FOOD & MEMORY

1. I begin with two anecdotes.

a) When my friend Stavroula Markoulaki, archaeologist and president of the Historical, Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete, ate a piece of fresh xinohondros during the Saturday branch of the 1 st Symposium of Greek Gastronomy she shook her head and said ” I feel such a fool”. Why? Because while living in the village Apothikes with her parents she never interested in her mother’s rich and complex knowledge of cooking and cheese making. “Now that I am interested in her rural  cooking, she is dead and I don’t remember how to recreate her recipes. Oh my poor mom.  I miss her so much!”

The cultural gap between rural mother and modern, educated daughter brought considerable changes in the transmission of traditional food. However, xinohontros evoked some of my friend’s deepest memories.

 (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

Cretan xinohondros is a dried food based on a cooked mixture of fermented milk and cracked wheat. When it is still fresh and soft, xinohondros is a delicious creamy food. 

b) Food has own stories to tell.

Katina Providaki and her tiganopites (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

During the preparation for the Symposium Saturday dinner, Katina Providaki, a volunteer local cook, suggested tentatively that she would like to make tiganopsomo (fried leavened flatbread).  I was surprised when her 30 years old son said that his mother never makes it at home. “Why haven’t you ever made tiganopsomo for Stratis?” I asked her. “ This is  a treasured delicacy from my childhood” she answered. ”My mother made use of the leftover bread dough; she  hand flattened  it after rising and fried it.  While it was still warm she drizzled it with petimezi… you see, honey was very expensive but everybody had a little jar of petimezi.  But after my mother passed away (she died when Katerina was 14 years old) I didn’t even try to make a tiganopsomo. My heart would break, I thought. Tomorrow, for the first time in my life,  I will make tiganopsomo. Thus you will see how a poor mother “soothed her child’s insides” (malakone ta mesa tou paidiou tis)
For Katina  tiganopsomo is the symbol of her mother’s love and care.  And as Marcel Proust wrote in Remembrance of Things Past   “…when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection” (Volume 1: Swann’s Way: Within a Budding Grove, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin p. 58).

Why does food hold such power?

2. Sadly, even in villages the knowledge of traditional foodstuffs is rapidly declining, while there is also a considerable loss of memory  of poor people’s foods. Lantouridia is a typical dish of Crete’s “poor” cuisine. The most common way to prepare them  is to combine flour or bread with water to form very small balls of dough.   They  are cooked in boiling water or milk or meat broth and they are served as a very thick soup. If they are  boiled in water or milk they can be served with sugar or honey.

To make a pot of lantouridia for the Symposium Saturday dinner, the volunteer cook asked about 10 women. No one wanted to remember the exact method of preparation.  (Who cares about those foods?  They were poor, as poor as our houses. I don’t want to remember them… I don’t want to remember those days”: Stella Konstantoulaki).

I wonder how these foods are going to be archived for future generations.

3.  Smelling a pot of basil or homemade stakovoutyro (butter) “It really smells like Chania!”

Stakovoutyro (Photo credit: Kyrstyn Kralovec)

In Greek, the experience of self -imposed exile, the  absence from one’s home due to immigration is called “xenitia”. Xenitia conveys  a condition of estrangement, hard living in foreign lands, long absence from homeland, though  it can exploited  to the benefit of the immigrant. It provokes an intense, deep pain of longing to return home (nostalgia).
The tastes and smells of homeland  accompany xenitemenous (immigrants) in their  new homes. The food recalls memories that include parents, relatives, friends, past events,  homeland itself.

a) Xenitemenoi need to have some object as a tangible site for memory. Packages of food sent to  migrants is a common link to home. Sometimes they are given the word “kaloudia” (goodies) and they carry inside them the sun of the homeland, its sea, the smells of family house, the mother’s love. They are a piece of patrida (homeland).

b)Xenitemenoi live with a foot in both worlds. For them,  the role of food and memory in preserving their identity is as essential as the language and news from home. Thus, food not only express the sense of loss and desire for home but also signifies a sense of belonging. Two Symposium speakers,Maria Verivaki and Ozlem Yasayanlar ,  referred to this wonderful part of culture, the food memories and identity. Please click here to read the abstracts of their announcements: http://greekgastronomy.wordpress.com/abstracts/

And click here to read a great article about xenos (foreigner), xenia (hospitality)  xenitia and xenophobia  http://diatribe-column.blogspot.com/2007/10/xenia.html

As you  have probably already guessed,  the theme for the 2013 Symposium  will focus on Food, Memory and Identity.

