The Greeks know 'twill be a mess
There is no need to second guess
Today they are feeling full of hope
But when they see he cannot cope
And to the Troika he bows his head
All hope they had will then be dead
He will hold out that begging bowl
For German money to fill the hole
Berlin's finest will moan and groan
Yet find the cash for another loan
The Greeks will never lose their debt
The hopes they had will not be met
There is one chance to yet be free
No longer broken on bended knee
The accursed Euro, in fact's the same
As the Deutschmark with another name
The Greeks will better days not see
Until they ditch this damned currency
Tis a cruel hope to expect real gains
Shackled by Krupp & Co steel chains
No more u-boats or mighty tanks
No more in hock to foreign banks
With the Drachma back in circulation
A chance to construct a better nation
However, it is hard to break this link
To others' rule when you cannot think
Put a man in power, remove his brain
Puff him with pride, he'll not think again
A broken man, he now cries and garbles
'I blame Lord Elgin, he stole our Marbles'
Those of you that have read my Cretan cooking blogs before will know that I love to twist Greek terms to something in English. I do this all the time to help me remember difficult Greek words. This time it has a connection with my up and coming new book, Harry the Louse, because the Greek word for beetroot, παντζáρι, is pronounced 'pants Harry'. I leave it to you to decide whether 'pants' is a noun or a verb!
Unless you have an allotment or a farmers’ market where you live, you might be a bit stymied with this recipe because beetroot is mostly sold without the ‘tops’. However, as with much Cretan village cuisine, ‘waste not want not’ is a central theme. It is said that in wartime, Cretans survived on snails and horta, which is basically a dish of weeds much like dandelions. Here our markets and many ‘supermarkets’, sell beetroot complete with leaves and stalks and you pay by the kilo for the privilege. Last week I bought eight small beetroot (I prefer the small ones for roasting whole) and of the 2kg total, more than half was leaves and stalks, much too valuable as a food and vitamin source to be thrown away.
This recipe is not a well-publicised Cretan dish in the usual sense of the term, but is more an adaptation of the principle of being frugal, a consideration that modern society might rediscover.
A word of advice (well several words): A recipe gives the basics but the chef makes the meal taste good. Once you have the basic soup it is for you to add this and that until it is superb. Now to me, good food is a ‘whole tongue’ experience…all of it ideally should be involved, because without that balance, some ‘je ne sais quoi’ will be missing’. I am NOT a chef, but I am a glutton, so I add things until my glutton’s tongue is happy. Do not be afraid to add a little sugar, honey, lemon, or Worcester sauce for instance, until you like what you have made. If this frightens you, put a little in a bowl and try your additives. My Beetroot Leaves and Stalk Soup won’t be exactly like yours, but so what?
Did you see that UKIP, Mr Farage’s political party, is giving the three traditional parties bellyache? Good for him. I hope it goes beyond that and develops into really pressing problems. Maybe it will be catching and have them hurtling in groups to the throne rooms. Maybe it would bring a completely new connotation to the term ‘Running Mate’. Enough said! Mr Farage has hit on a bold plan: worthwhile degrees will be free, others will be charged. His hit list is extensive: sociology; media studies; homophobic studies; green & vegetable studies, travel and tourism studies and others.
I know a professor of Travel and Tourism at a well-known university who is in a state of panic because he or she had intended to vote UKIP. You may deduce that I am a modern-day, politically correct individual because I have not seen fit to reveal the professor’s gender. Not at all, despite scrutinising the said professor from afar (I must add), I haven’t been able to ascribe to him or her a gender category, but I believe ‘it’ might be an hermaphrodite.
The good professor has landed a research contract from a well-known conglomerate in the leisure industry, no, not the jobseekers’ alliance, but the sector of the industry that provides holidays in the sun for the masses, but, being a global organisation run by non-Catholics they cater for atheists and other religions too. The only criterion important to them is your ability to pay.
The professor and his/her flock have been analysing the future options for this hospitality giant, whose hotels include some of those tucked-away paragons favoured by film stars and footballers and considered ‘Exclusive’. This is a shorthand term for, ‘We do not admit riff-raff,’ (unless the riff-raff in question have pots of money, provided by other riff-raff that spend their hard-earned, or hard queued-for, cash on watching the sort of thing these elite riff-raff provide). Our Multi-national conglomerate (the management isn’t multi-national, of course, but appear to be) decided some years ago, to expand its service to include what they generously term, ‘Ordinary folk with a limited budget and simple (meaning little) taste’.
