Tag Archives: Greek

When John Gray coined the phrase “Men are from Mars” what he really meant was Crete!

14 Mar

Last Sunday was gloriously beautiful.  Seems we are having an early Spring here on Crete.  I can’t complain about that after having spent countless winters in Chicago where Spring doesn’t seem to start until the end of May, sometimes not until middle of June.  My mother would beg to disagree but she is the eternal optimist, bless her, which is why I think she’s been able to tough it out in the Midwest after all these years.  A few winter vacations to warmer climes doesn’t hurt either.  Love you mom!

We decided to take a (short) trip to the fresh water lake and have lunch to enjoy the afternoon en plein air.  When we were discussing what to do with the afternoon I kept suggesting we be Real Greeks and go for a stroll on the boardwalk and then spend 3 hours drinking 1 single shot espresso at any of the numerous trendy cafes on the strip.  Mr. Mallios didn’t like that idea, sometimes I wonder if I’m more Greek than him?  Pre pregnancy I would usually drink a pot or two of coffee in the morning.  Ok maybe I’m exaggerating a little but you get the idea.  Then I’d enjoy at least one, but sometimes two, icy cold Freddo Cappucino in the afternoon.  Greeks go for coffee at 11 o’clock at night so I didn’t need to be ashamed for my love of the bean.  But at 11 o’clock at night the only coffee I’m ordering is of the Irish variety if you catch my drift.   So lunch at the lake it was!  I guess we do have to feed this growing baby so a liquid lunch of strong coffee probably not the best idea.

We found a great spot perched on a little hill affording views of the tavernas below and the growth of everything from thyme to fennel to wild sage.  We ate slowly and enjoyed the strong sun on our pale forearms.  About 20 minutes into our meal another table requested the awning be lowered to provide for more shade.  The owner happily complied and began lowering it to shade us from the (amazing!) sun.  Mr Mallios and I looked at each other tragically and thought aloud, we’ve been in Chicago all winter!  Bring on the sun!  But the locals were having none of it!  Typically they don’t sit in the sun, or go to the beach I should say, until June.  Even if it’s 80 degrees!  There’s definitely a rhythm to the seasons here.  Despite the high temps it is quite common to still see people dressed in heavy coats and sweaters.  I guess winters not over until the calendar says so.

We observed people strolling on the path below us and decided to play a little game called tourist/local.  This is usually pretty easy on Crete, and probably most Greek Islands.  The Greeks while not only having strong physical characteristics that might set them apart from say Germans or the Brits, also dress and behave differently than their European counterparts.   The first couple we saw had a stroller which the man was pushing (tourist) and wearing shorts (definitely tourist).  Like I said, because its still March even though it’s 80 degrees, the locals are still dressed in their parkas and winter gear.  Not until the Spring Equinox (21st) will we start to see shorts and summer gear. Maybe. The next group of people we saw we’re two couples strolling leisurely down the path.  They walked in a line man, woman, man, woman (tourists).  They seemed to be speaking together in a calm manner (tourists). The men, it was noted, had little to no hair (tourists).  About 30 minutes later we noticed two men walking side by side.  Hard to tell at this point. One had quite a large gut protruding from his pants (local?).  The gentleman next to him was twirling something in his right hand. Komboloi? (Local).  Up ahead, a good 100 feet or so, Mr Mallios spotted two women walking side by side.  Both were dressed modestly in below the knee skirts and wool sweaters (locals), hair cropped short in the fashion of most women over 60 here (locals). They seemed to be carrying a lot of stuff (locals).  They lumbered on, burdened with the weight of their packages but never once seemed to be bothered by it (locals).  A cackle echoed up the hill as one of the men slapped the other on the back in appreciation (local…could be drunk tourist…no, local).  He lit a cigarette (local).  The taller man clasped his hands behind his back and continued on.  We surmised that these two couples were actually traveling together and in true Greek fashion.  The women well ahead of the men clucking away about their children and life in the village.  Shouldering loads of whatever they thought might be useful to them on their journey or at their destination.  While the men, a good half mile behind the women, hands suspiciously free of any packages, lazily strolled up the path laughing and passing the time with jokes and cigarettes.

We enjoyed this cultural distinction and the differences between men and women and returned to our meal.  Rice wrapped in cabbage leaves with a tangy red sauce, wild greens dressed lightly with olive oil and lemon, a salad of seasonal greens and vegetables, and a shit ton of grilled meat!  Lamb chops, pancetta, chicken, little beef patties, local sausages.  All fresh and all prepared by the owners mother!  I could just picture her back in the kitchen  sweating away since the early morning preparing for a day’s work while he stretched his legs and imbibed another raki.  Locals for sure!

Lovely Lake Kournas!

Lovely Lake Kournas!

 

How to prepare a Freddo Cappuccino (Italian for COLD cappuccino)

Take one, two or three freshly pressed shots of espresso (pronouced es-PRESS-so…no x sound in there).  Four if you are having one of those days.  If you are opting for a decaf option I would suggest having just the milk part of this drink.  After all what is the point?  In a metal shaker put two ice cubes with desired amount of sugar and pour hot coffee over ice and sugar.  Gently mix allowing sugar to dissolve and liquid to cool.  In a milshake type mixer pour about a quarter cup COLD milk over one ice cube to achieve maximum results.  Hit the milk in the mixer allowing milk to froth up.  This is similar to the process of making whip cream.  Cream must be very cold in order to achieve desired results.  The longer you hit the milk the frothy-er it will be.  While milk is frothing take a clean tall glass and put two ice cubes in it.  Some people prefer crushed ice.  Pour cold coffee over ice in glass.  Fill remainder of glass with frothed milk.  Voila a beautiful refreshing freddo cappuccino!

