Friday, 24 June 2016

June 21 – Ouzo is ín, sangria is out

(Ouzo)

This wicked heatwave makes the skin weap thick tears and a swim in the cooling sea is the best option to get through the day. Water is the drink to survive, but besides water, a glass of ice cold ouzo can also be a solution to beat the tiring heat.

Ouzo is the national drink of Greece, although late into the night a bottle of whisky may well appear. Lesvos is the ouzo capital of the country because it produces the most (and the best). It is a relatively new drink, just as the famous Greek tomatoes were only lately introduced to the Greek kitchen. Only around 1900 the real ouziotary broke out, a welcome replacement for the unhealthy, but popular (especially in France) drink absinth.

In 1860 Varvayannis brought his art of distilling from Odessa to the island. Additionally, during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923 many Ottoman Greeks brought distillation secrets with them. You may wonder about the fact that in the Ottoman Empire alcohol was consumed. It indeed was a muslim empire, but there were so many other gods worshipped that alcohol was easy to find. Moreover the foreigners had to pay a pretty high tax for their alcohol (Müskirat resmi): no sultan wouldn't miss that.

And Sultan Selim II (1524-1574) did love a glass of very good wine; he was even called The Drunkard. Not only did his lordship reign drunkenly over his huge nation, but the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, could also be seen more than once a day with a glass of raki in hand. His daily consumption of the precursor to ouzo is estimated at a liter a day and he finally died in 1938 due to liver cirrhosis.

Even though the coming sultan Erdogan makes life difficult for drinkers, the national drink of Turkey remains raki, distilled from the grape skins left over from the wine pressing. Those banished Ottoman Greeks that fled to Lesvos used century old procedures, but the alcohol on the island was enriched by plenty of local herbs. When driving southwards, around Lisvori you may see the ‘ouzo-fields’: anise, dill, cumin and grains, which are only a few of the many ingredients each ouzo producing family uses, each scrupulously guarding its own secrets.

Even if you visit the ouzo plant of Varvayannis in Plomari, you will not find the secret —just learn a bit more about their production and history. Also the E.V.A. that runs a little ouzo museum in Mytilini, will not reveal any recipe. The little booklet they produced – Lesvos insider – only gives away the secrets of the ouzo-island life and tells you how to make mastic-cocktails.

Lesvos is ín, Ibiza is out, was recently written in a Dutch magazine (Wow, the New World). You can see it coming: the organization of the Symbiosis Lesvos Arts Festival is in full swing, the high-profile disco oXy between Molyvos and Petra has reopened. Skala Eresou with its many cocktail bars and fancy visitors, and Vatera with its huge beach and hip beach bars, are ready for a hot summer. Also many youngsters are going to the more unconventional beaches like Drota, Makara and Crousos. 

So ouzo is ín, sangria (or all those other colourfull cocktails) are out. Poor some water into the ouzo, fill the glass up with plenty of ice cubes, and together with some mezèdes and friends it will be the best remedy to the heatwave and the best way to enjoy the island that offers plenty of paradise-like holiday experiences.


(With thanks to Mary Staples)
Smitaki 2016







Saturday, 4 June 2016

May 26 - The new Greek Herring arrived!

(Jelly fish are taking over the oceans)

Last week in Plomari a Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) of seven-and-a-half meters was brought into the harbour. The poor animal, a huge plankton sipper who could never harm a human except possibly with a fair blow of his tail, got entangled in nets just outside Vatera. He did not survive.

Yesterday I had a swim in the sea at Drotta (bordering Vatera). To be sure, I did not got far away from the beach and I kept an eye around me in case I saw a small black triangle rushing after me. I mean, the only thing I know of sharks is that they swim in the seas and I have no idea how to differentiate between a good or a bad shark. And although swimmers here never bump into sharks (just the odd fishermen far out at sea) – you never know, you just might run into the wrong guy.

I prefer swimming amid sardines that are far smaller and really have no bad intentions. But imagine if you were to find yourself in the midst of a school of sardines whose fate is to die and to wash ashore tonnes at a time, as happened last month in Chili? That sounds like a real horror scenario. That country already had a sardine prohibition because of overfishing, so bad luck there are now even less. Here at the other side of the globe there are still plenty of those little silver fish and with no hard feelings we allow them to end up on our plates.

