Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Melting Pot

You gotta love this country!  And I, sure as heck, love the part of the country that I'm in...which is Northern California.

Apart from the temperate climate, in general (though we had the rainiest June since the 1860s and the temperature decided to jump to 95 instead of the usual 82), we're surrounded by the Sierra foothills and the mountainous coastal ranges, and the bay lowlands, which keep us cool in the evenings and, for some reason I don't really understand, virtually bug free.  No droning gnats, flies or mosquitoes to distract from the comfort of the cool summer and fall evenings.  And the low humidity means we don't need air conditioning, either and can enjoy the quiet of cross ventilation with open windows.

Maybe because of the climate, there's a relatively large and active Greek population, and that means, every summer we get to enjoy Greek Festivals.  Those that know my background, know that I hearken back to my education in Classical Archaeology and the many trips I took to Greece, including a six week stay in Athens, exploring the Acropolis, traveling out to Delphi, Mycenae and Corinth and a week on the island of Paros, when I was an impressionable seventeen, attending a study abroad program, before going off to college.

I love the culture, the architecture, the history, the language, the people...and the food!  That, of course, is why I love Greek festivals.  I get to show off the few phrases in Greek that I can rattle off, causing friends to mutter to my wife, "Why does your husband know Greek?"  But I get to lead us around, trying the dolmades, spanakopitas, pastitsio, souvlaki, gyros and Greek salads, stuffed with kalamata olives and feta cheese.

When I was younger, in Greece, there was Ouzo, Mythos beer, Retsina and Domestica, if you wanted wine in a bottle.  Now, the choices are so numerous in bottled exports, both beer and wine, I won't even begin to go into them here.  But suffice it to say, if the Greeks spend more time cultivating and exporting their newest beverage products, they won't have to worry too much about their austerity measures!

The sites and smells of the festivals are unparalleled.  Our local festival is held at an Orthodox church and tents are set up everywhere selling T-shirts, cook books and trinkets, before you turn the corner to the bazaar of spit-roasting lamb, pita bread, sausage, and the essential baked goods of baklava, dripping with honey, or our personal favorite, loukoumades; honey dipped puff pastries.  (My wife and I like these so much, that on our last Mediterranean cruise a few years ago, we walked what seemed an eternity, on Crete, searching for, what we thought, was a pastry as common as donuts are to us, here.  Not so.  Apparently, it's a specialty of only a few places, either because it's too much of a mess to make, too common for the locals to eat, or a lost art.  Take your pick.)

Regardless, after two or three hours of stuffing ourselves on tasty treats of all varieties and sampling as many wares as we could, while watching traditional dance to balalaika bands, we purchase a cook book and meander homeward, with the sweet taste of honey still on our tongues and the memory of the sky blue Mediterranean in our thoughts.  


1 comment:

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