Thursday, October 21, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

This post was written the day before yesterday.  I didn't post it because the three times I tried, the electricity went "poof!" and stayed off  until I'd shut down and unplugged everything computer, so I gave up.  Today seems to be working, so just imagine that it's two days ago, OK?

[or reading and writing by rechargeable flashlight]

"It was a dark and stormy night," I am currently writing on a yellow pad, trying to be erudite in the glow of three candles and a rechargeable (blue light) flashlight.

Yes, the power is off again, and my faithful companion (the dog, not T) is keeping me updated on the fluctuating shifts in barometric pressure.  Who knew Bernese dogs had a secret side as "weather canaries"???

So finally after much sighing and tossing and turning - the dog successfully managed by 5 AM to wake me up enough for me to decide to get out of bed, fix some tea and a piece of toast and settle down in the wing chair for a couple of chapters of my latest read (actually re-read). 

T got up shortly after I finished my toast.  Bleary eyed, he wondered what insomaniacal thing was keeping me up at this ungodly hour. 

she would really like to be much smaller
The dog backed out from under my chair, yawned and turned soulfully guilty eyes up at him. 

He sneered, (at me or the dog, I wasn't sure!) went off to make coffee and turned the TV on to check out the state of the world.

Just as he settled (fortunately WITH coffee), the power went off.  No blinking, no; nor half hearted flicker of maybe coming back, no.  Just off. Period.

So comes the long blind search for matches (that work!), to light the candles (which ARE everywhere, but really hard to see in the pitch black). 

The the job of lighting candles through the house is an art, so as to maximize being able to see as we wander though the house; and so to light the last one.  Usually, at which point, the power will come back just as we finish lighting the last candle. 

Cleverly, T filled the buckets, which lately we've been keeping outside by the kitchen door, for just such an occasion, with water from the swimming pool (ahem, for the bathrooms... to flush?)

[I can't tell you how useful we find owning a swimming pool!  Its versatility - apart from a fine place to swim and cool off on hot days- is only limited by imagination during power outages.]

Sitting, each with our respective hot drink and a cowering dog, in the study with the glow of the 3 candles and the one rechargeable flashlight,  T shook his head and morosely said, "I'll never have any confidence in electric cars".  I raised a questioning eyebrow, tho after these forty-gazillion years of marital bliss, early morning non sequiturs are standard from both of us.

"It's the rechargeable battery... you know, like the cellphones? only bigger!"

falling up the steps
"Ah," I said, "you mean it would be difficult to build in a big hand crank to get it up and going again to get you home should the car die on the road?"

He shook his head. 

"No, it's because rechargeable batteries always die eventually, and for things like cellphones and laptops, they're impossible to find  for that particular year or brand or they don't make them anyway, because it's not cost effective."

The last time we went looking for a battery for one of our cellphones, we were told it would just be cheaper to buy a new phone!

Potentially I suppose, T's right.  You could spend what you thought was a small fortune on an electric car, only to be told a couple of years later, when the battery died for good and no longer could keep a charge for longer than 22 minutes, that it would be cheaper to buy a new electric car!

Whenever there is a long power outage, I generally find myself in sympathy with T.  He has little confidence in technology.  He functions well enough in the 21 century and does email and finds things well enough on google, but he is deeply suspicious of these 'bright shiny' bits of tech.  He would never buy a new computer (he usually takes over my old ones with the outdated operating system,,,) and tolerates my passion for these "things", the way most men tolerate their wives passion for buying shoes, or salt and pepper shakers, or Troika glassware.

His life would never revolve around a computer or an I Phone, or for that matter ANY cellphone. (I have enough trouble getting him to remember to turn it on when he's off and about for the day doing errands!)

He just walked past the doorway with a cup of coffee in his hand and quizzically asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was writing a blog post.  He said "Hmm.  What are you going to do, mail it in?"

dawn, finally.
Years ago, (in that other life), one of his managers remarked that T's cellphone was never turned on!  He replied, "That's because my cellphone is for MY convenience, not yours."