There is not a lot that I miss from Holland, but one thing is salted herring. So I am crazy for the Greek variation of salted herring - sardèlles pastès – which are mainly eaten in the summer. In Holland it is a big event when the first salted herring of the season is brought ashore. Here in Greece this happens without any fuss; and as early as late spring, when the waiter mentions sardèlles pastès, this dish will be sold out by the time I leave the restaurant.

Another sea creature I am not keen in meeting during a swim is an octopus. It is not that I am afraid that an 8-legged monster will suddenly pop up and grab my legs (enormous squids as big as 3 meters have been spotted in the seas around Japan); but whilst I love to have one freshly caught on my plate, underwater its desire to embrace you with all his tentacles seems a bit creepy.

I read an article saying that cephalopods are multiplying more quickly than usually. Just a few years ago a study concluded that jelly fish populations were trying to take over the oceans, and now the squids and octopus have joined them.

Octopus can be very intelligent. They can predict the outcome of football matches, they know how to free themselves from where they are kept and who knows at what other smart things they excel. Up until now I never bumped into a shark while swimming, nor a sardine nor a squid, and only once accidentally into the invisible tentacles of a jelly fish. If you want to believe scientists, things will change quickly, because from the dark depths of the sea invisible dangers are lurking, just like those described in the eco-thriller The Swarm of Frank Schätzing.

Maybe its our eating habits that will provide a little remedy to the abundance that lies ahead. Believe it or not, jelly fish are as common as sardines on the menus in Asia. The Lesvorian coasts are not rich in these quivering creatures, but I am sure that in the high seas there are plenty. Jelly fish with mushrooms and cucumber? First manage to get such a gelatinous animal whole onto the beach.

You will find cephalopods aplenty on the Greek menu: fried or stuffed kalamari, octopus in red wine sauce or marinated in vinegar or grilled octopus legs. All restaurants may have one or more of these dishes on their menu.

The shark at Plomari was cut into pieces, colouring the harbour blood red. Probably it all ended up on a grill. Occasionally here on the island you might find shark on the menu, although it is one you do not have to run from a: a School shark or in Greek galeos (Galeorhinus galeus). And it is really tasty.

I will not imagine sharks ever joining squids, octopus and jelly fish in conquering the seas. But when the sardines do, I will hope that we may fish them with no limits and that I may feast - without shame – upon those delicious Greek salted herrings!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016



Sunday, 22 May 2016

May 16 – Who is afraid of Lesvos?

(Voodoo Lily)

For years I have tried to get my readers to be as enthusiastic about the island as I am: I have written about its hidden treasures, about its overwhelming natural beauty, its food and its inhabitants and I have published Scatterlight Donkeys & Foxballs Ice Cream, a book with columns and photographs. What is the result of all that writing? The island remains empty this summer. Who is afraid of Lesvos?

Lesvos can be a bit scary, I admit. There are volcanoes which have been sleeping for over a million years, possibly waiting to wake up, the only traces of their last eruption being the petrified trees. In the sea there are floating stones, sea urchins, barracudas and sharks (which you may also find on your dinner plate). On that same plate there might appear weeds: chorta-la-dee-dee or wild vegetables.

Close to the capital, the graves of vampires have been found and who knows, they still may be around. In the shrubbery of the chestnut forest near Agiasos, there lurk thousands of dragons, or drakondia, the Greek name for aroids (flowers). A bigger species is the Dracunculus vulgaris, also called Dragon Arum, Voodoo Lily or Snake Lily. This little giant can grow as tall as one meter and has a huge pink to blood red spathe that curls around an enormous spadix. An excellent flower for a horror movie. It is the smaller version of the biggest flower in the world, the Titan Arum or Amorphophallus titanum, whose latin name refers to the huge phallus-like spadix that can reach a height of three meters. Just like his little sister this flower smells like hell, so you better not run into it. The Titan Arum can only be found on Sumatra, the Voodoo Lily however can be encountered everywhere on Lesvos.

Many woods of Lesvos are a bit creepy. You may bump into the poisonous yellow rhodondendron that can kill entire armies, you may run into hidden little chapels, where you can pray to be found if you are lost. You risk falling into waterfalls and there are caves you only can reach at risk to your life. The roads are amongst the most dangerous of the world because the other roadusers are roaming donkeys, flocks of sheep, sweet hedgehogs, or gossiping Greeks and birdwatchers staring through camera’s as big as stargazers; and the romantic ponds along the roads are full of turtles that beg for bread.

