“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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OF FAMINE & OF FEAST. AN APPLE BREAD & AN APPLE CAKE.

apple_cake_larger

Until the 3rd decade of 20th century, shortages posed a continuing threat to many of the poorest areas in Greece. Things were getting worse during wars… In Graeco- Roman and Byzantine world famine was a weapon. Various theoritical works offered recipes how to destroy crops, fields, food supplies, how to poison water.
So, warfare included burning or salting fields, or attacking those who cultivated the soil.
Then the major characteristics of famine, the widespread and acute hunger and the disease, made their appearance.

In case of famine or shortage, people are forced to consume any available source of food, even of the worst quality (grass, pieces of leather, rats etc.). However, starvation almost never affects people equally. It is the poor or the inhabitants of poor areas who suffer the most.

Shortage of food was probably the main problem of World War II, particularly during the winter of 1944/45. Fuit and vegetable producing areas were luckier than the rest of country, since they could make even flour with dried fruits (apples, pears, figs etc.) or dried vegetables, wild greens etc. During that period, apple bread became popular in apple producing areas. Apple flour was its main ingredient and yeast was used as raising agent, though sodium bicarbonate was also used sporadically. The wheat bread consumption increased after the World War II against the other kinds of bread but some years later an apple cake became popular. This cake seems to be the rich brother of the apple bread.

APPLE BREAD

1 ½ k. apple flour

500 gr. whole wheat flour

50 gr yeast

1 tsp salt

2 tbs olive oil

1 lt. warm water

olive oil, for brushing the pan

In a bowl dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water. Stir well and add 1 glass of warm water and 1 glass wheat flour. Stir again, cover with a cheesecloth and let for 12 hours in a warm place.

The next morning, combine the remaining wheat flour with the apple flour and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the center and pour in the starter mixture, the olive oil and the rest of warm water. Stir to form the dough. Knead with your hands, sprinkling the dough with more flour if it is too sticky or adding some warm water if it is too hard. (The whole wheat and apple dough needs more kneading than ordinary bread dough.) When dough becomes smooth put it in a bowl, cover with a cheesecloth and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. When the dough is doubled in size, divide it and shape in loaves. Place them on oiled loaf –pans, brush with olive oil or milk and cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Bake loaves for 40 – 50 minutes or until lightly golden and hollow sounding when tapped. (Preheated oven 180ºC) Let breads cool on a rack.

APPLE CAKE

1 cup milk

2 ½ cups flour

¾ cup sugar

½ cup virgin olive oil

3 eggs

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon powder

½ tsp ground nutmeg

2/3 tsp lemon zest

1 ½ cup apples, peeled and cut in cubes

Beat sugar with olive oil. Beat eggs. Add sugar and olive oil and beat again. Add milk and stir very well. Gradually add flour, salt, zest and spices and mix well. Fold in apples. Pour the mixture into an olive-oiled and floured baking pan. Bake it 190 º C, for 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.