Actually, he was right about the cellphones, maybe he's got a point about the electric cars!?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Olives: The Cure

Sounds like a disease (or a rock band)!  Actually it's more like tempering them from the hard, bitter, little, pit-filled, oil makers, into something you might put into a lovely glass of martini...

I'd like to say I meant to post this earlier, really! ---- good  excuse this time!--- because we've been in the middle of  rather amazing and, in a awesome way, lovely thunderstorms.  Normally that wouldn't be an issue, except here on Corfu it is.

tonight's sunset
We have managed to fry so many electronic items, as most of the other inhabitants of the island, that it's pretty much a dark joke amongst all and sundry.  First off our electricity comes into the house at supposedly 220 volts (in the US, it's 110 volts).  That apparently is the baseline, because when we had it checked back when we discovered nothing in the house was properly grounded (we kept getting nasty shocks just touching light switches, never mind loading the dishwasher!) our electrical guy told us that it was fluctuating but generally running pretty hot... WAY over 220 and in fact at one point it peaked at 260.

This doesn't mean that we're all about to die or anything, it just means that if you are an electrical appliance living in this house, you are living a very hard life and your lifespan could be shorter than appliances that, say, live in France or Denmark.

last evening.
Combine that with spectacular thunderstorms with chain lightening and incredible sky to ground, and sky to trees and of course sky to power line, flashes we have regularly and you're talking MAJOR power surges.

Usually though electronic death to computers and cordless phones, is because the surge fries computers and routers via the phone lines, I presume when the lightening hits telephone poles and lines.  (we ALWAYS remember to unplug the phone lines from the router box, as well as the regular plugs- now.  We've gone through three.  See? You CAN teach old dogs new tricks.)

Anyway, we've had the power off and on and off (and on and off and on) for the past two days as well as a few mighty "crack-BOOM" flashes to keep the dog awake (and her faithful companion- me) most of the night.  It rumbled and grumbled long past the gale force winds and violent rains.

Last night, as the power was skipping around, we decided to go into town for our annual McDonald's hamburger, only to be caught in a real misery of a downpour that included, on our way back home, a good piece of the road going out of town, near the airport, that was door deep in run off water!  (tres scary!)  I would have taken pictures but I was too busy helping T drive!

So.  On to the olive lecture... and the hypothetical curing of olives- which I will be planning to do for real this year, to go along with our wine, olive oil AND homemade vinegar (ah! but that's another post!!)

Here's a picture of the three sizes of olives we have.  (that is a one euro coin, which is a about the same diameter as a US quarter)

The smallest one is the wild olive (of which we have three trees)  The middle sized one is the one we mostly collect and make our olive oil from; and the big is a Kalamata and we've only just recently planted them (one).  We have also planted seven more trees that are more like the middle sized one, but it will be at least 10 more years before they'll be producing much of anything.

 I always thought when I read Lord of the Rings, that the Ents were related to the olive trees.

So.  For the curing of olive to turn them into those lovely plump and delicious additions to our diets, one must make a commitment of fresh water, salt, and most importantly: Time.

Gourmets from the Roman empire to the present day have valued the unripe fruit, steeped in brine, as challenging to the palate. The bitter juice deposited during pressing of the oil (called amurca), and the astringent leaves of the tree have many virtues attributed to them by ancient authors. Olive oil as a cooking medium emerged as an economical alternative to the butter and animal fats used elsewhere.

Olives are high in monounsaturated fat, iron, Vitamin E, and dietary fiber.

These are a few simple methods used in many Greek homes.

Water Curing "Smashed" or "Cracked" Olives
(recommended for large green olives)

Wash olives. With stone or mallet, crack the meat of the olive, taking care not to bruise the pit. Put the olives in a pan and cover with cold water for 6-8 days, changing the water twice a day, morning and evening, until the bitterness is gone (taste to test). When ready, fill the pan with brine * (about 1 part sea salt to 10 parts water) and lemon juice (about 1 part lemon juice to 10 parts water), transfer to jars if desired, and refrigerate for several hours before eating. **

Brine Curing
(recommended for black olives)

Wash olives. With a sharp knife, make a cut in the meat of the olive (top to bottom) without cutting the pit. In a pan, soak the olives in brine (1 part salt to 10 parts water). Make sure the olives are submerged (use something to weight them down) and cover. Cure the olives for 3 weeks, shaking the pan each day and changing the brine each week, then taste for bitterness (they could take up to 5-6 weeks depending on the olives). When they taste the way you want, place in jars with brine (1 part sea salt to 10 parts water), add 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and top with a layer of olive oil.