There are rude foxes who steal telephones, crickets whose screaming can damage your hearing and complete armies of ants that can occupy your bed. Daily there will be sunshine that can damage your skin, colouring it red or petrify it.

Most hotels on the island do not offer ‘all inclusive’, so you have to find food for yourself. Most restaurants only have Greek food and fish is served whole, and if they are small enough you are supposed to eat them with head and tails. There are no fortune cookies here, but while eating, its entirely possible that birds with forked tails will fly straight over your head: Greeks see swallows as good luck birds. Gigantic wasps may be fed with meat, in order to keep them from your table, or the owner of the restaurant may take out his old rifle in order to chase them with an ear deafening boom.

This is the Greek island that you have to avoid, because last year it was 'unsafe' because of refugees. Be aware: last weekend the roads again were unsafe, this time because of masses of pilgrims who, just like the refugees last year, were walking the roads, only now in the opposite direction, towards Mandamados where the Taxiarchis Monastery had its yearly party.

I nearly got out of the car and joined the walkers, because the island urgently needs help. Archangel Michael, whose name day was the cause for the pilgrimage, is also the patron saint of the island. He is a fighter and more than once he has intervened on earth. Last year he sent armies of brave angels to the island. Now that nearly no refugees arrive and the island has been cleaned, suddenly there are no longer any vacationers — doubling the crisis on the island. Would Michael please send some tourists?

Anyway, after writing 500 columns, I will continue reporting from this forbidden paradise, the hidden pearl of the Aegean. Because apparently people still are afraid of Lesvos!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016


Monday, 2 May 2016

April 24 – Clapping thunder flowers

(Thunder flowers)

“When thunder clouds appear, quickly burn your thunder flowers"* I won't follow this old saying, because I want those thunder clouds to give rain. I study the cloudy sky and search for any cauliflower forms. Dark masses of tiny water parts hang around the mountain tops, but will they release that much wanted water from heaven? The sun still knows where to find the cracks and keeps on shining.

The island is pretty dry. The oceans of flowers have started to wither, making orchid hunters desperate: where to find those orchids which people have flown to Lesvos especially in order to see? They will now have to do with the thunder flowers, who shamelessly and dazzlingly have gathered in masses and shine as red as any tulip field in Holland. Thunder flowers do not care about water or good soil: they flourish in poor and churned soil. This way they survived the battlefields of the First World War.

It was the Goddess of the Earth, Demeter, who created this sleeping flower*. She preferred to sleep throughout the six months of the year that her daughter Persephone had to spend with Hades in the Underworld. The God of Sleep Hypnos and his son Morpheus also used this flower to close their eyes and to dream. The sleeping flower has remained along with its derivatives, like opium, a symbol for sleep, and to help people have sweet dreams or lead them to damnation. When, like Alice in Wonderland, you pass through a field full of sleeping flowers, you'd better not lay down in that bright red world: you might risk an eternal sleep.

Sorcerers loved these witch flowers*, because they had so many properties to make healing concoctions. Their medical applications are many: used not only to have a good sleep, but also to fight a sore throat or cramps. And their tiny moon blue seeds, known from the tasty German or Swiss rolls, contain rare minerals and vitamins.

Had the soldiers in the First World War known this, they would have all become addicted to the witch flower. There were so many. Especially in Flanders, the poppies spurted out of the bomb and grenade-churned battlefields and thus became symbol for the lugubrious battle that took place there. Thanks to a poem about those blood red papavers (John McCrae: In Flanders Fields), many a veteran now wears a red poppy. Be aware: no real ones. As soon as you pick a poppy, its fragile petals become as free as a bird and whirl in all directions.

If you still intent on gathering poppies, take note: in England they believed that when you picked them, you could cause a thunderburst. While in Belgium, they believed that when you burned thunder flowers, you could shoo away those nasty thunderstorms. In fact, the real flower closes its petals when the rumbling begins and the Heavens threaten to weep.

While I watch intently to see if the poppies are going to close their flowers or not, I pick some petals. I read somewhere that children used to lay a folded poppy petal on their hand and when they slapped it, it gave a loud clapping sound. The only sound I heard was that of skin to skin. I probably need more exercise. It is said that the Dutch name for a Poppy, klaproos (literally translated as clap rose), comes from this children's game. Other say the name klaproos comes from the Poppies' rattling seed pods.

