Monday, 2 January 2006
Hereby I offer my excuses to my hosts at whose table I had marvellous dinners around the Christmas days. They awfully spoiled me and my friends. So I do not want to seem ungrateful, but sometimes I do miss some things.
I sometimes do miss a five courses dinner which takes a whole evening. To start with a festive salad draped with nuts, paté or fish or caviar or mushrooms. This starter will be followed by a creamy soup or a hot apple soup, cooled off with a spoom (fruity ice with champagne). As a main dish I would love game with mashed potatoes, green peas and cranberries. For dessert a chocolate mousse, followed by some French cheese. And at last a tangerine. This all accompanied by white or red wine, some champagne for the dessert and a glass of ruby red port going with the cheeses. Well, those good old Christmas dinners... The Greeks can cook pretty well, although they are everything except culinary adventurers.
Lesvos is pretty different during Christmas from the Netherlands. Outside they get the more and more lighted Rudolphs, Father Christmases and snowmen and Christmas balls, on the inside, besides a few fake Christmas trees (the real nice smelling fir tree does not exist on the island) it is quiet another Christmas. They do not know the excellent Christmas chocolate candy, the chocolate balls for on the tree, or a 'büche de Noël'. Of course they do bake cookies and cakes for the event, and although they are very tasty, they do not differ from any other festivity cookie.
In the Orthodox Church the midnight mass is for Easter and is not celebrated with Christmas. Yes, there starts a mass at 5 o'clock in the morning, a time that all Christmas lovers will surely be sleeping already. Baby Jesus is probably not born here in Greece, so they do not know the afternoon mass for rocking the baby Jesus and especially they do not know the nightly Christmas breakfast.
On Christmas Eve you will find pretty strange Christmas shows on television with a lot of music, frivolous hostesses and a plate throwing public. I am sure that during that holy night most people on the island do not move one inch from their telly screens.
Instead of Christmas breakfast with sausage-rolls and Christmas bread with almond paste, the Greek after 12 AM all go straight to the Christmas dinner, which will be lunch. Fasting will be soon, so they all eat mountains of meat. No 3, 4 or 5 courses, they will just serve their ordinary dinners with a lot of meat as the only exception.
The typical Christmas dish is pork with celery. A fair and healthy dish which is not spoiled by any cream or alcohol. In most families they serve this together with turkey and beef. The meat is accompanied by the usual side dishes like tarama salad, marouli salad, hot cheese, pasta or potatoes and so on.
The Greeks never are good with desserts, no exception for Christmas. You will seldom see a good pudding, a chocolate mousse, a fruit crème or ice as an after dish. Here they serve cookies, cake or fruit. That is to say, without cream, of course.
So for a real Christmas dinner do not come to Greece, even if the cook is giving everything to serve all food as best as he can. And although you do not hear me complaining about Greek food, the thing that is missing in the Greek kitchen is some variation. Even with weddings and other big festivities, the food will always remain very traditional.
The New Year traditions are also pretty boring on this island. They do not know oil-dumplings and apple turnovers like in Holland, no oysters like in France, nor a smashing firework at midnight. The only tradition is the famous Twelfthnight cake (vasilopita) with the piece of money in it for the lucky finder, which they eat after the meal.
When we had dinner some weeks ago with some friends who were ready to leave for Berlin, I got a little homesick. I could see the busy and bright lighted Berlin streets, I remembered the fantastic shop windows in New York where I spent some Christmases, I could smell the Christmas trees which are sold on every street corner of Paris until late on Christmas Eve, I imagined masses of people crossing the canals of Amsterdam rushing to the shops in order to get everything in time for their Christmas dinner. To be honest, I really got a Christmas dip.
I again became homesick when most of Europe got covered by a nice blanket of snow. I already was so happy with the few white spots on the Lepetimnos (highest mountain of Lesvos). Layers of snow on the canals of Amsterdam are however much more special. With pain in the heart I watched the fairy tale like images on the television. People cleaning their doorsteps with lots of snow, children sledding, traditional snowmen, they all made me nearly weep. Around Christmas on Lesvos it was icy cold and as grey as a mouse.
In Holland we say: the one who has the last laugh has the best. Everything was forgotten thanks to the beautiful day on the 1st of January. A very blue sky and a warm sun announced the spring on Lesvos. Almond blossoms opened their rose-white petals, the anemones, who had try outs far before the New Year, opened as well their flowers to wish the world a happy New year. So, in whatever nice snow jacket Europe may be enveloped, where on New Years Day can you have breakfast in the sun, smell the magic scent of the daffodils and see the lambs jumping in the sunrays? It will quickly make you forget your missed fireworks and your being homesick as well.
My Christmas dip, which only took just a very short time thanks to a friend from Holland who spoiled us not only by being there but also with a huge amount of Christmas candy, disappeared as snow in the sun. As long as we have those beautiful days I do not need to go back to a snowy Holland with all it's 5-course Christmas dinners. For me the New Year started excellent and next Christmas I will do my own cooking.
Copyright © Smitaki 2006