Dry (Salt) Curing
(recommended for large black olives)

Outdoors, in a basket, burlap bag, or wooden box lined with burlap (that allows air to circulate), layer olives with coarse sea salt (you'll need about 1 pound of salt for every 2 pounds of olives). Leave the olives outside (with plastic underneath to catch the juices that drain) for 3-4 weeks, shaking daily and adding a little more salt every 2-3 days. Taste for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). When no longer bitter, you can either shake off excess salt and keep them that way, or shake off the excess salt and dip them quickly in boiling water to get rid of the salt. They can be marinated for a few days in olive oil to regain plumpness (this type of curing will shrivel them), or just coated well with olive oil (using your hands) before eating.

Dry (Salt) Curing
(recommended for small black olives)

In glass jars, alternate layers of olives with coarse salt. Every day for 3 weeks, shake well and add more salt to absorb the juices. Test for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). Continue to cure if bitterness remains, otherwise, add warm water to cover and 4 tablespoons of good quality red wine vinegar, and top with a layer of olive oil. They will be ready to eat after 4-5 days.

Oil Curing

Cover in olive oil and leave them alone for several months. Test for taste.

Tips About Brine:

    * * The water/salt ratio is perfect when a raw egg floats in it.
    * ** For cracked olives, when they're ready to eat, transfer to a brine that's less salty to keep for long periods.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


"The whole Mediterranean, the sculpture, the palm, the gold beads, the bearded heroes, the wine, the ideas, the ships, the moonlight, the winged gorgons, the bronze men, the philosophers -all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent taste of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water."

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) 'Prospero's Cell' (1945)
It's almost that time of year, or I should say, every other year - for us anyway.  Soon we'll be laying out the nets, and getting in the supplies of bags and gathering up the odds and ends (sifting basket, rakes, gloves, ladders, as well as sticking plasters [band-aids] and Voltaren Gel) for olive picking.  T will have to mow the grass under the trees and we'll have to have at least a couple of dry days before we do all that. 

After our first olive harvest, which was surprisingly backbreaking, I remember we both looked at each other and said, "They don't charge enough for olive oil!!"  But then we did it again, because it was, after all, OUR olive oil.

We don't make a lot of oil.  We really only have four super productive trees and 11 trees that are young (we planted them a few years ago) or wild trees with small olives.  Still it's ample enough to last us for 2 years til the next harvest.  We have enough to give to friends and a little bit left over by the time the next harvest comes around.  I love the taste of our oil.  It's lush and green and tastes like Corfu.

The wild olive trees are good for oil, but the olives are so small they fall through the nets sometimes and they have to be hand sorted.

Each harvest has been better than the last one, and our oil from the year before last was incredible- when T brought it home we were a bit panicky as it was cloudy and bright green.  We thought we'd picked the olives too early... but then we tasted it and the oil was amazing.

It was our first year that we had the "cough", which is generally said, when you taste your oil and you swallow it and then you cough, it's going  to be a really good oil.

Our discovery meant that we decided to pick the olives earlier, when the olive press wasn't as busy, and also when the olives were still a little green (thereby getting less oil) BUT the oil we got was wonderful! 

Trial and error made us come to realize that we needed to plan ahead and get braced to pick the olives and get them into the olive press as soon as possible after they were picked.  Lying on top of each other in giant bags means they can get moldy, which makes for really awful oil.

Basically we have to check the weather forecast, make sure the neighborhood community olive press is up and running, and then pick the olives and bag them and get them to the press within 72 hours (ideally!).  Of course it's compounded by the fact that you have to have at least 450 Kilo's of olives or else they'll mix your olives together with somebody else's olives!  (NO-ooo!)


