Fresh Fig Cheesecake with Greek Yogurt, Almonds & Honey (& Greece for rent)

It’s hard to believe the changes that have taken place in Athens since my last visit in June.  The whole city is for rent, prices of soft commodities are 3 times what they are in other countries (6 organic eggs €4.60 versus €1.55 in Berlin).  Tax after tax is thought up and levied, the newest one – a 4 per square meter property tax paid yearly, if your flat is 100 sqm, you pay 400.  That is on top of car taxes, pool taxes, VAT of 23%.  I’m even at a loss for my fictitious “if I lived here, I would open a…” scenarios.  Right now, there is nothing I can imagine opening.  Sure, every other shop is for rent but let’s say I opened a cake shop, a Victoria Sponge would cost me about €8 euros to make, if I were to then apply the industry standard mark up of 3x, I would have to sell it for €24.I invited my girlfriends over for lunch, like I always do.  The mood was sober, these are young, talented, intelligent women who went to the same international school as I did.  They were not / are not trying to cheat the system, a simplistic retort that people like to throw around in tandem with “Well, whatchadya expect?”, but they don’t have a single opportunity.  To the point that one even closed her Etsy shop because she couldn’t afford to pay the taxes, on her Etsy shop!  The mind boggles.

In the once boisterous coffee shops, people talk in hushed voices, even the motorcycles are quieter, it’s eerie.  I find the Greeks themselves softer, like they’ve spent an extended period of time being rolled back and forth in the waves until their sharp edges have been filed down to smooth curves, like a sea glass you want to run your fingers over.It’s only at the beach that the mood lightens up.  Avlaki beach, the same beach I’ve been going to since I was a little girl.  With a mountain range that looks like a reclining dog, minus its head.  Not a thing has changed in 25 years (except for the prices and that people now smoke rollies instead of Marlboro or Camels), they still sell greasy cheese pies and Frappés so strong they give me heart palpitations.  There are fat, thick legged children building sand castles as best as they can with the impediment of arm floaties.  Whole families show up, grandmothers with epic breasts and backsides and, if they’ve survived 50 years of hen picking, their usually emaciated husbands, a few sprightly hairs dancing around on their otherwise bald heads.  This is the Greece I remember growing up in.

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Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers & Tomatoes (with a side of EasyJet rage)

I lost it the other day, totally and utterly, flushing hot with reduced hearing and tunnel vision – lost it.  Tra la la the Suzy has left the building.  It happened in the Speedy Boarding Easy Jet line.  Where else right?  I’d done it all: paid the fee to check in a suitcase; decanted my shampoo into teenie tiny bottles;  put those bottles in to a plastic bag; taken apart my bra to get at the wire that has the airport bouncers convinced I could detonate it.

I erroneously thought that by buying Speedy Boarding (more money spent), I can avoid the stampede.  Well, not really because Easy Jet is totally twisted, so what they do is the leave the gate blank until 20 minutes before the flight takes off.  Which means everyone pools in front of the monitor, necks craned waiting for the gate, standing of course because Schonefeld airport only has two seats.  If you are even 5 minutes late in noticing the gate, it’s over, you have to queue again! This time in an airless hallway, shuffling slowly in what is now the third line.    We are about the 10th in line, only because I blocked the stairwell as I was gingerly pushing Layla’s pram down step by step, with a whole plane load of people behind me groaning that I was going so slowly but never once offering to help. When a whole gaggle of over gelled, over accessorized Greek men looking like they are on their way to audition for a middle-aged boy band make their way into the Speedy Boarding queue.  Seeing a woman traveling with a child they opt to:

a. Help with the buggy

b. Play with the child

c. Cut in front of them

Yup.  C.  They picked C.  Silly fools that probably still live with their mother and drive tuned up Fiats but have Ferrari sunglasses. (Oh ya! I’m angry.  Pick up on the venom?)“Tell me,” I asked sarcastically “is your Speedy Boarding somehow superior to mine? Allowing you to cut in front?”  Dumb stares all round at what to do with the little woman with a pram who is antagonizing them.  “What do you do when you see an old lady struggling to cross the street?” I continued.  “Rob her?” Read more of this post

Dakos – Greek Bruschetta

Last weekend in Athens.  For lunch today I had dakos.  Dakos is a light meal that originates in Crete.  Good tomatoes are essential for this dish.  They need to be really fleshy on the inside, not all water and seeds.   

To serve two.  Take 3 medium to large tomatoes.  Remove the stem and then grate the tomatoes on the largest holes of a grater.  Discarding the skin.  At this point I find it helps to season the tomato pulp with some sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry), white pepper and salt.  

Turn your cold water tap on to a dribble and pass the rusks under the stream a couple of times.  Arrange three rusks per person on a plate.  Heap on the seasoned tomato pulp, followed by some grated feta (in Crete they would use aged myzithra), a liberal sprinkling of oregano and lastly a few good glugs of virgin olive oil.  It’s the only lunch I can imagine eating on a sweltering day (that or wedges of wonderful watermelon). 

I leave you with a picture of little L playing in the sea.  Tomorrow we are flying to Berlin, our new home, so this post is finally going to start living up to its name!  

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