Lesvos should rattle its clouds more often so that the plants, especially the olive trees, get enough to drink. Otherwise the island will get, besides the economic problem that has been enlarged by the absence of a large percentage of the tourists, a new problem. The poppies can shine as brightly as they want, but if the island doesn't get serious showers or as many tourists as there are poppies in the fields, I am afraid that many an islander is going to need sleeping flowers in order to rest at night.

*(In Holland there are different synonyms for a Poppy (klaproos), like donderbloem (thunder flower), slaapbol (sleeping flower) and kollenbloem (witch flower).

(With thanks to Mary Staples)


© Smitaki 2016

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

April 7 – They are coming: the Cool and the Green Pope!

(The Cool and the Green Pope)

The only man in whose hands I would trust the world is Pope Francis. I said that recently in a discussion about failing world leaders. To me he is the only charismatic person with a bit of influence who cares honestly for our world. Although the influence of the church has shrunken a lot in our godless society and even when he holds the mace, I am afraid that big money nowadays has more power than God.

These days the islanders have lots to chat about: the deportation of refugees that is contrary to human rights, the hunger prevailing in the refugee camp at Moria, and possibly the worst tourist season ever that is approaching. The arrival of movie stars, artists or musicians provide a welcome diversion in the generally sad discussions and now the island is happily murmuring over the latest news: the Pope is coming to Lesvos.

I have never been a fan of the Pope. Earlier Popes were no more than plaster saints. I was shocked watching the television series Borgia, which related the story of the family of Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander VI. He did everything God ever forbade and he would have joined ISIS if that would have given him another kingdom. After him the popes became more pious, maybe even too pious.

I have lost faith: in a God who accepts so much sorrow in this world and in those old crooked men wearing clothes adorned with gold and jewellery in the Vatican. That has changed a bit with the arrival of Pope Francis. For the last three years he has blown a fresh wind through the corridors of the Vatican: not only refusing to wear too much bling-bling, this Vatican enfant terrible loves the simple life and has a wise tongue which he uses to tell the rich and powerful which responsibilities they are neglecting. A really saintly man who has to take it up against the complacent and old-fashioned bishops in order to humanize his religion.

As only the second Pope to visit Greece since the Big Schism in 1054 (when the christian church split into the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox churches) Francis seeks rapprochement between the two religions. But until now they have not even managed to make Easter for the East and West coincide every year, instead of only once every four years. The Orthodox Church still calculates the day of Easter according to the Julian calendar and the Catholics according to the Gregorian calendar. This means that this year in the West all the Easter eggs have already been eaten, while in the East they are in the midst of Lent and only on May 1st will the lambs be put on the spit.

The Pope does not come alone. Visiting the refugee camp at Moria, he will be accompanied by a man who, just like him, wishes for rapprochement with other religions: the head of the Orthodox Church, the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeus I, who has his seat in Istanbul (a town still stubbornly called Constantinopel by the Greeks). So for all Greeks once more the song: Istanbul (not Constantinopel).

Bartholomeus I earned his nickname Green Patriarch or Green Pope because of his manoeuvring for a better environment. I imagine that these two gentlemen like each other: the Green and the Cool Pope. Who knows if their visit together may bring more than just solidarity with the refugees. They should join each other to fight evil and put themselves forward as examples to their believers. Certainly the Orthodox Church also needs some fresh air: to teach their pontiffs some mercy and less bling-bling. In the garden of Bartholomeus I you will find priests who, like disobedient thorn bushes or overconfident ramblers, look more like bankers and are not prepared to help Greece out of its ocean-deep recession. If the Greek Church paid taxes for all its land and monasteries Greece would flower again.

According to the media the Popes will not have time for a touristic excursion. But I think they really should visit the grave of Papa Stratis from Kalloni, a priest who is the example of a Good Samaritan. For years he helped the poor and refugees. Last summer, as ill as he was, he kept on taking care of all those thousands of refugees who passed through his home town. He died last September and for me is a Saint.