So, today's post is a bit of a gathering of odd facts and gentle fictions on olive oil...

The leafy branches of the olive tree - the olive leaf  as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace - were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures; some were even found in Tutankhamen's tomb. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves. Today, it is still used in many religious ceremonies.

Over the years, the olive has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, wealth, power and pureness. The olive tree and olives are mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, in both the New and Old Testaments. It is one of the first plants mentioned in the Bible, and one of the most significant. For example, it was an olive leaf that a dove brought back to Noah to demonstrate that the flood was over. The Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem is mentioned several times. The Allegory of the Olive Tree in chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, refers to the scattering and gathering of Israel. It compares the Israelites and gentiles to tame and wild olive trees. The olive tree itself, as well as olive oil and olives, play an important role in the Bible.

The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned seven times in the Quran, and the olive is praised as a precious fruit. In Chapter 24 Al-Nur: "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, the glass like a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, its oil all but giving off light even if no fire touches it. Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light whoever He wills and Allah makes metaphors for mankind and Allah has knowledge of all things." (Quran, 24:35). Olive tree and olive oil health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine. The Prophet Mohamed is reported to have said: "Take oil of olive and massage with it - it is a blessed tree" (Sunan al-Darimi, 69:103).

According to the 4th-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, the olive trees ordinarily attained an age of about 200 years. He mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis and it was still to be seen there in the second century AD.  When Pausanias  was shown it, ca 170 AD, he reported "Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down, but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits." 

Olive suckers sprout readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age.

Tradition points to the limestone hills of Attica as the seat of its first cultivation on the Hellenic peninsula. One Greek myth attributes the founding of Athens to an olive tree that sprung from barren rock at the bidding of Athena, during a competition with Poseidon as to who would be the protector of Athens. Herodotus also tells of the magic property of statues carved from olive wood. A sacred tree of the goddess long stood on the Acropolis, and, though destroyed in the Persian invasion, sprouted again from the root.

By the time of Solon the olive had spread so much that he found it necessary to enact laws to regulate the cultivation of the tree in Attica. From here it gradually spread to all the Athenian allies and tributary states. Phoenician vessels may have taken olive cuttings to the Ionian coast, where it abounded in the time of Thales; the olives of the Sporades, Rhodes and Crete perhaps had a similar origin. Samos, if we may judge from the epithet of Aeschylus, must have had the plant long before the Persian Wars.

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region and Western Asia, and spread to nearby countries from there. It is estimated the cultivation of olive trees began more than 7000 years ago. As far back as 3000 BC, olives were grown commercially in Crete; they may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan civilization. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health.

Olive cultivation is an important part of the Mediterranean economy. Oleoculture has been moving westward over the last three millennia, and today Spain is the world's largest producer of olives (36%) followed by Italy (25%) and Greece (18%), and world production had crossed 2,594,500 tonnes (2,859,900 short tons) in 2008.

The olive has also been planted in other regions such as Chile, Australia, and California; but the primary production is almost entirely around the Mediterranean.


Tomorrow, I'll be blogging about curing olives and what it takes...  [Salt, for instance, is good... also water- and of course Time...]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things to do on a rainy day... Carrot cupcakes?

Of course, sleeping late on a rainy autumn morning is an option when you are retired: IF you don't have to walk the very large dog, that is...  Balou yawns very loudly and grumbles under her breath, when we dawdle.  She also shakes her head and flaps her ears, until you yell at her to cut it out. (then she yawns loudly again and starts to "lick-slurp-smack, lick-slurp-smack" her front paws with concentration and a certain echoing in the hall, until she feels she's made her point or you've come into the hallway and snarled, "STOP that!".)

We are slaves to that animal, and she totally knows it!

So.  This was inspired today, by Cheryl of Rice, beans & pastichio..., who sent me a cute little "cupcake heart" (in that cheerful, charming way of hers) first thing this morning on Facebook.  I'd been thinking about making some cupcakes for a few days.

First I assembled the ingredients:

My Carrot Cake Cupcakes
which I am guessing could be everyones?

