Greece - because of love: visiting twenty women

"Every moment with good people and good food makes you live a day longer," says Maria, tavern owner in Kastri.

Greece - because of love: visiting twenty women

"Every moment with good people and good food makes you live a day longer," says Maria, tavern owner in Kastri. She has never left Greece. Others like Koula have gone and come back once. Monica and Latifa came to stay a long time ago.

I'm seized with lust. Impetuous, unexpected. I sit comfortably on the terrace and read, in the shade of a large parasol, because too much sun and heat is not my thing. Not so easy these days in Brandenburg. Now, after thunderstorms and downpours, flora and fauna are back to normal, and so am I.

Nonetheless, I'm intrigued. long-distance. wanderlust. Holiday desire ... there are so many desires. Before I get from the hundredth to the thousandth here, I'll tell you who got the ball rolling or provoked me to dreams of lust. It's a book. Blue White. No, not Bavaria, although well worth the trip (even for Prussia). There are a few more lemons and olives on the cover...naaa? That's right: Greece!

And, as is usually the case, it's a cookbook that grabbed me and which I believe won't let go of you either. It's again one of those "actual cookbooks" that I love so much because they're not just cookbooks, but also travel guides, advisors, illustrated books and offer much more than recipes and food photos. Elissavet Patrikiou wrote such a book about the journey to the recipes and stories of her homeland. What might surprise many who immediately think of souvlaki, gyros and lamb knuckles when they think of Greek cuisine: "Greece vegetarian" is the name of Elissavet's book. The myth of the meat-heavy Greek cuisine persists in this country, although the Greeks have centuries of experience with a vegetable-based diet.

Greek cuisine is far more varied than its reputation and often far removed from what we get on our plates "at the Greeks" around the corner. The Mediterranean diet, which is praised worldwide, is mainly at home among the Hellenes, and is also known from Italy, Spain, southern France, Israel and North Africa. It is characterized by lots of fresh vegetables, salads, olive oil as the main fat, fruit, nuts, herbs and spices. Fish is eaten a lot, less potatoes and eggs, rarely red meat. And what about the famous Greek wine? Yes, people like to drink wine. In moderation, not in bulk. And not to be underestimated: There are no industrially prepared dishes, the meals are freshly prepared from seasonal ingredients.

We often hear and read the terms "Mediterranean diet", "Mediterranean diet" or "Cretan diet". However, the Mediterranean diet is more of a traditional diet, not a diet that you try out for a few weeks. Even more: It is the original way of life in the Mediterranean countries, even if nowadays a certain "softening process" cannot be denied. What a pity! That's why it's good that there are books like "Vegetarian Greece". The book by Elissavet Patrikiou was published by Gräfe und Unzer. Incidentally, the publishing house is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. What began in 1722 as a bookstore in the East Prussian town of Königsberg (today Kaliningrad) is three centuries later (based in Munich) the market leader in the advice sector. Congratulations!

Studies in the 1950s showed that the people on the Greek island of Crete had the longest life expectancy and the lowest rate of cardiovascular diseases compared to other European countries and the USA. Scientists got to the bottom of the "secret": Nothing else than the diet already described is behind the robust health of the Cretans. It is said that vegetable consumption there is about three times higher than in the rest of Europe. This is also reflected in Elissavet's book.

The native of Hamburg has been working as a photographer and author for over 25 years and has already received several awards. "I love people and I love good food!" – that is her credo. Because of this love, she made her way from Hamburg to her "other homeland" (you never really walk quite that far) to show us Crete's healthy vegetable cuisine: "This book has long been a wish and a big concern of me." In the book she is a guest of old and young women in their taverns and cafés - and takes us with her.

