Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tea for 200, olives for 2000

Mr Zeus calls me a monkey. He means it affectionately though and I can't really argue seeing as I enjoy mindless monkey-see-monkey-do tasks.

At the moment it is olive harvest season in Greece which means we have our work cut out for us. Most blocks of flats have a couple of olive trees growing outside which belong to the family that owns the flats. This year has been a bumper crop.

When you collect olives for oil, like I did last year, you basically bash at them with a kind of wide-tooth mini rake to untangle them off the branches, which was not all that tiring because it was just like my average hairwash, all that hacking and untangling and cramps in your arms.

Oil olives can get bashed to bits and it doesn't matter because they're going to get squashed into oil anyway. Table olives are a different matter and require collecting by hand to preserve their form. You can either do this by giving your trees a trim and collecting the olives off the fallen branches or make like a monkey and perch in the branches with a plastic bag slung over one wrist.

We've ended up with a lot of really nice, fat olives. And seeing as each day I have a few hours to kill before work, processing these thousands of olives is my happy task. I must wash them then make a slit in the side of each one, with a blade not a knife, then drop them in giant plastic vats of water where they will stew for a week or two before they get a water change and salt and vinegar pickling solution.

I quite enjoy the mindless repetition of the job. It takes my mind off things. For those of your who are curious, take it from me that there is no such thing as a fresh table olive. I didn’t believe Mr Zeus when he told me you had to pickle olives to eat them and boy did I learn my lesson when I took a bite out of an olive fresh off the tree.

At the moment I am sipping on a hot cup of ceylon tea which I bought from a Lebanese shop downtown after my own supply of cardamom flavoured tea ran dry. As I’m starting to get used to finer tastes in life, I’ve become snobbish about my tea after learning that teabags are made of what is basically the dust of tea leaves left at the bottom of the barrel.

“How ghastly!” I thought, and switched to whole leaf tea. I bought myself a kilo of Canary Island Birds Sri Lankan orange pekoe tea. A whole kilo. It was either the whole kilo or a tiny box that looked like it would last a week, they seem to have no in between. So pop around folks, I’ll put the kettle on and you can help me with my olives.

By the way if you don't have your own olive tree, I am told that the trees in the local squares don't belong to anyone, but don't take my word for that. You could always just relieve me of some of mine.


Διαγόρας said...

(-:= och, theez foReineRs, thEy nO nAthinG abAut Olivz...

seriously now, did you really manage to buy whole-leaf tea in Athens? Where? I'd really like to find some!

bollybutton said...

If you walk down Athinas street, going from Omonia towards Monastiraki and turn right into any of the streets after the vegetable market, most of those little cupboard/shops stock this tea. That's where all the foreigners go, because this type of tea is popular with the Arab, Turkish and Asian comminities.

And careful what you say about my xeni olive picking!

Διαγόρας said...

Thank you for your quick reply, Bollybutton!

Of course, I should have guessed, you would point me to that part of the town. I will give it a try when I get the chance.

I had also been meaning to go there to find real *hot* curry and also Ethiopian spices. (These guys really know how to give taste to their food!) I will, one of these days, I swear I will.

Rositta said...

That was a good lesson on olives, just in case I need to know he he...I too have some wonderful tea that friends brought us back fro Sri Lanka last spring and I'm hoarding it for myself, you know for those times when I really need it. It's lovely tea...ciao

AL said...

Hmm.... where have i been hiding, didn't know about this olive picking thing. We were given our own olive tree a few month back, and its barely 2 feet tall and still in its little pot.

Show us photos of your olives once they're ready.

itelli said...

I get in the same "trance" state when I do the dishes :)