3 or 4 eggs
1 C sugar

1 C oil

2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon

2 C grated carrots
1 C grated apple
1/2 lemon
1/2 C (ish) pecans chopped
1 C raisins

pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Beat the oil (I used sunflower) and sugar together [careful it splashes] for about 2 minutes, add the eggs one at a time.  I used 4 eggs because they were pretty small eggs.

Sift the flour salt and cinnamon together and add to the liquid ingredients.

Stir in carrots, apple, pecans, and raisins.  (I used a large granny smith apple cored and cut up and pulsed it in a food processor til it was chopped but not mush.  I leave the skin on cause we like the texture and the flavor.  I used the juice of half the lemon on top of the apple and the carrot to keep them from turning color, and also for the flavor)

Then filled the little paper cupcake holders - I got the idea of using an ice cream scoop to fill the cups from watching the Barefoot Contessa's cooking program!

I baked them for 20 minutes in my fan assisted-oven.

Then cooled them on a wire rack.

I had some lemon buttercream (with cream cheese) frosting left over, a few orange and yellow sprinkles for the season and ta-da...

I would share them with you if I could figure out how to get them inside the laptop!!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Corfu Autumn (and what else we did in September)

autumn sunrise
As always, Corfu in the autumn is stunning.  The transition from summer to fall is complete. 

Still we have the warm days, but suddenly, a rumble and we have the odd thunderstorm... or two days of blustery winds and the surprise rain shower. 

morning light on the acacia tree
The nights are cooler and the days are shorter.

The light is different, and the clouds are spectacular.

It's my favorite time of year, because the sea is warm to swim in, the nights are cool to sleep, and the weather offers a bit of variety, instead of hot sunshine.

My enthusiasm for the time of year is no doubt passed along to our many friends and family, who come to visit.

Our "saint middle son" had planned to go to his cousin's Belgian wedding since it was announced last year.  He decided that he would roll in a vacation as well and, as the fares were good (and the charter flights from Corfu direct with no stop in Athens!!) he opted to sandwich the long weekend wedding between a nice comfy visit to Corfu and arrived on Friday the 3rd of September (oldest son's b'day!).

We all played golf together (he and his father, as well as one historic game with BOTH of his parents!).  We revisited and ate great meals at favorite restaurants, (and visited a few new ones), and  generally ranged between relaxing and playing, which was a luxury for all of us.  He was here for his father's b'day (September the 8th) and a good time was had by all!

Friends from England (who were on the island visiting other friends!) generously came and stayed at the house for five nights and took care of Balou and the cats, as we left for Brussels on Friday morning 10 September.

On our return from Brussels, we managed to cram in the last of the fun with a beach visit (and lobster lunch!) in Prasoudi, as well as a lovely sightseeing tour of the island and even a day's worth of boating - father and son bonding experience- to round off the "sms"s vacation. 

Needless to say, we dreaded the 'let-down' after he left on Friday morning (17 September). 


While "s-m-s" was here we decided to taste the wine that we'd bottled from last autumn.  We were all quite surprised that it was drinkable.  And even "quite good!" (- well that was from me, because I actually MADE it...)

So we managed to amuse ourselves Sunday, by distributing a bottle each of our homemade wine - made of course, with the able assistance of our wonderful neighbors- to our wonderful neighbors homes!

We went from neighbor's house to neighbor's house Sunday afternoon and passed along the fruits of our labor.

We came home slightly 'cheerful', (taste testing again and again...) and went to bed.  Monday morning we woke up feeling awful, but not from the wine: we both caught a cold and were down and out for a week!


However,  fate stepped in to lift our recovering spirits, and young friends from the US, in England for a wedding, sent me a message via email and facebook Tuesday (28 September) morning, wondering if we'd be up for some spontaneous houseguests!

They REALLY wanted to charter a sailboat and see some sunshine and Ionian Seas... only problem... they only had a few days... could it happen?  Of course!  

JetAir (or EasyJet, one of them...) arranged itself and we picked them up from the airport on Wednesday (29th September) morning!   They got a quick tour of Corfu town, then we drove to the marina.

