Catch Your Octopus in Greece
For many years, I've been making the mistake of assuming that what I'd been served in Cyprus is Greek cuisine. It's good food, and some items are similar to the kind of thing you'd find in Greece. But, due to the strong Turkish influence on the island, some dishes are about as Greek as the Sultan of Oman, and might well be familiar to someone from the Middle East, but wouldn't be recognized in Greece. One common item on both menus is souvlakia, which is called 'kebabs' in Cyprus, so that the many British military personnel on the island don't confuse it with a country in Central Europe.In Greece itself, as much cooking is done in ovens as on a barbecue pit.
It wasn't always the case. Within recent memory, ovens in houses were a rarity and people used to make use of communal ovens, the main purpose of which was baking bread, so anything oven-cooked was often a special treat, reserved for high days and holidays. Today, though, oven-cooked pork, chicken, lamb and kid are popular; beef is less frequently seen. And, of course, there's the ubiquitous sea-food.I was once told never order sea-food where you can't see the sea.
But, this isn't a problem in most of Greece. Even on the mainland, you're rarely out of sight of it. Another dubious rule is don't eat where they show you pictures of the food. So, what do you do when you see the food ? squid or octopus; I didn't count the legs; deceased cephalopods, anyway ? hanging up drying in the sun outside the restaurant? Incidentally, it should be noted that the Greek word for squid is kalimari.
Do not confuse this with kalimera, which is Greek for 'Good Morning!' After all, do you want to be remembered as the person who went around saying 'Squid' to everyone you met? If you're not into sea-food, there's always the Greek dish everyone knows. Moussaka. If you can find any, that is ? all too often, I asked for moussaka to be told it's too early, or it's finished. What was going on? Surely there couldn't be a 'season' for what is, at bottom, a glorified shepherd's pie?.I finally found moussaka at a plain, simple and inexpensive family-run taverna.
The lady told me I couldn't have any right then, but said a time when I should come back. Mamma's daughter, visiting her family from her home in London, explained. She said that it bears no comparison with a British 'pub grub' moussaka, which is usually cooked in advance, frozen and nuked in the microwave as required. 'But, Mamma bakes fresh moussaka every evening ? enough for eight people.
It won't be ready until 9.30 ? and you'd better not be late, or there'll be none left.' Of course, I was back ten minutes before the appointed hour ? and all I can say is it was well worth the wait. And, the ever-present attendant cats waited in vain!.And, I discovered another Greek restaurant secret. Don't bother to order dessert; just ask for coffee after your meal, and the chances are they'll bring a sweet little something to go with it.
Bekri Meze was another 'discovery'. Pork stewed in olive oil and red wine sounded good, although I had reservations about the feta cheese crumbled into it. I needn't have worried. It was delicious, and I called for more bread, in order to soak up the last succulent drop. It was real bread, too.
Another thing I expected to see a lot of was pitta bread, but the first I came across was in the departure lounge of Athens airport, wrapped around a beefburger and some salad and called a 'Greek Mac'. Some cooks say the cheese in a bekri meze can be omitted anyway, just as some say you can add olives while cooking. It would seem that there are as many recipes for bekri meze as there are for Irish Stew ? and there as many different recipes for Irish Stew as there are cooks.On Crete two years later, I was served a bekri meze which was more like a beef stroganoff! I found a recipe in one magazine which stated that bekri meze consisted of not only pork but also chicken and sausage. No red wine or cheese, though ? a sort of cassoulet without the beans. However, they also gave a recipe for kiourbasi ? which seemed almost identical to the bekri meze I was served at the excellent Neromylos Tavern, on Leros.
Unfortunately, that magazine lost points with me because their recipe for Octopus in Wine neglected to mention the prime ingredient. Or, maybe they know that their readers realize what the essential component must be, and don't have to be told 'First, catch your octopus'!.While in Greece getting you octopus and eating eat you will want a cell phone for use and with the local GSM service you'll be amazed at how much better the service is in there and across Europe actually than back home. Virtually everywhere in Greece, yes even islands and mountains, is covered by superb GSM cell phone service.
With a local service provider all your incoming calls are 100% free and calling the states is just $.84 / minute. Or, to be 100% sure, you can rent a satellite phone and as long as you can point it to the southern hemisphere you'll get service across Europe. Free incoming calls day and night from every country on earth and only $1.99 to call any country, always.For more information on renting/buying these type of phones and getting this type of super low cost service take a look at http://www.
planetomni.com or call 800-514-2984 inside the States or 925-686-9945 from outside. They ship worldwide and are based in California..
Cell phone use overseas. In 99% of the world the local cellular service standard is called GSM. We use this in the states as well.
When combined with a SIM CARD (which usually goes under the battery of the phone) the phone is able to communicate and the SIM CARD also holds the telephone number and memory for pre-paid credit. Rates can be extremely low using this system. For example in 99% of all SIM CARDS incoming calls are free and calls to the states can cost a trifle. Such as, from the UK to the USA 7 cents/minute, from Israel 22 cents, from Australia 27 cents. Yes, USA Dollar cents! There are today even prepaid service providers in the USA offering rates of 10 cents per minute to call anywhere in the US to any type of phone.
No contracts, no credit card checks, no bills. Pre-paid always means no minimums no contracts, no obligations. You only pay for the calls made.
You'll need an unlocked GSM tri-band or quadband UNLOCKED phone. You can buy factory unlocked phones and sim cards for more than 170 or the 193 countries on earth from http://www.planetomni.
com Tel. #800-514-2984.
By: John Dulaney
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