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

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AFTER THE 1st SYMPOSIUM OF GREEK GASTRONOMY


It is more than three weeks that the 1st of the Symposia on Greek Gastronomy is over but since I can say that it went very well, I wanted to share some thoughts on it …

Speakers were the most critical aspect that contributed to the success of conference. They shared their knowledge and they generated questions on a wide variety of topics related to History and Evolution of Cretan cuisine. You can read the abstracts here:

http://greekgastronomy.wordpress.com/abstracts/

However, much of Symposium’s success was due to all those who supported it or voluntarily contributed to its development.

Because, if a conference doesn’t have much money it must have a team of dedicated people…

But,

our Symposium had a great group of dedicated volunteers,

though they had never met each other…

though they had come from different backgrounds and countries ( and I must say I was impressed with the quick respsonse from foreigner residents of Crete).

Moreover, the whole village that hosted the Symposium volunteered. Yes, the whole thing was embraced enthusiastically by the locals….

And

people of different generational ages, gender and ethnicity worked so well together!

Of course,

I recognise the valuable contribution from our sponsors. They made our job much easier and helped make the Symposium enjoyble for participants. So I won’t forget the constant support Stratos Milidakis gave us (administrator at Oadyk/Project: Gastronomy Routes and Culture of Flavors Network under AXIS 4). I will not forget Mrs Nikolakakis’ kindness (Anek lines).

I will remember with deepest appreciation Philip Exadaktylos, Giorgos Detsis and Vicky Koumantou. We welcomed them as sponsors but they quickly became our friends. They also did volunteer work.

Nor will I forget Alexandra Manousakis and Katernina Douloufakis from the most respected Cretan wineries, Manousakis and Douloufakis respectively. Their wines capture their charm.

And I am touched by the “Iardanos”, the association of tradesmen and entrepreneurs of Platanias. Their packages were filled with wonderful goodies.

 

But

the entire Symposium would look very different without the generosity and support of our volunteers. They helped in all kinds of ways, from fetching, carrying, serving, cooking dinners for 150-250 people, to translating, interpeting (what a demanding job! Two volunteers did it magnificently) , offering hospitality, photographing etc. Their effort is deeply appreciated.

 

 

The youngest and most dedicated volunteers: Orfeas Dialinos (11 years old), George Pantelakis (16 years old), Anna Iakovou (13 years old)

 

Of course,

I would like to give a special thanks to the chairpersons of the sessions and particularly to Jennifer Moody, landscape archaeologist, for taking the time to contribute to Symposium conclusions.

Many many thanks to Evangelia Voutsaki, a gifted and inspired young photographer. Her photographs were shown projected as part of a slide show during the symposium.

Special tribute goes to the women of the village. Women of almost all ages, from their 30s to their 90s, cooked for the dinners. They seduced us with the food and heritage of the region where they live and with their respect for the raw materials and their appropriate seasons. Those enthusiastic home – cooks shared wonderful recipes and stories and they offered their warm hospitality to the Symposium participants.

I deeply thank them all.

 

To see pictures of volunteers, click here.

You will find a man’s image among the pictures of women cooks. When pilafi is made in large quantities, it is a man’s job.

For the menu click  here .

If you speak Greek, watch the videos below to find out more about the dishes of the Saturday dinner.

 

watch?v=231LVm0L6ds&feature=related

watch?v=_oFanvNexyQ&feature=related

watch?v=Ycda8CmBgP4&feature=related

 

Some refreshments were made by volunteers, speakers and sponsors. The lemonade with the wonderful scent of lemon verbena was made by ethonobatnologist Fusun Ertug, who was speaker in our Symposium.  To make it  mix 1 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice with cold  sugar syrup (5 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar. Steep 10 leaves in the mixture of hot syrup for at least ten minutes).    Soumada, a delicious, soft, almond flavored drink was made by  Vicky Koumantou . Click here to read about thassorofon  , its Byzantine version.  A cup of  refreshing iced mountain tea was the perfect  treat to quench our thirst.  To make it, fill a large pot with water and add mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca), some marjoram and 3-4 leaves of sage. Bring water up to a boil and let steep. Strain the mixture  into jag, let it cool  and refrigerate it. This is ideal for summer time.  When ready to serve, add some slices of lemon.  You can drink it as a refreshment, it is perfect to accompany a light meal though.

If you would like to try the dish of lentils and bulgur that was included in the Sunday menu, a cup of iced mountain tea goes so well with it!  The ingredients you will need to make the dish are: 2 parts of boiled lentils and 1 part of wheat grains soaked in water. Strain both lentils and wheat grains, add salt to taste, mix and let cool. Add chopped parsley, chopped onions, cumin, olive oil and wine vinegar.

 

 

Special thanks to the Cultural Association “Risa” for graciously opening up the old school of Karanou to us for two days.

 

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