Xinohondros- a fermented milk/cereal mixture

The combination of ground cereal grains and milk or yogurt to produce a highly nutritious, storable foodstuff is a common practice among the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.

There are two Cretan variations under this category: xinochondros (sour ground wheat) which is the boiled mixture of fermented goat’s or /and sheep’s milk and “chondros” and galochondros (milk-ground wheat)  which consists of fresh unfermented milk and chondros. Both are usually consumed in the dried form.

Chondros is called the coarsely ground wheat on the islands of Crete, Carpathos and Kythera. According to Geoponika,* in ancient Greek chondros was the dehulled  emmer wheat grain (Triticum dicoccum) that had been  pounded, boiled and gradually mixed with white, fine gypsum and a quarter part of the whitest and finest sand for each part of gypsum ( a practice that contributed to the grain husking). When chondros was all husked, they passed it though a rather coarse sieve. The best was the first-sieved chondros; the third sieved chondros had the worst quality.

The pre-procession of cereals is actually an idea  dating back thousands of years.

The archaeobotanical remains of ground einkorn and barley grain from northern Greece and Santorini indicate that preparations created by parboiling cereals and combinations of ingredients such as cereals and milk go back as early as the third millennium B.C. in northern Greece and mid-second millennium B.C in Santorini. Although the archaeobotanical finds of processed cereals cannot tell us much about the techniques and the recipes involved in their preparation, the description of Geoponika is reminiscent of bulgur preparation.

As I’ve already said,  the cereal grain that is know under the name chondros in Crete, Carpathos and Kythera is simply coarsely cracked wheat. For a very long time it was home produced and in the hands of women, men were not completely excluded from the grinding though. Nowadays, the manual grinding process has been replaced by the mechanical one and women buy chondros from the market. Sometimes bulgur is used instead of cracked wheat.

Chondros is mainly produced using Triticum durum, so in the recipe below I used mavrathera, a local variety of Triticum turgidum subsp. Durum.

HOW TO MAKE XINOCHONDROS

Keep the raw, unpasteurized milk in a room temperature until it begins to turn sour and thick. Stir once or twice per day.

Put the sour milk into a pot. You can use the whey too. Bring to a boil.

Carefully add the ground wheat (in a ratio 1 wheat: 3 ½-4 milk). This is the time to make the sign of cross or blow three times, thus you will bless the xinohondros or  you’ll awake the apotropaic gods. 🙂

Simmer stiring  constantly. When it thickens and spoon stays in the centre of the xinohondros, remove from fire.

 Leave the mixture  to rest overnight and then spread in the form of spoonfuls or  rectangular pieces in the sun to dry. If you will make a large quantity, keep it in a pillowcase or cloth bag.

Xinohondros is made in the summer, when there is enough sun for it to dry out.

Though it  is usually consumed in a dried form, fresh xinohondros has a wonderful taste and can be served for breakfast. Dried xinohondros is found in a myriad of recipes in place of rice. It is  used in soups and stews  or  it is cooked with chicken, or okra, or pork, or  snails, or vegetables, or legumes,  or simply milk.

* Geoponika, edited by Beckh, published in 1895 Leipzig by Τeubner

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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

DO NOT FORGET THE POOR, THE NEEDY, THE HOMELESS

Half of  Greek population fear that they can wake up homeless next day due to factors beyond their  control.


It’s December 13 and finally the winter is here. No more hot weather and mosquitoes, no more sockless shoes and summer dresses.  However, living in a time that the Greek economy is  sluggish the winter  is our difficult time because we have to spend on heating oil and there are many who cannot not afford it. Today 1 third of the Greeks live with less than 500 euros. Even worse, there are many people among us deprived of a shelter that can protect them.

According to FEANTSA’s (European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless) research data,  the number of street homeless people and those in transitory shelters in the city of Athens is approximately 11.000 (3.000 Greeks and 8.000 foreigners). Of course, one of the effects of the economic crisis is the change of  the profile of the homeless. In the past, they  were mostly people with  alcohol, drug or  psychiatric problems. Today they are immigrants, elderly people and people who have lost their jobs or their housing.

In these harsh economic times, let’s do not forget them.   Instead of having done nothing but feeling  pity for them,  let’s take action!

Seek out organizations that help homeless families.

Volunteer at your local soup kitchen.

Donate your used clothing for redistribution.

Donate children toys for redistribution. The new face of homeless in Greece embodies  poor immigrants, families hit by the economic crisis and single mothers without money for a deposit.  Their children need toys.

Buying a cheese pie, a nutrition bar or a snack for a homeless or making an extra serving of meal and bring it to a street person in your neighbourhood are things that most of us can afford.

Homeless do not need our pity but do need our love and support.

SOUP OF HOPE

chickenchondrossoup

Xinohondros is the Cretan equivalent of trahanas,  made with cracked  wheat (hondros) and sour (xino) sheep’s or goat’s milk.

1 (1,5-2 k.) whole chicken

4 carrots, washed and grated

1 cup of rice

3/4 cup of xinohondros or trahanas

salt and black pepper

lemon juice

a cup of strained yoghurt

Place the chicken in a large pot, cover with water  and bring to a boil. After 10 minutes remove the scum, add the carrots, reduce the  heat, add salt to taste and simmer until the chicken is very tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place it in a serving dish and sprinkle it with lemon juice and pepper.

Strain the stock and place it in a clean pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice, add salt and pepper to taste and cook.  When the rice is almost done add the xinohondros. When the xinohondros is tender  beat the yoghurt until creamy and add it to the soup. Stir over a very low heat for 1 minute and serve.

Non profit organizations dedicated to provide  the poor and homeless of Athens with nutritious meals.

City of Athens Homeless Shelter

Klimaka. For details ring +30 210 341 7160.

Hellenic Red Cross

Caritas Athens Refugee Soup Kitchen

First Baptist Church

 

 

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