It will be the first time in history that a roman catholic Pope visits Lesvos. This poor and crisis-ridden Island (and Greece) will be happy to receive this Holy man. I hope with all my heart that Francis will not only cast blessings with the flutter of his hands, but will also use his mouth to voice judgement on inhuman Europe. Long live the Cool and the Green Pope!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016





Thursday, 31 March 2016

March 20 – Flower park Lesvos

(Asphodel)

What can you say after such a Black Tuesday? I will not be the only one, feeling the fear rising. When I go outside (walking is a good remedy for panic attacks) and the wind plays over a field of bright yellow rapeseed, then Brussels seems worlds away. But even on the island there is fear: not of a terrorist attack, but because of the insecurity surrounding the refugee problems. Even though most islanders have a roof over their head, times are getting more and more uncertain and incomes are reduced. Lots of tourists are afraid to come, even though the numbers of refugees arriving have reduced dramatically and you rarely see them anymore. The refugees who reach the island only want one thing: not to be sent back to Turkey, a country they consider to be, just like their homeland, a country without future or hope. Most volunteers and NGO's have retired from the camps, which are now said to be prisons. Many of them have departed for places where their help is still needed, like Athens or Idomeni.

The island looks as if nothing has happened. Nature also helps us to forget: for the unseasonably high temperatures have encouraged plants and flowers to bloom as never before. They offer consolation in these dark days and I feel very happy that at least I may enjoy this beautiful Lesvos. Amazing landscapes, changing coastlines and villages that seem to be forgotten in time mean that, just for a while, you can forget the evil world.

I love asparagus and because of the scarcity on the island of these fat stalks from Holland or Germany, I have to do with the wild variant. This doesn't grow in the earth but is a prickly bush whose young shoots try to reach high above all other bushes and whose tips are considered a delicacy here. The Greeks bake them in an omelet; I prefer them parboiled with a vinaigrette, or made into a ragout with eggs and shrimp.

Gathering asparagus is not simple. The thin shoots lend themselves to invisibility and many a time you come smack-up against one swaying in the wind right in front of your nose, despite the fact that that you've been intensively staring unsuccessfully in the bushes for the last five minutes. They like to hide in the midst of all kind of prickly bushes, so it's best to wear gloves. I don't like gloves and I dare to thrust my hands deep into the thorns because I have to have that very thick asparagus, the thicker the better they taste.

I force myself a way through flowering prickly Spartium, I climb over odorous thyme, oregano and other spice-like bushes, I gaze along slopes hoping to see fresh green stems shooting up to heaven and I even dare to descend into ravines to get some of the most illusive asparagus.

Nowadays I even have to fight a way through fields of Asphodels, where thousands of them reach higher than my hips. They too, this year, seem to want to set new flowering records. They grow like hell and whilst it is such a pity that they do not offer an enchanting scent like the almond does; perhaps it's just as well, as the whole island would be scented like a broken perfume bottle.

Asphodels are of the same family as the lilies, but they have not got their sweet odour. When your nose approaches an asphodel, it will detect an unpleasant smell. Once I brought a thick bouquet of Asphodels into my house to enjoy their beauty, but only the once and never again! According to Greek mythology they are the flowers of Persephone, and smell of death. Homer even described fields of asphodel in Hades, the afterworld, where restless souls await their verdict. Another story says that for every dead soldier an asphodel flowers.

Even though I know these associations, walking across a field filled with these to towering heavenward flowers, I fall silent because of their beauty. They grow in soil impoverished by draught, overgrazing or erosion, which is not good for the field. But the good news is that they get pollinated by bumblebees and honeybees: insects that are ready to be put on the list of endangered species.

Asphodels grow from oblong tubers, in some countries are used to make bread, and in others used as fodder. The Persians used them to make glue, in other Eastern countries they were used to thicken salep (salepi), a milky brew made from orchid bulbs. I am not sure whether they ever did that in Greece (a country where you still can find some salep sellers in the streets - even though it is forbidden to make this drink from orchid bulbs). I have only once tasted salep and found it to have a horrible taste!

While the huge asphodel with her many flowers overshadows all other flowers in her surroundings, the orchid loves to play hide and seek. Most of them are small and their flowers also pretty teeny. But be aware: when you study them up close, you can become bewitched by their beauty and special forms - especially the flowers belonging to the Ophrys-family, with their imitation of the bees that inseminate them. They can have great designs, extreme colours and funny humps, some that may look like the horns of the devil. But in Hades there is no place for orchids.

Yesterday we went for an orchid hunt close to Koudouroudia and there we found giant Ophrys who tried to reach far above the prickly bushes. I am sure no salep maker would have crept into those bushes to steal their bulbs.

