Sunday, 20 August 2017

Octopus's Garden

Text by Albena Shkodrova | Photographs by Anthony Georgieff   
You can't help being suspicious about the Greeks if you ever see how they treat their octopuses. The scenes of violence you can witness along the 16,000 kilometres of Greek coast are too shocking for people with a humane attitude to the animal world.
If you see fishermen battering the poor octopuses against the rocks - with all their might, 40 times in a row - there is just one way to forgive them: eat a piece of the victim.

There is hardly a nation in Europe to cook octopus as barbarically and yet as deliciously as the Greeks. There is a direct connection to the beating exercise. This is done for the meat to soften; otherwise it will be as tough as cow's hide. It has been said that some modern heretics have exchanged the distressing ritual for tumble-drying or deep-freezing, but both are disagreeable methods of affecting the octopus's cell structure.

Octopus is one of the most popular foods in Greece, where they cook it in over 100 ways: from sun-dried and then sprinkled with olive oil, vinegar, and marjoram to the "Christmas octopus" with cinnamon, sultanas, and apples.

No matter what dish they are planning to turn it into, the Greeks normally clean and boil it first. This is done even when they are about to grill it.

One of the more important late-autumn recipes is for octopus and white aubergine salad. The vegetables are cut in two, lengthwise, and then baked in an oven until they turn soft. Afterwards the seeds are removed to the advantage of the more fundamental ingredients in the meal.

The preparations should start a day earlier because the octopus, boiled and chopped into pieces, has to be marinated for 12 hours. Finally, it is mixed with half a cup of finely-cut onions and parsley, a red tomato cut into 2.5-centimetre cubes, and a pinch of the omnipresent Greek oregano. The mixture is then poured into the scooped-out aubergines.

You'd better dress it with some more olive oil because the rule of thumb in Greek cuisine is "keep everything well-oiled and every glass well-filled."



Curiosity Chest

Greece and Albania: In the Kingdom of Ali Pasha

While travelling through the Balkans, Morelle Smith gets to know the infamous Ali Pasha, the “Lion of Ioannina.” First through the eyes of nineteenth-century writer Dora d'Istria and then through the impressive architectural heritage he left in Albania and Northern Greece. And she falls for his charms. And how could she not, knowing how fiercely Ali Pasha treated the women who turned him down? Full Story

Useful Reads

In Sfakia: Passing Time in the Wilds of Crete (2008) | By Peter Trudgill

Crete has long been acknowledged as one of the most singular and unique parts of Greece. Its people keep a fierce hold on their traditions, customs and history. Practically a country of its own, this vast island looms over all others in Greece. Nevertheless, as In Sfakia author Peter Trudgill aptly notes in his preface, “some parts of Crete are more special than others, and Sfakia, on the remote south coast, is certainly one of those.” Full Story


Unbearable Nostalgia, After Theo Angelopoulos

Eleni Karaindrou | Elegy of the Uprooting |Crammed/Dyukyan Meloman, 2006
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