Breaking bread with the Greeks
Thu, 10/03/2013 - 6:51pm admin
Gary W. Meyer
Breaking bread and splashing wine.
Add to it a sitdown dinner with vibrant vegetable salads just jumping onto your plate,
And spanakotiropita (a cheese and spinach pie), and moussaka, a wonderful offering of meat, vegetables and spices, wrapped in a blanket of phyllo pastry.
Sauteed eggplant was always present.
Pork meat balls, chicken in flavorful sauces. Thinking we needed more, a family provided a pork and potatoes pot roast.
To top it off, a wonderful assortment of cakes. Greeks love their sweets.
The wine, of course, is also from the backyard, vinted for daily and sharing occasions.
These were the treats our Inland Press Association delegation enjoyed on home visits to two Greek families during our recent work-study mission.
The evening dinner visits were clearly the highlight of our journey, when we had the opportunity to meet the Greeks, learn about their houses, their families- and hear their stories.
So - this offering is about food and friendship. We came home warmed by the experiences.
The Davos home, designed by the couple and constructed several years ago by Nikki, could win awards. Its furnishings included a bureau brought forth from several generations of family life. Its kitchen and dining room easily seated 16 of our travelers. And just as the moon broke over a mountain to the east, Nikki pulled open a large window to let shine in and on us.
Nikki smiled - it was a special effect saved for our table.
They talked about their home and the backyard, the staple it is to their lives and to their table.
And the economy? It was a question we asked of all.
Nikki hasn’t built a new home in two and a half years. He doesn’t see a bright future, either, as the country continues to muddle in a mess of self-imposed and inherited practices which have turned out poorly.
His wife, always smiling, noted her job as a radio broadcaster and news blog provides the income at present.
Towards the end of our trip, in a newly-remodeled home set at the foothills of the mountains in Meteora, in the town of Kastraki, pop. 2300, we met the Skotlatos family.
Hary, 44, his wife, Uruguayan-born Gabriella and two children, George, 17 and Katerina, eight, appeared to have cooked all day to feed our eight-some.
Again, there were vegetables and wine from the backyard. A special treat was a cold vegetable salad featuring cooked black-eyed peas. Again, cake, a chocolate bundt cake, topped things off.
Everyday seasonings include parsley, basil, oregano, mint and garlic - lots of garlic. Thought you’d like to know.
Hary, a crane operator by trade, noted the slowdown in work. Gabriela, certainly the shyer of the two, was a stay-at-home mom, attending to their three kids, who also included Philip, 13.
The family received the scare of their life earlier this year when George suffered major head injuries while driving the family car. He was treated for brain injuries at a hospital not far away and despite having his cranium taped up, has begun to attend school again.
Hary said his construction industry is off 35%, due to Greece’s economic troubles.
Major portions of the country are unemployed; the unemployment rate for the younger set is over 60%.
Government screwups have wasted away vast portions of the country’s social security deposits, which fund retirement and unemployment benefits, medical and education benefits.
And the headlines report more economic contraction - an expected another four percent in 2014.
What’s the country to do?
“We can’t get out,” Hary said of their 12-year membership in the European Union (EU), which has been prodding the country to keep tightening its economic belt.
The EU has put real clamps on the country, requiring it give up industries so as not to compete with those of more-established EU members.
Wine exports, shipbuilding, sugar, cement, steel, tobacco are among the sectors boycotted by the EU.
Not fair, I’d say. But they are among the many cards stacked against the people of this sun-splashed world on the Mediterranean.
But the smile on Hary’s face as he shared his home, his family and his food with travelers from afar, affirmed everything this night was just right.
(Next: Turkey and Greece, neighbors going in very different directions.)