the batter. Mix well, pour the batter into a buttered dish and bake. If desired, add ground almonds or pieces of candied fruits, citron in particular. This excellent pudding costs  only 1, 15 drachmas  and is enough for 12 persons.”

Ladies’ newspaper, April, 3, 1894, p. 8

 *Thick syrup derived from raisins… there was plenty of cheap stafidine in the market.

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

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7 thoughts on ““REGRETFULLY WE ARE BANKRUPT”: FEAR CUISINE

  1. Very interesting. Cooking history as cultural/ economic history is fascinating. I wonder how this recipe ties into the discussion of several months ago about the general concept of Greeks making puddings, and whether it is a borrowed from Britain concept. I’m curious about both the name of the recipe and the name of the newspaper in Greek? Also, was stafidine ( which I’ve never heard of before) a factory product, made at home product, or both? Thank you for a timely and thought-provoking post.

  2. Four previous bankruptcies…fifth time a charm? I enjoyed this post and I too an intrigued by this “stafadine” syrup.

  3. Laurie,
    #Many sweet and savory Greek rural recipes include bread and milk and bear some resemblance to British puddings. But… 1) when the old cookbooks say “pudding”, the pudding is always sweet and is either English or has English relatives. In spite of their popularity in England those puddings are rarely found nowadays. Perhaps they were quite alien to the Greek way of eating. On the contrary, cake, “an English dessert that is easy to make”, became very, very popular here. Only semolina putinga (a recipe of syruped semolina- egg dessert topped with ice cream or custard cream), found in many notebooks left by women of earlier generations, is still popular till now.
    2) When the magazines of late 19th and early 20th century say “pudding”, the term suggests an English source but some recipes could be variations of papara. Their Englishness is more likely to be the name than the method.

    Does the name “poudinga” move our dish to the category of English puddings? It could be the result of a marriage of necessity: English source, hard times, use of very cheap currants and currant syrup.

    #The surplus currant production was taken over by the government and was reduced to a very cheap pulp or syrup (stafidine). Of course, it was also possible to make stafidine at home.

    #The name of the newspaper is Εφημερίς των Κυριών.

  4. Peter,from 1827 to 1932 Greece exhibited continuous budgetary and foreign trade deficit, extensive loans from abroad, increased military spending as a result of wars as well as of the overall international environment… and small public investment. These developments consisted a particularly negative context… Plus that politically the period was characterized by instability, there were many problems related to the “eastern question” in the Balkans and the Cretan revolution, there was international economic crisis etc. 1890-1898 is a particularly bleak period for Greece. It is therefore not surprising that the state had to declare four bankruptcies.

  5. It is good for my general knowledge to read your post Mariana; I am so totally ignorant of Greece’s tumultuous history and imagined that it had known nothing but blissful times and just one coup or another no more.

  6. Unfortunately Greece has had a tumultuous history like most countries in the southeastern Mediterranean.

  7. Me too – had no idea of this bit of greek history. And glad somebody else asked the stafidine question. How do you make it?

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