While Europe desperately tries to master the refugee problem, spring on Lesvos has been exploding. On show: the bright coloured anemones, the blood red poppies, the honey-scented yellow rhododendrons, the fat peonies, pine woods hiding slopes full of red tulips, the wind-tinkling Fritillaries or the shy crocuses and wild hyacinths and many more. They all have their own place on the island. Until the end of May (and in the mountains until the middle of June) Lesvos will be one big park of flowers. Come and see it!


(with thanks to Mary Staples)
© Smitaki 2016


Thursday, 25 February 2016

February 21 – Almond explosions


 (Almond trees)


Last week it looked like summer on the island. The sun even chased those dining outside into the shadow and terraces turned into changing rooms. It was nice to observe this ultra mix of winter and summer clothes: bare legs into heavy muddy rubber boots under daring short skirts; bare feet, milk-white legs under thick woolen way-too-big pullovers, fluttering shorts with high summer shirts. If all those international volunteers hadn’t been here, we never would have been enjoying this funny parade because the locals only came up with t-shirts.

There were more metamorphoses, because everywhere on the island there were explosions of pink clouds: the almond trees – always first to blossom – tried to make Lesvos look like the famous Hanami Sakura (cherryblossom festival in Japan). There are years that these pink to white flowers are nearly made invisible by wintery bad weather and you can’t even remember that they were there. But this year the trees are so clouded with blossom that you cannot pass them without noticing.

Every spring I wonder again how many almond trees there are on the island. Around Molyvos there are too many to count, but driving to the south I passed villages like Vasilika, Polichnitos and Vrisa, that are showered by the blossoms. Under the bright sunlight these villages offered such a picturesque view that you easily could forget in what an ugly world we are living today.

I wonder if each tree here on the island is being harvested and what they do with all those gathered nuts (actually almonds belong to the stone fruit). I know that locals make some marzipan, but I am sure that there are so many almonds on Lesvos that Ai Weiwei could have surprised all visitors of the international Filmfestival in Berlin with a lifejacket made out of marzipan.

Most almonds come from California, a dehydrating American state where more and more protests are heard against the water consuming almond growth. The fruit originally comes from the less dry Mediterranean regions and the other countries in the Top Ten of almond producing countries are: first Spain and Italy, followed by Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Greece, Morocco and Turkey.

With so many people fleeing and so many destructive bombs and grenades I wonder if Syria still is in this Top Ten. According to the Syrian Times last year in the area of Sweiria (south from Damascus) there were 606,000 almond trees, producing some 700 tons of almonds. But when I look at the war map, I see that there must be fighting going on between the government troops and the rebels. Can you use almonds instead of bullets?

In most countries the almond harvest starts in September, but in the Middle East it’s April when they start picking them from the trees — when the fruit has just taken form. Then they are still green and soft and soaking them a few hours in salt water makes the skin more soft and reduces bitterness; the fruit is considered as a great snack at this stage. You put it, skin and all, in your mouth, bite and the explosion of a little bitterness, a little sweetness and other tastes will surprise you, the ultimate joy brought by the jelly coming out of the stone. In Greece these green almonds are called tsagala, but they seem to have been forgotten. It is rare to find a salad or a wild-vegetable-dish larded with spring almonds.

I have become quite a lazy cook. I used to enjoy endless hours hammering pine nuts and almonds, but nowadays I mostly buy them peeled. I love almonds and each year I want to harvest all the trees around the house. And then? I always intend to pass the long winter evenings cracking almonds, so that I can roast them or use them for a sauce, cake or marzipan. In my shed bags full of walnuts and chestnuts are waiting for the same treatment. It is only that winters – the same story for summers – are long gone when you remember you wanted to do something. That is why now I am going to watch closely the forming of this fruit and when they have their almond shape, I will experiment with this unripe fruit that asks for so little time to be made ready for consumption. No other choice left than to do it myself, because there is no Syrian Supper Club nearby.

Most of the refugees reaching Lesvos come from almond countries where this fruit is a base for most delicious dishes. All refugees think that there is no future for them in Greece, let alone on an island like Lesvos. Is there not one fleeing cook coming from the Middle East who wants to apply for asylum in order to start a restaurant here? Most ingredients used in the eastern kitchen are also abundant in Greece and I promise I will come to eat weekly, especially when they serve almond pancakes.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016