Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still with Easter; Sunday we were invited by our neighbours across the way to join them for the traditional Easter lunch and it turned out to be quite a gathering, about thirty or more, young and old, strangely no children, unusual for a Greek gathering. Two long tables were set out in front of the large stone oven beneath the olive trees at the back of the house. Evidently the way the oven works is that it is lit the previous day and when the time comes for cooking the meat, the ashes are cleared out. The stone is now hot enough on its own to cook the meat on grape vine cuttings in metal trays. In many villages were people do not have an oven large enough evidently the local baker will oblige with the use of his. Jannis and Vana greeted us, Vana wondering if I was warm enough (poor old man) and offering the loan of a sweater and Jannis informing me that he had a wonderful Retsina. Unfortunately I am allergic to pine so had to refuse that but fortunately he also had a very potable local wine. I discovered my allergy some years back in Hollings Farm. One time I had a cold and was sipping away on my favourite cough syrup while watching cricket on the television. I suddenly developed an itchy back that grew worse and worse until it became unbearable and, ripping off my shirt, I discovered I was covered in a hideous red rash. I dashed down at full speed to the Hebden Bridge Health Centre and asked to see the doctor. Of course, the way things work in England, that meant making an appointment for a few days ahead to which I told the receptionist that this was an emergency and I needed to see Doctor Elizabeth this very minute if not this very second. I eventually managed to be persuasive enough for her to say all right, I could see the nurse and if the nurse thought it necessary then I could see the doctor. Needless to say the nurse took one look and fled, returning immediately with the good Doctor Elizabeth who exclaimed loudly, “Jesus!” and immediately gave me a shot of cortisone. The rash and the itch subsided and, under instruction, we went through everything that could have caused this allergic reaction. Finally I got around to the bottle of cough medicine to find among the ingredients “pine!” and that was it. But I have digressed. Back to Easter Sunday, first of all there were the traditional cheese pies and kokkaretsi – that is lamb’s entrails roasted on the spit. This was eventually followed by the lamb itself together with xorta, (previously mentioned) potatoes roasted in olive oil, beans, lettuce salad. The meal finished with ices and two different gateaux. I staggered home. The Greeks love their food and they expect you to eat as much as they do so keep piling it on your plate no matter how much you might object. “Arketa!” I said “Arketa!” Enough, enough. “Fooskasa ime,” I’m bloated, so there was no misunderstanding. Three whole sheep were cooked. (Easter is for sheep and lambs what Christmas is for Turkeys). Jannis must have his own source because had he bought them at market prices they would have cost over 600 euro.

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