Anniversaries, Celebrations, and a baby!

YES, we celebrated and dared to have a good time, despite the mounting fiscal problems of our country and the doom scenarios hovering over Greece’s economy. In case you haven’t heard, our small country single-handedly managed to de-stabilize the whole European Union! But life goes on, and I am sure the visitors who will come to Greece this year will have THE best time ever, and probably much more value for the money spent…

  Slide Show: Winter Celebrations!

But let’s start from the beginning:
When Lorenza – our cousin’s wife— told us the other day that her parents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, I actually blacked-out for a split second! And then I felt embarrassed… It was a few days after Aglaia and I had celebrated our 13 years of marriage… We were really proud we’d reached the low double-digits, but, oh boy, it felt so small and daunting compared to 60! Soon I came around, though: hey, it’s been 13 years — 24-hours a day, 7-days a week in the same house on our small island… And we’re still here, and we’re just fine! The laws of lifespan and physics might deny us 60 years of bliss, but, yes, right now we feel like we would reach that bench mark, if we could… So, we were happy to toast a glass of prosecco to our small but significant number with a few friends and family in our new kitchen!

It so happens that most of our family’s official excuses for a feast are concentrated around the Christmas/New Year period: beginning with Aglaia’s name-day, six days before Christmas. Traditionally in Greece only children’s birthdays are a big deal, while grownups celebrate their name-days, which are the days the Greek Orthodox church has dedicated to the saints or martyrs whose name a person has been given at Christening. Then came our wedding anniversary, on January 29, followed by Costas’ birthday, on February 3. And just as we thought that Easter would be our next occasion for a banquet, we received wonderful news that extended our feasting to Valentine’s day — which is not yet an official excuse for celebrations in Greece: Vicki  and David Snyder’s grandson was born at 5.57pm on February 14!

Many of you have had the joy of meeting our very best friends who split their year between Kea and Santa Fe, NM. We are thrilled to learn that Chace Wallace Snyder- Gerenski and his proud parents, Lucinda and Jamie, will join us and his grandparents on Kea, later in the summer!

Planning the menus for our consecutive winter celebrations, besides the ubiquitous wood-burning-oven-roasted kid, we served dishes that would showcase the products of our garden: an abundance of lettuce (romaine and frisée), radishes (both the sweet long kind, and the more spicy round variety), scallions and green garlic, plenty of extremely fragrant flat-leaf parsley, delicate chervil, cilantro, pungent fresh savory, thyme, and oregano. As an accompaniment to the radishes I prepared my mother’s rengosalata –a spread with smoked herring (kippers), scallions, lemon, and olive oil. I made the nettle soup with mushrooms and yogurt, and also invented an octopus terrine of sorts, inspired by the French Jambon Persillée: After boiling the octopus with thyme, bay leaves and savory, I cooked down its broth, added fresh garlic, a copious amount of chopped parsley, chervil, fruity olive oil and plenty of lemon juice and zest, plus a good pinch of hot Aleppo pepper and some unflavored gelatin. I made it on an impulse, as I often do, and it came out delicious! Next time I prepare it, though, I won’t leave the tentacles intact, but cut them up, so that the terrine slices will present more elegantly (I promise I will come up with the recipe soon).

From Margarita and Yannis, our neighbors in Otzias, we got two huge winter squashes –I think they werespaghetti squash. I baked the one, and the other I grated; I stored bags full of pumpkin flesh in the freezer, and also baked Costas’ favorite sweet, the Lesvos Pumpkin pie. With our plentiful crop of thick-skinned lemons from our two old trees, and the bitter oranges from the thriving, newly planted orange tree that decided to turn ‘wild,’ I made several batches of marmalades, some with more lemons, others with more Seville oranges, adding sweet skins from kumquats, another of our abundant crops. The two potted kumquat trees we have placed in the protected and sunny atrium, between the two wings of the house, give plenty of fruit from December up until late May. I use the decorative kumquats on cakes and creams, but also add them to our green salads, and I even concocted a savory topping for my winter flat bread with kumquats and pungent Metsovone — a smoked cheddar-like cheese.


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