They rented a car, and we had a lovely dinner in town. (wherein they snapped this fine - tho dark- picture of T and I, with their camera phone.)

Contacting some good friends of mine, we made an excellent connection and Thursday morning they were on the water in a lovey little sailboat for a reasonable price. (They are both fine sailors and own a sailboat in the States.)

On Friday they rented a power boat and toured the northern beaches of the island and on Saturday they drove all over the north west side of the island and got lost and found their way several times, generally enjoying the mini vacation to the max.

Of course "when it rains, it pours..."  Saturday we had committed ourselves to meeting the parents of a good friend of 'saint middle son' from High School.  They were arriving on a cruise ship and would only be here for the day.  They just wanted to "visit" and see how we managed to amuse ourselves. 

As I knew from previous experience, cruise ship passengers sign up for tours of the island (that of course includes a lot of photo opportunities!) and often a nice lunch with Corfiot specialties. 

So Friday I cooked up three special dishes, and had them all ready to finish cooking on Saturday.  Leftovers wouldn't be a problem as we had our two houseguests!! (conveniently solving what we'd do for dinner on Saturday night!)

Venetian Shipyards photo-op
We gave a wonderful whirlwind tour (with photo ops... AND shopping!) and then drove back home to lay on our lunch spread. 

We got them back to the ship in good time and a fine day was had by all. 

Dinner worked out perfectly, and our houseguests packed up their bags, sad to return but glad of the opportunity.

Sunday morning we dropped them off at the airport for a mid- morning flight, and we went to meet friends for lunch!


That take us up to 'Old Perithia', which is where we went after we dropped our guests off at the airport!! 

So.  This is how I explain not writing a blog post for the month of September...  I think I need to do less things so I can write more posts.

Or not...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brussels wedding and family gathering

Jenny's hitchhiker
Last summer my darling cousin Jenny (and her husband Benoit) came for a visit.  They did a lot of sightseeing and Benoit did some diving.  They really enjoyed meeting "grandson" and a good time was had by all.

She and her husband enjoyed their vacation here on Corfu, but it was to be their last summer on their own... they were anticipating the arrival of a new family member. 

With her brother's (my other cousin Jeremy) wedding taking place, our planned trip netted us both a family wedding, and we got a chance to meet the newest family member: Arsène.

 The civil ceremony in the town hall of Halle was lovely and the room was filled with well wishers from both sides of the new couple's family. 

The only minor glitch turned out to be that it was market day and the town square and streets leading up to it were all closed off for the market stalls.  Still it made for a charming crowd who spontaneously enjoyed the "show"!

My soon to be 90 years old aunt was in prime form and as she is dearly loved by all was in prime place.

My favorite part was after the ceremony, when were were all outside being arranged by the photographers, I noticed here was a small group of Japanese tourists who ended up taking many photos of the wedding party. 

It does give one pause to know you are featured in someone's vacation photo packet!!

The reception was in a lovely old 17 century farm near the city of Mons  (with cobblestone courtyard! excruciating on feet wearing high heels!) and beautiful buildings converted to serve the meal and have dancing and a nice party afterward.

I thought I'd include this photo of "saint middle son" as you can see the cobblestones we were all standing on for most of three hours!  There's a lovely little pond behind him and the building behind the pond was where the dinner and dancing took place.  This little farm had historically been on the road to Waterloo and over run by Napoleon and his troops.

The rest of our visit passed in a state of nostalgia for a beautiful and favorite city (Brussels)  and great food, wine and amazing beer.

Every time my cousin and I get together in Brussels we race around, dragging our spouses and whomever else is along, down all the same back streets and little places we used to visit as children. 

Some pictures of Brussels:  the Grand Place

The Grand Place
Fountains I have loved: 

[Particularly when i was a child!]   The Spitter (le Cracheur)

Manneken Pis (obvious?)

Side street views I have loved:

a juggler store?

Tintin (with Snowy) and Captain Haddock (I grew up with the little guy!)

Galeries Royale St. Hubert 

(first indoor shopping mall I ever knew...)

