Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
This Sunday, Kathimerini newspaper published their Gastronomos magazine with a Chinese cuisine theme in tribute to the Olympics and it turned out to be an absolute goldmine. Within its pages was a directory of shops selling otherwise hard to find ingredients like sauces, marinades, spices, all types of noodles and cooking equipment.
So, my little dumplings, here is that directory of shops selling Asian delights for your perusal:
ph: 210 62 06 008
Supplies several Chinese restaurants in Athens. Sells ingredients, cookbooks, equipment and frozen dim sum. Complies with local food safety standards.
Taste of Asia
ph: 210 89 82 253
Sells ingredients and equipment. In business for 17 years now.
ph: 210 52 26 677
General market selling everything including rice noodles in bulk or by the packet. The staff speak neither Greek nor English so if you don't know what something is, take a wild guess.
ph: 210 45 17 835
Big choice of cooking sauces, rice wine, ready made spring rolls and spring roll sheets.
ph: 210 98 48 795
Supplier to Chinese restaurants. Among its wares are ready made sauces, preserved vegetables, spring rolls and spring roll sheets.
ph: 210 77 96 766
The photograph accompanying the article about this market shows the owner, Fotis Blaxos, holding a durian. So if they sell durian, they must sell practically everything. Various types of noodles, sauces, ready dim sum and cooking utensils are also mentioned.
Thanopoulos, AB supermarket and Carrefour all carry selections of ingredients for Asian cooking. I get my coconut milk from AB.
Also worth checking out:
ph: 210 33 10 385
Japanese goodies, instant noodles and cooking ingredients.
For Indian food, go to any of the shops downtown near Omonio on Menandrou street. You can find everything there, including all the spices you need, seasonal Indian vegetables and 5 kg bags of basmati at really good prices. Sometimes they even have delicious freshly made samosas. Most Greeks don't like going there because on weekends throngs of South Asian men tend to gather outside the shops to hang out. Also drug pushers and prostitutes come and go, but I wouldn't call it unsafe. I've been there at various times of the day on my own and never had any trouble.
And there you have it! I'm hoping for some free time when I can go and check out these shops, maybe even find some of my favourite brands of Malaysian instant noodle. Yum yum!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Faked opening ceremony sequences, lessons in smiling, using cheer squad volunteers to pack out stadiums (this was really, really obvious to anyone watching any event), banning athletes from taking to the winner's podium with their national flags... what a pity.
Summer holidays are great but they have the unfortunate side effect of being the kiss of death for our plants. Every year without fail things go well until we go on holiday and then everything dies because no one waters them. This year I have managed to grow a flourishing Thai chilli plant, three plumerias and two lemongrass plants entirely from seed.
The lemongrass was a real headache to grow and only yielded two viable plants out of a packet of 50 seeds - the rest were far too delicate and gave up the ghost each time I transplanted them. Maybe they missed Asia. I know the feeling.
Anyway, if anything should happen to these particular plants that I have nourished from birth, I would be extremely upset. So I have to recruit someone to take charge of my most precious babies and ensure their survival for 8 days. Failing that, I wonder if I can take them with me to Crete?
Monday, August 11, 2008
The one element that I think let the ceremony down was the scores and scores of people. If you were in the Athens 2004 ceremony, there is a good chance you could spot yourself on screen at some point and say "Look! There I am!" No such chance in the Beijing ceremony, most of the people didn't even make it onto the screen and it's a pity because all of them worked so hard.
So kudos to Beijing who have raised the bar almost impossibly high for London 2012. I'm so curious to see what London will do. 1000 synchronised yobs fighting? 2000 drunk teenagers vomiting in time to music? The Olympic rings formed out of fish and chips? Alright, alright! Calm down I was only (half) joking.
Whatever it will be, I have lived in the UK for 10 years and watched them make disasters of events that should have been glorious. The words organise, piss up, brewery come to mind. Moments to note are the Millennium Dome and anything that involves "modernising" the tube system. Bring on 2012, I'll be standing in the sidelines and cringing. I hope I'll be proven wrong but the track record proves otherwise.
So as of late I am reliving all my fond memories of my volunteering days and plastered various Facebook group walls with messages of a Athens 2004 volunteer reunion down by Syntagma fountain on Friday night. I was there as was another volunteer friend, both of us dressed in our uniforms. We waited. Someone approached us but it was only a lost tourist. A lady approached the fountain wearing an Athens 2004 volunteer shirt, but she kept on walking. Either she had decided on some spontaneous reminiscing too or saw the two crazy eyed people waiting at the fountain and decided she didn't want any part of it. The clock ticked on, no one else came. So we went off and had a two-person cocktail party. Champagne cocktails, might I add.
Sadly, my splurge on Friday night moved onto scrounge on Saturday morning. I went downtown to kill some time and look at the sales, and just look I did. We are in the process of trying to build a place for us to live seeing as me and Mr Zeus no longer fit in this bachelor flat we call home. As the expense involved in such an endeavour even at the paperwork stage keeps adding up, it was look but don't buy for me. I whetted my appetite for meaningless consumerism by trying on clothes I liked and putting them all back again. Honestly, a nun in a room full of male Calvin Klein underwear models would display less self control than me.
I thought about the super-rich stratospheres of Athens where you can buy whatever you like and the stories Mr Zeus' niece tells me of the clients in the salon where she works, ladies who delight in the constant spending of their husbands' money to get EUR 1000+ hair extensions that only have to be taken out again after a month. Who has that kind of money? What do these people look like? I would soon find out.
I got to know a lady who is living and working in Athens for a few months with a big name company and we became friends. Said big name company has put her up in the Hilton for months on end and I finally got around to exercising my sycophantic muscles and dropped in for a visit on Saturday afternoon.
