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The Cretan rusk

December 9, 2011

Lunch is served!

This is my first ‘go’ at writing on the blog.  I have been sitting out on our veranda, building up a suntan over the last two days.  While this has been wonderful for me, I am aware that the weather has been grim in Scotland and hope it has now improved a bit.

I have also been learning a bit about Cretan food.  When on holiday here in the past, I have rarely cooked and always eaten in the local tavernas. But many tavernas are closed due to the time of the year and it is clear that the priority at present is picking olives rather than pandering to the tourist. All round about us the olives are being brushed off trees onto green matting and then being blown into piles.  So we went to Foutini’s supermarket, buying her local oil and homemade wine as well as picking up our Christmas cards.  But there were limited vegetables and meat so we decided to venture into Ierapetra to see what was available there.

Ierapetra is described in the tourist guides as not very pretty and hardly worth a stop.  But yesterday when the sun was shining and we were sitting in a cafe overlooking the blue sea I felt that it was not a fair comment.  And we found a great fruit and vegetable shop.  Going into shops is a bit stressful as our understanding of Greek is not great as yet.  But we were greeted by a friendly young woman who immediately helped us in the nicest possible way to make decisions.  So when I picked up onions, she pointed to some smaller ones, told me they were better and they were Cretan.  The same happened with the carrots and the ones she pointed out were also from her family farm.  We bought tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, beans and courgettes, all the time chatting to the young woman.  We told her we found the weather warm.  She indicated that she was wearing several layers because it was cold to her!  

We had bought everything on our list.  But she had one more thing in store for us – an introduction to the Cretan rusk.  She talked about a Cretan delicacy and supported by a young man who may have been her brother, she showed us this hard roll which she took from a large packet.  Then she told us how you ate it.  You cut it in half, you added some olive oil and then you put tomatoes and olives on the top.  And she brought out the oil, cut up the tomato and put an olive on the top.  And then we ate it in the shop.  The olives were the most wonderful I have ever tasted and the tastes of what I now know is a Cretan rusk were delicious.  And all we had gone in for was to buy some vegetables.  Her friendliness and enthusiasm for Cretan dishes and produce was a joy.

When I got back to our cottage John tried his hand at a Cretan rusk (see the attached photo).  It was delicious. I took out my book on Cretan cookery, which John’s cousin, Liz, gave us years ago.  I had looked at the recipies in the past but never made anything from it.  And I read all about the Cretan rusk  and found out how it is made.  And then I read about how good the Cretan diet is because it is based on olive oil ( they eat three times as much fat as the Americans but olive oil is better for you than animal fats or seed oils), a small amount of meat and fish , loads of bread, fruit, vegetables and pulses  and best of all wine with the food.  But apparently the wine is only good if you drink it with companions.  So it is good that Rosie is arriving next week because if John and I are not speaking by then (unlikely but always a possibility!), her presence will mean I can still drink the wine!

So my chicken casserole with the tomatoes and the beans has been put in the oven and that bottle of retsina is about to be opened.  I don’t know the Greek word for ‘Cheers’ yet.  Sorry too busy drinking it.



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  1. Auriol permalink

    Mouth watering! Very envious.
    May I suggest you use the Translate facility, top left menu in Google. I found it a saving grace in Angola as my Portuguese is non-existent. You simply write you statement or question in the google bar and it automatically translates it into Greek. Cheers! is εβίβα. You can ask it to say it out loud too. Nifty hey?

  2. Mairi Marlborough permalink

    Sheila – this is fab – fairly cheered me up on this icy night as I sit writing Christmas cards huddled by the fire. Hosting drinks tomorrow night for Linda’s 60th birthday before we go out for a birthday meal with her so we’ll drink a toast to her on your behalf. Keep eating the rusks! Mairi x

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