You will almost certainly have heard the expression they coined for this now ubiquitous experience; you may even (on somebody else’s say-so, of course) yourself have experienced this service, known as ‘All Inclusive’, which accounts for 37.386% of all vacations, we are told. Determined to stay ahead of the game in the face of very stiff competition from the Bordello Industry, they commissioned the professor to determine the shape of their industry in the future.
I have been privileged to have had a sneak preview of the efforts of the professor’s research assistants, all nine of whom will, without question or even viva voce, be awarded their PhD’s next year and job’s with…anyway, back to the preview. The following are the new terms we shall be hearing about, should Nigel and Co fail to win the UK General Election. Shortly afterwards travel agents will be trying to convince us that they offer us an experience we can’t live without, except perhaps the penultimate one:
The professor has surveyed a cross-section of people to find out which of the above services they might be interested in, so that a report may be sent to those that would invest others’ hard-earned cash in the new ventures. 7,362 close relatives of potential users have recorded just one question thus far: ‘Is there a special Terminal for the departing All-Conclusives at Heathrow?’ Only one respondent has asked about possible returns.
I hope that you will be able to furnish other questions about the services for forwarding to the professor, but please do not delay, Nigel (not Theresa) may win the day.
The word 'green' is today associated with almost anything that lends itself to being beneficial to the environment. Sometimes, the use of the word may stray beyond plausible boundaries; one such 'green' misconception is as applied to electrically powered transportation.
Electric trains have been extant for many years. There are two main types: the most common nowadays being those that take their power from high voltage overhead lines. Losing ground against this 'overhead' supply is the visually unobtrusive third or fourth rail supply at track level with a voltage of approximately 800Vdc. It is claimed, with some justification, that this latter system has no place in a safety conscious society. To some extent this is true, for there have been many deaths, not only of trespassers, but also of railway workers that have touched the 'live' rail, yet have we done enough to make this system safer, given the modern day switching systems now available?
However, should 'greenness' only be taken as limiting the amount of pollutants in our atmosphere? Perhaps visual pollution as illustrated, should also be a factor we take fully into account, particularly if we properly investigate some of the inadequately considered aspects of electrical propulsion. It is true that at the point of converting electrical energy to kinetic (movement) energy, be it a train or a personal transport application, there is almost zero atmospheric pollution, but are we deluding ourselves?
The electricity we use for trains and cars must be generated somewhere and, depending upon the generation method employed, be it coal, oil or gas, varying amounts of particulate pollution will arise and there are separate issues with nuclear generation. There are, sadly, some proponents of the green cause, noble though it is, that would brush some of these factors under the carpet, believing that renewable energy will come rapidly to the rescue. However, do we really want huge wind turbines marching across our once green and pleasant land and only to travel when it is windy?
‘With what?’ you say, puzzled at the title of this blog. It seems like quite a simple though equivocal question; it is not intimidating, threatening or frightening. It causes no racing of the heart, no breaking out into a sweat and no visions of Kyron the Ferryman taking the dead to the underworld. Perhaps the word ‘sir’ has connotations of schooldays, the military or even an all-powerful boss, which may give the question an edge of potential hostility, but not fear.
Now try reading the title aloud, several times. Like one of those strange 3D Stereograms, where another image may be seen, repeating the question should bring out something entirely different. Some of those emotions I mentioned make sense now you are saying – Cancer Help? If you’re asking directions in a hospital for an elderly relative, the question will evoke sadness. If you are doing a web search to find out how long cancer-ridden Uncle Sam has before you inherit his fortune, it might evoke joy. However, if the enquiry relates to your own condition, it will almost certainly evoke dread.
The risks of being afflicted by some cancers, such as lung cancer will be dramatically lessened by not smoking; even belatedly ceasing the habit can be beneficial. Other forms present greater problems, like the deadly asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, which recently took a good friend of mine within six months of diagnosis, but should be almost eradicated by asbestos awareness and regulation.
However, I am writing here about bowel cancer, which for men and women grouped together gives the second highest mortality rate after lung cancer. (In between there are women's breast and men's prostate cancers.) The survival rate of many cancers improves with early discovery, but despite the entreaties of medical experts and charities, most people are their own worst enemies and discover that procrastination often kills.
