"... the Greek peasant's diet has changed little from antiquity, with its staples of beans, lentils and maize bread, cheese as the main protein source, plenty of fruit and vegetables in season, fish for coast and island-dwellers, and meat for special occasions, usually festivals in the Orthodox Church calendar."Note his use of the word 'peasant': I do not understand it condescendingly; rather, he is simply trying to describe the rural Greek of the time. (It is perhaps true that there are fewer peasants now in Greece than there were in the early '90s - there are now more ' provincials '.) Although he diesn't specifically mention this, I find that his references to 'the Greeks' describe those of us with regional loyalties, where the present urban lifestyle has not globalised our thinking very much:
"Economics matter a good deal. Greeks love to eat out and do so more often than most Europeans... But to afford to do so, a certain amount of simplicity is important, for the labour involved in some French cuisine would make prices prohibitive... Although Greeks know about haute cuisine, there is an inborn tendency to prepare their food in a few straightforward, well-known ways. Greeks understand that there are no short cuts with food, especially as far as freshness is concerned. This means that there is an enormous emphasis on food being eaten in season. This can involve a degree of monotony as those who have tired of Greek salad in the summer months well appreciate. But it does mean that the cuisine of the winter is quite different from that of summer."
Nowadays, of course, this has changed with the convenience food culture that Greece has embraced, but the economic crisis again makes Greeks turn back to old habits, for economic reasons. I would argue that rural Greeks ate and still eat in the way that Pettifer described in 1993. Between then and now, they were living in a fantasy world - the economic crisis has directed them back to their original sense.
Towards the end of the chapter, he makes two predictions
"What will not change is the Greek sense of food and drink as part of their sacred process of hospitality, ultimately a religious obligation, and the charm and dignity of that ritual."Despite the crisis, the television news reports that come out before a feast day always mention what is happening at the food markets; this is just as much true now as it was two decades ago. Greek food has always had a special place in Greek society, and this will probably continue. But it is doubtful, in the present harsh economic times, if:
"... [in] every Greek home today... on Easter Sunday, when the Orthodox believers break the Lenten fast, it is with mayeiritsa, made with the intestines of the milk-fed lamb that the family will roast the following morning."A few corners were cut last Easter. That doesn't mean that those Greeks who were used to eating mayeiritsa at midnight on Easter Sunday will now refrain from this custom (it's not actually a Cretan one): they're simply biding their time until things get better and they can afford their mayeiritsa once again.
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