"In this book, only women cook, strong women from different generations and all with a lot of life. They not only opened the door to their kitchens for me, but also their hearts. We cooked and ate together, some encounters were longer, others only for an intense moment. But they all had one thing in common: They touched me. And I learned a lot from the people, from the very traditional Greek food culture, which has almost been forgotten, but also from completely new ways. And that's exactly what I would like to share here, with all the pictures, stories and recipes," writes Elissavet Patrikiou. Beautiful photos show Vivi, Magda, Koula and all the others at work, in their favorite places. And they tell us a plethora of authentic recipes from soups to desserts, which even the inexperienced can easily manage.

It is difficult for me to choose which of the women and which of the recipes I could present to you here and I turn to Elissavet for help. "It's sooo hard for me," moans Eli too. "I like everyone, in their very own way - as a person and with the food, also depending on the mood. But Katharina is really great because she presents a very old, originally Cretan dish that has been forgotten. So simple , fewer ingredients is almost impossible - and yet, due to her way of preparation, a whole new taste experience! And as a contrast to that maybe Ziza, she has one of the best vegan restaurants I've ever been in. And her recipes mix the traditional with the modern, the new ... Oh yes – and I love Anna so much too: The 'angel' of Matala, that's what she really is!"

Visiting Katharina: "As soon as visitors come through the old wooden door - no matter how spontaneous they are - the first thing that comes to the table is good food. Whether you're hungry or not. Katharina loves to make Magiri, a traditional meal not many people know these days. But for them, these little noodles are a big piece of home. They bring back memories, of which Katharina, at the age of over 80, has many and which she is happy to share - not only in the form of stories for her Soul, there is always something for the stomach," writes Elissavet about Katharina. "When you watch and listen to Katharina, you think: Yes, this woman is like those pieces of dough in Magiri food, the nice and crispy ones that are tough, and the buttery ones that you have to be very careful with. Especially the contrast makes them very special. And together on a plate they are a perfect dish."

You always have the ingredients for pasta dough in the pantry – flour, salt and olive oil. The secret of this dish lies in the unusual combination of boiled and crispy fried noodles.

Preparation: 1 hour; Cooking: 20 mins: In a large bowl, mix the flour with 1 pinch of salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the olive oil and 100 ml water. Knead everything with your hands to form a smooth dough, gradually adding approx. 100 ml of water.

Form the dough into a ball and cover with cling film and leave to rest for approx. 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the worktop with some flour. Halve the dough and roll out the halves one after the other into approx. 2 mm thin rectangles. Using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel, first cut the sheets of dough lengthways and then crossways into strips approx. 2.5 cm wide, resulting in 2.5 × 2.5 cm squares.

Sprinkle the noodles with a little flour and, if necessary, pull into shape so that they don't stick together.

In a large saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Cook half of the pasta in salted water for approx. 3 minutes until al dente. Fry the remaining half in the oil until golden brown, turning occasionally.

Drain the cooked noodles in a sieve, collecting approx. 100 ml of the cooking water. Add the noodles with the cooking water to the fried noodles and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Finely grate the cheese. Place the magiri in deep plates, pour some stock over them and sprinkle with cheese.

The Magiri always taste different when you sprinkle them with different types of cheese - according to your personal taste.

Visiting Ziza: Ziza cooks and lives vegan out of conviction, but she can't and doesn't want to force that on anyone, as she says. "My family, my husband and my children eat meat, but much less than before. I am much more convincing when I set an example, more than with reproaches and constraints. Being free to think and act is one of the most important things for me Things. And everyone should and can be and live as they want." When Eli asks what else she wants out of life, Ziza replies: "Wishes - let me think... For me, life is like jumping into the sea very early in the morning. Sometimes a big, ice-cold wave catches you, other times you don't just relax and drift completely one with the sea. You never know what's coming. And that's a good thing. I let myself be surprised."

You can never have enough of these crackers in stock. They are a healthy snack between meals, but they also go well with soups and stews.

Preparation: 15 mins; rest: 20 min; Bake: 1 hour; Cooling: 30 min.: Mix all ingredients (chili flakes to taste) in a bowl and stir in 130 ml water. Leave the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 110°. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the seed mixture evenly over it with a spatula.