Why am I writing this? In common with an earlier blog the answer is, ‘because I can!’ I can write this because I am still alive, having been diagnosed with bowel cancer in November 2001. It should have been diagnosed in the April or May but wasn’t. I am disgusted, even furious with myself for not going to see my GP earlier. I had known since the February that something was wrong. Looseness, odour and pain shouted their presence, but I had done nothing. Then things insidiously worsened and post-loo-pooh inspections told me a visit to my GP was essential. You are probably thinking ‘ah yes, blood in the pooh...visit your doctor is what you do.’ We’ve all seen (or closed our eyes to) or heard (or closed our ears to) those adverts that are run periodically in the media and elsewhere. Simple isn’t it, see blood over several days/weeks and book an appointment – easy!
Well no, it’s not...in truth I believe that many people with bowel cancer fool themselves they’re ok because they don’t see blood. We all know what blood is...it’s that red stuff that oozes out when you cut yourself etc, isn’t it? Well, not always and particularly with bowel cancer where the red blood that seeps from a tumour will be digested like food in the intestines and appear in your loo as blackish and shiny. The further from your anus the darker it will probably be. But, do not let me lull you into a false sense of security; any red pooh could well be piles but could also be caused by a rectal tumour.
When I was awaiting surgery to remove part of my large colon, I asked all seven other men in our ward what their symptoms had been and while six had noticed pooh goo and some anaemia, one reported he just felt perpetually tired with no other symptoms. So, if you ‘know’ something’s not quite right, I leave you with two thoughts:
DON’T BE A FOOL...ALWAYS CHECK YOUR STOOL and
DON’T PUT YOUR LIFE IN HOCK...SEE YOUR DOC!
Bowel Cancer - I ask for any comments you might have on this blog, particularly from other victims and also from professionals that might want to correct or clarify anything I am saying.
4th November 2015
I am reposting this because it is now 14 years since my diagnosis, 14 years that I have enjoyed which others haven't...don't let bowel cancer shorten your life.
A few weeks back I posted a picture of a drunken, legless Madame au Bergine. Not all Cretan aubergines get themselves into such a state. Yet I do believe they are at their best when half cut and like many semi-comatose drunks, they may be found smeared with tomato, cheese and other things. Fortunately, like tomatoes, aubergines are a fruit and like many fruits, their flavour can be brought out when ‘stewed’ in a little wine. Today, then, I shall present for two people: ‘Drunken aubergine’.
You will take one plump, ripe aubergine; render her half cut by bisecting along her length. Then flatten her bottom discreetly to help her to stay level, smear her upper reaches (carefully) with tasty choice tomato, then get her well stewed, add a little feta cheese (or other white crumbly cheese, such as Caerphilly) and anything else that takes your fancy for her crowning glory.
Her name in Greek is μελιτζάνα, which is likely to stress out your tongue even before eating has begun, so my name for today’s dish, in Greeklish is: Mel, it’s Anna – half cut and very tasty.
· 1 plump ripe aubergine, halved lengthways, with flattened bottoms
· 2 tbsp red wine
· 4 tbsp water
· 4 tbsp passata
· ½ tsp dried oregano
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 50g Feta or other crumbly cheese
· Fresh Tomato/Basil leaves for garnish
I do not have a vote in the upcoming election in Greece. While I spend a good amount of time on the wonderful island of Crete, I have to accept what Greek voters decide. No, I don’t. If I don’t like what they decide, I can get out and leave them to their misery because that’s what it is and will continue to be indefinitely, unless...
The people are being squeezed but you do not drive the illness out of a dying patient by strangling him. True, once dead, the pain stops but it is a ‘drachstic’ remedy. The current Greek government has kow-towed to German diktat, believing there is no choice. There was no choice, but there is now, there must be now. Here in Crete tourists are as rare as crisp chips cooked in olive oil (another blog). Why should tourists come to Crete? It is no cheaper than Italy, Portugal or Spain (including the ever-sunny Canary Islands. For new visitors, the glaringly confusing language, with letters that are not even pronounced the same way most Europeans are used to causes amusement yet serves as a reminder of the thousands of years of democracy.
Why should tourists not just go to Turkey? The language is equally confusing, but because they are not in the euro, holidaying there is quite cheap whereas Crete (and Greece as a whole) cannot compete. Greece needs to leave the euro.