We hung out in the Executive lounge, in her Acropolis view executive room, the pool, the jacuzzi and the sauna. I had never been in a jacuzzi or a sauna before, the latter being akin to sitting in your car in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a Greek summer. It was great fun. The pool at the Hilton otherwise costs EUR 55 for mortals to use which is nuts when you have the sea for free so close by.
After cleaning up we next headed to the Galaxy Bar where my friend once spotted Billy Zane who she confirmed is hotter in real life. It was all so glamorous and there was me in the summer dress I had been wearing all day. Oh well, that soft lighting and a few drinks make anyone look good. I took a napkin to prove that I'd been there.
Now it's a sad and work-packed Monday morning and I have to console myself with my fun weekend, yesterday's summer shower and the glorious, the-gods-must-be-happy sunset that followed.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Last Friday night we were out with friends and I swiped an empty Ouzo Plomari bottle from the table. It was the perfect size for my piece of village so I washed it out several times and let it dry thoroughly to get rid of the ouzo smell.
Today I got round to digging out the bag and opened it to start transferring the earth into the bottle and give it pride of place on my mantle piece. As I undid the knots in the plastic bag I thought how special it was that the earth from my village was so fragrant. A little too fragrant. And to my utmost horror I realised that it was a bag of henna.
So what happened to my piece of village? I searched high and low, in the miscellaneous crap in the basement and in cupboards containing broken pieces of whatever just in case Elvis ever comes back from the dead. I searched in my waxing box and my unmentionable times box, I even searched in the bottom of my underwear drawer where I keep Especially Important Things. Nothing. No sign of it. The last time I remember seeing it was months ago when I did a big clean up. I know I wouldn't have consciously thrown it away so one of three things has happened:
1. I put it somewhere so safe that I can't find it now - happens a lot
2. It made its way into rubbish and got thrown out
3. Mr Zeus's mother threw it out on one of her clandestine cleaning trips when I'm out of the country.
I hope it’s scenario one but even if it got thrown away I can't be upset. If you came across a bag of dirt you'd toss it out too unless you knew what it was.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Ugly Betty was me at high school and through most of university. The bad hair, the awful clothes, even the glasses and the braces that were removed just short of my 20th birthday. Do you know what having braces at university makes you? A freak, that's what!
At high school I was so invisible there was many a time when I was sat in the room and someone would say "Where is Bollybutton?". I used to get hit in the head all the time with footballs and other sport paraphernali, usually followed by someone running up and saying "I'm soooo sorry! I didn't see you there!" Yeah I know, most people don't. Classmates would talk about how ugly I was while I was right there but that wasn't because they didn't see me, it was because they knew I was there. But never mind, that's the sort of thing that makes you try to wing it on personality because you know you can't make it using your looks.
So when I watch Ugly Betty I feel like wow, someone made a programme about people like me! The thing with ugly ducklings is that even if they stop being ugly ducklings; in their minds they still are. As a result of this they keep trying too hard, like Ugly Betty does.
I may have ditched the braces and frizzy hair and bad clothes, of which I was mercifully oblivious to just how bad they were, but if someone on the street makes a comment at me I'll still look around to see who it was directed at. Women know how to twist male attention to their advantage but I don't, it just makes me feel uncomfortable.
I still put my foot in it all the time, say the wrong things and bend over backwards trying to please people, although I did learn how to say no. I don't watch Ugly Betty thinking "My God, what a pushover." I think "Yeah, I know. I would have done exactly that too." Most of all, it makes you realise what an incredibly superficial thing looks are.
Ugly Betty in all its guises put the unspoken subculture of good hearted nerdy girls on TV and for that I love it! Now if they made an Old Betty, TV would start to look a lot more like real life than premayoung and permatanned.
Monday, August 04, 2008
So happy anniversary to me and Greece. It's been a fabulous four years and here's to many more.
I celebrated my general sense of wellbeing and joy of summer by making gazpacho last night. Now is the perfect time for gazpacho when the tomatoes are ripe and sweet because good tomatoes are the centre piece of gazpacho and without good tomatoes you might as well dye some bread and water pulp red, chill and serve. I don't even want to think about what gazpacho would taste like in the UK *shudder*. Those poor, deprived souls.
This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Moro.
Gazpacho for 2 greedy people:
3 large, ripe tomatoes
one small cucumber
one small green pepper
one tablespoon finely minced onion
a handful of stale bread, crusts removed and roughly crumbled
one clove of garlic
salt, pepper, red vinegar and olive oil
Roughly chop the tomatoes and cucumber. Seed and chop the green pepper. Grind the garlic to a paste with some salt.
Blend all the vegetables and bread together in a food processor. Pour into a sieve and mix around with a spoon to force the liquid through the sieve until the seeds and skins are left behind and almost dry. Stir in the garlic paste to the gazpacho gradually and taste as you go to make sure it doesn't get too garlicky. That can happen with fresh garlic, and it's the tomatoes that are the stars of the show. Everything else is the frame. Does anyone go to see the Mona Lisa and say "Nice painting, but the frame was truly spectacular."? So balance the flavours with the tomatoes at the front.
Add salt and pepper to taste and one and a half tablespoons of red vinegar or more if you want. Finish by adding 2 tablespoons of good olive oil. The olive oil we have is what most Greek families have, their own supply from trees that grow in their village. It's the fruitiest, freshest and most delicious olive oil you could ever hope to taste in your life and this is the olive oil that is the perfect finishing touch to gazpacho, like the lipstick on Marilyn Monroe.
Chill the gazpacho and it's ready to serve! Made with the right ingredients, it's so delicious and full of flavour it's almost overwhelming. Just a spoonful of it and your tongue is dancing with an explosion of summer. Mr Zeus said it was like drinking a summer salad. Just wonderful and perfect for lunch when it's so hot that you have no appetite.