Place another sheet of baking paper on top and roll out the mass with a rolling pin to a thickness of approx. 2 mm. Remove the top parchment paper and bake the mixture in the oven (middle) for approx. 1 hour until light brown and slightly crispy (it will be even crispier after it has cooled down).

Allow the cracker plate to cool down in the open oven for approx. 30 minutes. Then break into pieces with your hands and store in an airtight container. Shelf life: approx. 2 weeks.

With oregano or rosemary instead of thyme, you can always give the crackers a different flavor. You can also season them with sea salt if you like.

Visiting Anna: "Coming up the stairs from the sea, Anna's warm smile greets you - as she stands up there in front of the infinitely blue sky - and it is clear: if there is an angel from Matala, then he is standing straight here in front of me," writes Elissavet Patrikiou. "That's probably the most apt description of Anna: a proud woman who shines, inside and out. You immediately feel her connection to this place, the terrace is her living room. So many details are connected to Anna's stories." The tiny town of Matala is famous for its Neolithic cave dwellings - but the flower children have made it even better known: In the 1960s, hippies from all over the world settled in the Stone Age caves, including many young Americans who did not want to go to war in Vietnam. The slogan "Today is life, tomorrow never comes!" still stands on the rocks above the sea. (Young Anastasia, who, like Anna, is from Matala, talks about this in another chapter of the book.) "Nothing could make me leave here," says Anna.

Moussaka is one of the most famous Greek dishes in the world. Since Anna is almost vegetarian, she loves this meatless version with walnuts, which harmonize wonderfully with the creamy béchamel sauce.

Preparation: 1 hour; Bake: 50 mins: For the vegetables, wash the potatoes and place in a saucepan with 1 tsp salt, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes until soft, then drain, rinse in cold water, peel and cut into 1 cm thick slices.

In the meantime, clean and wash the aubergines and cut them into 5 mm thick slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt on both sides and leave to stand on kitchen paper for 20 minutes.

Score the tomatoes crosswise and briefly dip them in hot water. Peel off the skin and cut the flesh into small pieces, removing the stalks. Peel onion and garlic and chop finely. Heat 6 tbsp olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion briefly. Add the garlic, tomatoes and cinnamon powder, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the aubergines in batches until golden brown. Season with pepper and drain on kitchen paper.

For the béchamel sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan. Briefly sauté the flour while stirring. Gradually stir the milk into the roux with a whisk, so that no lumps form. Let the sauce simmer until creamy for about 5 minutes while stirring and remove from the stovetop. Whisk the eggs, stir in 5 tablespoons of the sauce and whisk the mixture into the remaining sauce. Season the béchamel sauce with salt.

Preheat the oven to 180°. Grease the mold with olive oil. Roughly chop the walnut kernels. Finely grate the cheese.

Line the bottom of the dish with half the aubergines and sprinkle with half the walnuts. Drizzle with half of the tomato sauce and top with half of the potatoes. Repeat these layers with the remaining ingredients.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the casserole and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake the moussaka in the oven (middle) for approx. 50 minutes until golden brown. If the surface gets too dark, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Many residents of Germany have Greek roots - those living in Greece sometimes have roots in Germany and elsewhere, have immigrated from all parts of the world. Of the 20 women in Eli's book alone, three have no Greek roots: when Monica landed on Mykonos from Tasmania, she met her Cretan husband. Latifa, born in Morocco, met her husband in Paris, of course a Cretan. Ziza, born and raised in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, vacationed in Crete over 20 years ago - and stayed. It also works like this: The woman with the delightful name Emorfili ("beautiful kiss") and Elli have Greek roots, but grew up in other countries: Emorfili in Armenia and Elli in Germany (Cologne). Today they are back at home in Crete, just like Koula, who was the only one of ten siblings to leave Greece and come to Canada. Still others have never left their homeland. And all because of love!

Perhaps you are now also gripped by the desire to travel – perhaps to Greece? Elissavet Patrikious' book inspires plenty of anticipation; Heidi Driesner wishes you lots of fun.

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