Blog of the Week: Organically Cooked
Writer: Maria Verivaki
Where: Hania, Crete, Greece
What: Maria was born and raised in New Zealand, and as an adult moved to Crete, an island in Greece where her parents emigrated from long ago. Affectionately known as “the Mediterranean Kiwi”, Maria is thankful she returned to her roots. “I feel my New Zealand upbringing influenced my underlying Mediterranean characteristics, and in a very positive light.”
After Maria married a Greek, she noticed how much her new family focused on food. She began her blog as a way to preserve family recipes for her children. Maria says food is an extension of her Greek identity, which she doesn’t want her children to forget or take for granted.
Maria’s blog has since morphed into something even greater: an outlet to share her everyday life and experiences in the land she loves. Her readers are not just people interested in food. Diaspora Greeks and those interested in Greek culture and politics all read Maria’s blog.
She reports the latter group has increased recently due to the financial crisis in Greece. “People are interested in alternative views about what’s happening in Greece because the mainstream media tends to discuss only the same few issues, and often in a disconnected way. I like to talk about how people are coping with the crisis in Crete [instead of] how they are not coping.”
Recipe Highlights/Favorite Quotes from Organically Cooked:
Filo Pastry for Greek Pita-Making: “A friend recently showed me a photo of what looked like a perfect Greek pita. The filo pastry had that ‘village-style’ look which we can buy from the deep freeze in Greek supermarkets…Hrisida’s pie looked hand-crafted; the layers of filo were perfectly sized for a round baking tin. Shop-bought filo is always sold in square/rectangular pieces. Her pie reminded me of the qualities of a good νοικοκυρά [nee-ko-kir-AH - housewife] …
‘Don’t tell me you made all that filo pastry by yourself,’ I wrote to her jokingly.
‘Of course,’ she replied seriously. ‘I do all the [filo] myself and I started out as a complete novice.’
God help me, I thought, as I imagined her kitchen table covered in flour, her clothes dusted all over and her kitchen looking like a bomb just hit it. Making filo pastry is a form of art and nothing less. The typical Greek housewife of the past made huge pies in 60 cm tins called σινί (sini) [see-NEE] with low sides. The last time I saw someone making paper-thin filo pastry, all I could imagine was the floury mess it would create in my kitchen. But the end result was well worth it.”
Karidopasta-Amigdalopasta-Tourta, Two Layer Birthday Cake with Walnuts and Almonds: “I was reminded of my mother’s culinary identity … during our road trip through Greece last month, when I was at a taverna in Gavros… At the end of the meal, as is customary in tavernas all over Greece, a dessert, compliments of the chef, is brought to your table when you ask for the bill. It consisted of two layers: a dark one on the bottom and a yellow one on the top. I immediately recognized that cake. It was the cake my mother made for my birthday (every single year – it never changed). One look at that cake, and I knew I was going to eat a semolina-based walnut (dark layer) and almond cake (light layer). … [I]t was undoubtedly the cake my mother made … the only difference being that [she] used to fill it with custard and top it with fresh cream for extra effect.”
Olive Oil Biscuits [Cookies]: “Olive oil biscuits are very economical to make in Crete with our abundance of olive oil and orange juice. Not only do the cookies use highly localized ingredients which we grow ourselves, but making these quintessentially Greek cookies … requires all the family members’ personal contribution: my husband ensures our coffers are full of olive oil to last us throughout the year (we go through 150 kilos a year among five people), my kids often pick the oranges when they go with their dad to our orchards, I prepare the ladokouloura [olive oil cookie] dough, and my kids shape the cookies. This is one of the most family-oriented recipes from my kitchen.”