CRETAN FOOD & CELEBRATIONS

Compare those three different Name Day- celebration menus of Cretan upper- middle class:

1) A dinner of 1970 served in the dining room, with coffee, brandy, liqueurs and smoke in the living room. 

Fried myzithrokalitsouna ( Cretan small pies stuffed with myzithra, a local ricotta -style cheese, and mint)

boiled chicken with  pilaf rice

rabbit stifado

beef pot roast with fried potatoes 

baked lamb

tzatziki

tomato, cucumber salad

lettuce salad with roquefort/ olive oil dressing

seasonal fruits

mixed fresh fruits in banana jelly

home made praline ice cream

 

2) A buffet -style party of 1988. The food was served in the dining room with the guests switching room to room, eating, drinking and dancing.

Bâton sale

baked myzithrokalitsouna

avocado, yogurt, garlic, tabasco dip served with fresh carrot strips

eggs ala Russe

potato salad

Russian salad

canned tuna, potato, chopped lettuce, mayonnaise salad  

salmon quiche

pasta, bacon, cheese, double cream soufflé

Indian chicken curry

baked lamb with garlic and rosemary

choux à la crème

pavé au chocolat

 

3) A summer buffet of 2010. The food was served in the kitchen/dining area but the 60 guests enjoyed their dinner on  the veranda of the house.

choriatiki salad

lettuce, walnut salad

red & white cabbage salad

russian salad

tuna, potato, mayonnaise salad 

okra with tomato sauce

kalitsounia stuffed with amaranth and cheese

mushroom pie

ham and cheese pie

zucchini pie

minced meat crepes

moussaka

pasta, cheese, double cream souffle

pilaf rice cooked in chicken broth

boiled lamb

barbecued pork chops, beef kebabs, meat balls, sausages

vegetable- stuffed minced meat roll

spiced meat roll

rabbit stifado

lamb cooked with artichokes and dill

tsigariasto kid

baked lamb with potatoes 

fruit salad

galaktoboureko

chocolate cream cake 

 

 

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Buffet of 2010

 

 All menus recognize the  importance and personal meaning of the occasion: they  honor the name day of host or hostess and show  concern for the welfare of the guests. Plenty and tasty food  is  the top concern. Despite  the great variety of frozen and canned foods, dishes served on name-day’s feast demonstrate  care on the part of the hosts.  Some dishes on 1988 and 2010 menus can  be made in advance, but all of them are hand prepared and require effort.

The three menus also imply consumption of energy, time and money.  The Cretan feast-menus could be viewed as a reflection of the house owners’ social status, if in Cretan homes the preparation of festive food was not of utmost importance as expression of hospitality and friendship.  Though time and energy consuming, the preparation of cooked and baked dishes usually falls on  female members of family while barbecuing and grilling are  considered a man’s job.  

The dinner of 1970 is a combination of international trends and Cretan specialties. The  food of the buffet- style party (1988) is a mixture of  French, Indian, Russian and Italian cuisines. Avocado dip was a new trend, even if the tree was cultivated in Crete since 1960. Here, the growing interest in ethnic foods  was associated with a major requirement: surprise your guests! 

The number of the meat dishes on the menu of 1970 (4) is not comparable to the number of meat dishes on the menu of 2010 (13),  both menus are meat based though. The large number of meat dishes on the menu of 2010 reflects, too, the eating habits of modern Cretans.

Times are changing and the content of the menus  may change but the message remains the same:  You honor me with your presence, you are my guest, you are  important, I will take care of you, I will surprise you and make my best for you.

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MUSHROOMS, FUNGI, AMANITAS, MANITARIA, MANITES

historyofgreekfood- mushrooms stew

In olden times, Greeks had a love of mushrooms of many kinds, supported by extensive knowledge, particularly among men and to some extent hunters and villagers. Rural populations considered mushrooms as ‘meat’ for the poor and relied on them when meat was unavailable. The term ‘meat’ may sound like an exaggeration, but mushrooms do indeed are excellent source of high quality minerals, vitamins and proteins which we expect to find in meat. Moreover, they have low sodium, very few calories and very pleasing taste. And finally, there is a king among them. Ydnon, the black truffle, which holds a special place in the luxury foods since the 5th century BC, was so highly esteemed that a non Athenian received the rights of citizenship in return for a dish of truffles.
Given that the importance of edible mushrooms in Ancient and Byzantine years was followed by high consumption, even very knowledgeable hunters of wild mushrooms could occasionally misidentify and consume toxic species. However, deaths from mushroom poisoning are rarely mentioned in contemporary literally sources. In contrast, emphasis is placed on cooking them correctly and on the antidotes in case of consuming poisonous mushrooms. It might seem funny now, but the list of ancient antidotes includes, among others, radish pulp, cabbage pulp and a drink made with honey, saltpetre and warm water. Of course, none of them has any life-saving effect.
Certain mushrooms are mentioned in the works of Hippocrates (5th cent. BC), Dioscorides (55 AD) and Galen (130 – 200 AD), showing that the ancients doctors were quite familiar with their therapeutic virtues. It is not surprising then, that they also interested in their cultivation.
Nicander of Colophon (2nd cent. BC), who was a poet, grammarian and author of two treatises on poisons, explains in his Georgics (fragment 79 Schneider, quoted by Athenaeus 2.61 a, tr. S. D. Olson) how edible mushrooms can be cultivated:

‘Whenever you bury the trunk of a fig tree deep in dung,
and keep it moist with constant streams of water, harmless mushrooms will grow on its lower parts. You may cut any of these that grow from the root and not from the ground.’

According to De materia medica, written by the Greek physician Dioscorides in the 1st century AD:

Some report that the bark of the white and of the black poplar, cut up into small pieces and strewn on garden-plots that were previously fertilized with manure, grows mushrooms in all seasons. (1.81 tr. L. Y. Beck)

In recent years, the consumption of wild mushrooms in Greece is much lower than in the past. Even if wild mushrooms are eaten traditionally in Epirus, West Macedonia (Grevena, Kastoria), Pelion and Crete, the high incidence of poisoning, perhaps because of the high level of past consumption, and the limited knowledge of younger people on wild species affected their demand. On contrary, there is a steady demand for cultivated mushrooms.

Mushroom and chestnut stew

(Stifado me manitaria kai kastana from Crete)

1 kg whole pearl onions, peeled

6 small cloves of garlic

1kg fresh mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 4-8 cm long pieces

20 chestnuts, peeled

10 kalamata olives

2/3 cup olive oil, divided

2 bay leaves

orange peel, to taste

1/4 tsp ground cloves

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tb. tomato paste diluted in ¾ cup warm water

1/2 wine glass of  red wine

Heat the half oil and sauté  onions and garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour in the remaining oil and diluted tomato paste. Add wine, chestnuts, bay leaves, orange peel, cloves and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring, taste and add salt. The liquid should not cover the ingredients but if needed add water.
Lower the heat, put the lid on and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, add the olives and simmer for another 6-8 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Serve hot.