Monday, 26 December 2016

There was too much food

of course. This always bothers me. Christmas with Middle Cat's Greek-Cypriot relatives always means too much food.
Middle Cat's late father-in-law ran a fish and chip shop. It was no ordinary fish and chip shop. It was known for the queue that literally stretched out the door and around the corner on Friday and Saturday nights. It wasn't far from the local "cop shop" and the presence of police made it a quiet, orderly queue - although there were sometimes grumbles that busy police were allowed to phone an order in and would then appear to "queue jump". They didn't actually do this. They would not have dared.
But the fish and chip shop is no longer owned by the family. The queues no longer stretch out the door. It hasn't stopped the family knowing about food and how to prepare it. There were oysters and prawns for those who wanted them. I do not like shellfish - or rather, shellfish does not like me. I avoid such things.... but there were plenty of olives and nuts and cheese...and the olives were good home-cured olives. 
The gathering moved on to turkey, pork and ham, roast potatoes and pumpkin (a family favourite), and green salad. I suppose some of it was "traditional".  There wasn't a carrot or sprout in sight.
Most plates were piled high and anything that went onto plates was eaten. Food is never wasted in that sense.
Then there was a break...a very long break. The room grew noisy with talk and laughter. Occasionally people went and collected another glass of ice-cold water. Those who drink alcohol had a glass - but no more. It was too hot for that even with the air-conditioning going inside. The room had too many people in it for that. 
Then the serious food business of the day began. There were three different sorts of Greek sweets put out on big - they had to be big - platters, there was strawberry cheesecake, jelly, the "honey crackles" Middle Cat insists on, tiny Christmas "puddings", and watermelon. There is always watermelon.
I looked at it all. I looked particularly at the baklava. Middle Cat's MIL gave me a lesson once in the art of making baklava. It was one of those things you don't forget. She didn't have a recipe. She didn't have the English to explain. The lesson was conducted in mime and in Cypriot-Greek. There were handfuls of this and that. The filo pastry was handled deftly. It had to be cut in a certain way - with a very sharp knife.
I have tried since. Her daughters have tried since. None of us can do it as well P.... did it.  There's an extra ingredient in there somewhere called "mother's love" I think.

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