Freddo Cappuccino! Yum!

Freddo Cappuccino! Yum!

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Operating Instructions

25 Jan
I went house hunting with Amy last week.  We started out in Vrysses and meandered back into the hills behind the village into what was a charming, in the crumbly old stone stone sort of way, small village/hamlet.  The house there had excellent views of the mountains and surrrounding land, a swimming pool and nice vibe.  This would be Amy’s winning pick!
The next house was somewhere behind the hills of Giorgoupoli.  The owner met us outside, a tall thin man in his early 40’s who spoke pretty decent English.  He had converted his grandfathers country house into a more modernized version of what it had once been-not much.  There were some beds placed helter skelter, a giant loom dominating one corner of the second “bedroom”.  In case Amy wanted to weave a rug?  It was very haphazard looking.  Outside there was a small plot of land.   He proceeded to explain to Amy that  the 7 or so chickens that were pecking away at the grass were included in the price of rent and if she wanted to have fresh milk he would be willing to throw in a goat at no extra cost.  Hmmmm, I’m not sure that’s exactly what she had in mind but ok.  We putted around and up the mountains through light drizzles of rain and bursts of sun coming through the clouds to the cute village of Vamos.  The house was no great shakes but the garden was something out of The Hobbit.  It was brimming with lush green plants and bright pink and red geraniums.  A bed of clover covered the ground.  Buttercup flirted playfully with all the greenery adding splashes of yellow to the rich emerald carpet below.  It was very magical.  Our last stop brought us to a village called Maxeri (which I kept pronouncing like the word knife-haha this towns name is knife-but was informed otherwise)  perched high up on a sort of jagged edge of mountain at once both charming and frightening.  This little nook of a house also reminded me of The Hobbit and the ceilings were high enough only for a Hobbit to reside in comfortably.  I offered to take the wheel on the way back down so Amy might sight see.  Besides I was reminded of driving with my mother, which can be a terrifying experience especially in Greece, when you realize that you, the passenger, are the only one looking at the road.  Love you mom!  So Amy found her new house and she moves in on Friday!
Saturday night Dimitri and I went to the ubiquitous nameday celebration in honor of a few guys named Adonis.  Who ironically  do not resemble Adonis in the mythical sense.  We came into a cozy room with some people gathered around the tables picking at the meze in front of them.  I thought we might be late arriving at 10:30 instead of 9:30 when the party was set to begin.  Then I remembered that if you are 15 minutes late in Greece you are considered early!  Mom this is really your kind of place in that sense! (love youxx)  More people began to arrive and the party really took on a festive vibe.  Tucked in the corner was a man on the synthesizer who was playing what I can only describe as a Vegas style lounge act.  Was that a deliberate move to be ironic or was he seriously jamming out to that?  I guess we’ll never know.  Not long into the Vegas act a man with a lyre joined him and the party definitely took an upswing with the Greek tunes.  My favorite.  😉 Since it was pretty hard to have a conversation due to the music being so loud I took the time to make some observations of my surroundings.  There were about 30 or so people at this party, plus about another 10 in the front part of the restaurant which was about as big as the tiled section of Rockas, so not very big.  If I didnt know we were at a nameday celebration I would have thought we were at the National Smokers Association annual smoke out.  As long as Philip Morris has Greece their children will not go hungry.  Come to think of it I believe I saw ashtrays on the maternity ward at the hospital in Hania.  Right next to mommy’s bed!  I think i heard the nurse say to Dimitri that every baby you deliver here you get TWO FREE packs of cigarettes.  One for the mother and one for the baby.  Too bad I’m not having twins.
The party was well underway when some of the restaurants’ other patrons departed for home or other watering holes leaving the waitress to do her job.  She was a young girl in her early 20’s. Probably a student from Athens, since I have rarely seen a young Cretan working outside the home or family business.  I noticed her earlier chatting with a table of young lassies who were enjoying Greece’s national drink: ouzo. Blech!  At one point she pulled up a chair and engaged in conversation which i could not hear due to the music being as loud as it was, so it was kind of like watching a silent movie but with blaring Greek music on the background.  She had a water glass full of ouzo and proceeded to gulp it down like no big thing.  Just kidding-she did grimace pretty hard afterwards but definitely held it together for something as disgusting as ouzo.  She did it again not too long afterwards.  Bravo sister, a woman who can drink!  She stood and cleared away the tables surrounding her like a pro.  A wobbly pro but a pro none the less.  And it dawned on me.  Greeks have a special code in their DNA whereby they can carry a tray brimming with glasses, plates and all manner of detritus from a table (which for some reason tends to be a lot here) with such ease and skill just like a black guy has it in his DNA to be a very impressive athlete.  Too bad for the Greeks waiter-ing is not an olympic sport.  Or smoking for that matter!  Gold medals all around.
Amy's New House!

Amy’s New House!

Living Room at Amy's

Living Room at Amy’s