Do the Greek people have the stomach for a fight? Perhaps not, because nobody functions well on an empty stomach. Yet the Trojan horse of the euro and German governance is already amongst them and if they don’t fight today, they will have to fight tomorrow…unless this time around they are content to accept German rule and privations.
Antonis Samaras of New Democracy, the current Prime Minister, is an honourable man and this is his Achilles Heel. When he imposed austerity, he had little choice and it has done its job. Greece, many commentators say, could successfully leave the euro now and in a relatively short time the new drachma would see them flourishing again. However, Samaras gave his word to the troika that he would see it through and he cannot honourably change course. Yet he has brought competent, though painful government, to Greece when it was badly needed. What would Syriza, the ultra-left alternative, bring? Many of my Cretan friends answer ‘chaos’ yet still they will vote for Syriza.
My hope would be that Syriza and New Democracy achieve similar amounts of votes each and are forced into a coalition where Samaras continues as a competent and trustworthy PM but able to say, ‘Oh dear…terribly sorry, Deutschland but uber alles, above all, my coalition partners insist...’
A good fava is rich and creamy and this can only be achieved by making sure it does not dry-out or stick to the bottom of the pan during cooking. In many ways it is a very simple dish to make, but it does need a lot of loving, tender, care. It must never be neglected during cooking.
- 1 cup of yellow split peas
- 2-2½ cups water
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp salt (guide)
Any size 'cup' can be used as long you use the same size for the water.
METHOD (Approx cooking time for above quantity is one hour)
‘Fava forgive me…’
‘For you have sinned? Yeah, I’ll forgive you, but what about your guests? How will they feel eating me, so lumpy and tasteless? You really must learn how to make me as I should be, smooth, tasty and with just a touch of hidden depth.’
‘You have hidden depth already, dear Fava.’
‘No sweet chef, that is not what I mean…you use my depth as a means of hiding the lumpy bits, not forgetting the burned bits where you’ve got me too hot under the collar and burned me on the bottom. You must learn to craft me as a dishy perfection, as I truly should be…so desirable that all your guests will yearn to have me in their mouths…’
A week ago, I was invited to a Cretan village home for dinner. The old lady had killed one of the twenty rabbits she kept specially and served a wonderful Stifado along with Horta, Makaronia and oven-roasted potatoes. Each time I emptied my plate, it was filled again as was my wine glass. These were not rich people, in fact, during this pan-Hellenic crisis, few people are rich but the richness of their generosity and the tastiness of the food was overwhelming.
However, few tourists will ever experience the warmth of such a household or sample the delights of traditional village fare. In fact, many ex-pats living here have never enjoyed such company or sampled their simple but tasty food because they are separated by language and custom. It is not the Cretans’ fault that we Brits do not integrate and so do not sample their culinary delights. We find it hard to make any serious attempt to communicate in the difficult Greek language, let alone the Cretan dialect that is the key to the village world.
Yet everywhere tourists go in or around the resorts, they are assailed by signs saying ‘Traditional Cretan Food’ and ‘all our food is cooked in olive oil’. Tourists could be forgiven for believing that Cretans survive on a diet of chips and grilled meat, be it pork, lamb or chicken. Some tavernas have Cretan specialties on their menus, such as mousaka, stifado and kleftiko yet often serve these dishes tailored for tourism accompanied with…yes, you’ve guessed it…chips.
Few tourists will stop at a local kafenion, deterred perhaps by the gathering of old village men and a false belief they will find no food of any description. They would stop if only they knew what a treasure trove of tasty dishes would be brought forth by the magic incantations ‘raki’ or ‘krasi’. This will very often bring them not only an alcoholic beverage but also a few plates of simple foods like olives, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, bread, pieces of sausage…the list goes on depending on the location. Yet, while the proprietor will manage to communicate that chips with something can be provided, it is unlikely that many tourists will be treated to the delights contained within a huge saucepan simmering on the wood stove. This is not because it is the sole domain of the locals and tourists aren’t welcome to it, but because they are unaware of these treats. Yet treats they are.
Some while ago in England I bought a recipe book of Cretan cookery aimed at the largest possible market and designed to encourage tourists to prepare what they may have sampled whilst on holiday in Crete. This feature of my website aims to supplement these wonderful books with their array of complex recipes by giving an insight into those simple foods that form part of the truly historical and healthy Mediterranean diet and how to find them in the local kafenion.
DO YOURSELF A FAVA - TUNE IN AGAIN SOON.
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