The amazing theatre of Toone :

which is a bit hard to explain as it's one family keeping alive an almost dead language- Bruxellois, which is  a charming patois spoken at one time by the inhabitants of the city of Brussels. Toone is a theatre of puppets, or marionettes and originally they performed plays only in Bruxellois.  There's a great deal of satire involved as well as clever interplays with words.  There's also almost always a healthy dose of self-mockery that goes as well.

Brussels at times, over the past thousand years,  has more like a small country between two others... the Flemish speaking people and the French speaking people of Belgium.  Bruxellois evolved to include both languages. 

Now for the food!

Moules in white wine sauce,

Frites- hot and crisp and homemade... (incredible seafood casserole in background)

Sole Meuniere perfectly prepared

 Croquettes crevettes (with little grey shrimp from the North Sea...)

so many other lovely things... desserts, hard rolls, cheeses... excellent wines, lovely dark and also blond beers...

and of course, the eight pounds I gained in four days.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm alive... and visiting Old Perithia!

hillsides of old Perithia covered with crocus

Yes.  Well.  What can I say.  The month of September just got away from me.  It slipped through my life like socks on a waxed floor, and the best I can do is tell you that I had a wonderful time of it!

Highlights include: "Saint Middle Son"'s visit; a trip to Brussels for a cousins wedding; (with concurrent visit/housesitting by charming Englilsh friends); delightful impromptu end of month American houseguests for sailing, and a delightful meeting, on purpose, with cruise ship passenger parents of son's dear friend for a day visit to Corfu (with lunch). 

Old Perithia
But I'm going to start with last weekend first... 

FINALLY, I visited old Perithia.   Friends invited us to lunch at Foros Taverna (along with a nice amble and a bit of "work" clipping and picking wild rose hips from the bushes along the high paths).

Tomas drawing in background
Tomas the proprietor is a wonderful host with a surprising talent: he draws a picture of the village on a business card while you are eating!! (his phone number and hours are on the back for reference.)

His food (well, his wife's food!) was wonderful and the five of us ate plates and plates of meze instead of ordering a traditional meal because it was all SO good.  For dessert he served us a delicious walnut cake which was incredible.[I hadn't realized he was "famous" as Rick Stein and Italian television has put him on the map- he is NOT a prima dona sort of guy- at all! Nor are his prices! Plus he loves dogs and told us Balou was always welcome...]

We decided to take the Balou along with us, because although she's large, she's so quiet and gentle and just so huggable, that we figured she'd be fine.  (and she was!)  She loved walking in the mountains smelling new smells and finding new brambles and weeds to get stuck in her fur (though I think she really enjoyed lying around under the table at the taverna best!) 

The weather was perfect and the company was totally enjoyable.

Old Perithia is the ruins of an absolutely lovely village high up in the mountain almost on level with Pantokrator [914 meters]   It was built in the 14th century as an escape from the two big annoyances of the times: pirates and malaria.  It's a perfect example of a traditional Corfiot inland village.   By the 20th century both annoyances had pretty much been cleared away, so everyone moved to their "other properties" near the sea, and "old" Perithia was born.

one of 8 (or 11)
In its hey-dey, old Perithia boasted a police station, a school, a court house and 8 (to 11- information varies!) churches- built by the individual families!- with over 1500 residents- many of whom where well off.

Now there are only a handful of people who remain all year.  Thankfully the great taverna owners (Tomas included!) are among the people who stay year-round!!

I'll include a few photos of the ride there...

looking towards Butrint (Albania)

You drive past Kassiopi and before you get to Acharavi you take the turn to Perithia, Old Perithia and Loutses.  [picture is of the delta where the sea used to wash right up to the edge of the ancient city of Butrint - a world heritage archaeological site in Albania.

The road winds up several switchbacks and takes you quite high up and deep into the center of Corfu.

So that's my lovely Corfu for now.  I will try and give you a bit more details on Brussels and saintly son's visit in my next post...

(not to mention at some point I'll have to give you the three incredible recipes I used to serve our visitors who came for lunch!  Three Corfiot specialties: Sofrito, Chicken Pastisada, and my favorite: "little shoes" or Papousakia....)


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