Saturday, July 30, 2011



As a child I was intrigued by the intricate work... her crochet hook worked quickly, and seemingly with a rhythm of it's own. She seemed to barely look at her hands, all the while holding a conversation with one of her family or a friend who may be visiting. She used no patterns, and yet each piece seemed to be quite different from the last. While she was this engrossed, she always seemed so content, as if the repetition had a pulse of it's own, that calmed her.. gave her an escape from her daily chores.

To a small child, watching my Nona crochet was something magical. I longed to be able to create as she did, but I was told I was too little. I watched carefully as a ball of cotton thread became a doiley or perhaps a cloth for the tea tray. It was by her mother's side, as a child on Kythera, that my Nona leaned to crochet. Like so many Greek women, it was considered essential that she pass on the knowledge to her daughters so that they, too, could carry on the tradition of crocheting, and embroidering for their prika, which broadly speaking, means dowry or trousseau. I was too young to ask my grandmother what she had brought from Greece. I just knew that she had quite a collection of cloths and doileys, tablecloths and a few quilts, or paploma.

The women of the villages would often gather to exchange ideas and compare their handiwork, but mostly simply to enjoy each other's company as they worked. Some of the early quilts were filled with raw cotton. I don't know if my grandmother actually made her quilts, though she was adept at sewing and skilled at transforming old clothes into something useable. Often, quilts in Greece would be made by the village quilt maker, usually a male, who would be called to the house to assemble and quilt a bedcover for a newly engaged young girl. Though these quilts were always filled with cotton, I do recall one of my Nona's quilts being filled with feathers... it was so cosy and my brother and I loved to snuggle under it. Even more fun was to shake it to resettle the feathers... it made a lovely soft, whooshing sound as it fell back on the bed.

My grandmother was proud of the weaving that she had done as a young girl and it is only recently that I have been given a cotton rug that she had made. The colours are vibrant still and make me wonder how old she was... how long it took her to make.

I have a few other pieces of her work... such fine embroidery, intricate lace... was it from her I inherited my love of embroidery and the skills that led me to becoming an embroidery teacher for some years? As most Greek women didn't work outside the home, they took great pride in creating beautiful pieces for their home... practical, yes, but always created with such care. I love the traditional patterns used for generations, like the Greek key design. I'm fascinated by the depiction of ancient mythology on woven cotton bags, mostly in the beautiful blue and white that signifies Greek tradition. Many of the figures or emblems used in the embroidery can also be seen on urns or ceramics.

As I grew older, an Aunt taught me to crochet a little, though I never did achieve the elegant intricacies of my grandmother's work. She tatted, embroidered, wove, crocheted.. all with such finesse and all with such nimble fingers.

Crissouli (c) 2007


Round, plump, fragrant - begging to be squeezed and prodded... the market stalls beckon. I'm taken back.
 The stove has been burning for some time. There's a kettle to the side, ever ready and bubbling. It will be needed often today, for there are many hours to go.
 Buckets and boxes of plump red tomatoes await. Knives are sharpened, cutting boards scrubbed. The jars and bottles are sterilized, onions are peeled, as is the garlic. Small, white earthenware dishes hold the spices and all is ready - it's salsa day. My Aunt and my Grandmother work as a well organized team - no directions needed. They've done this many times before.
 I watch - waiting and learning. My job is to clear up after them, though I'm too small to go near the knives. Today, my Aunt has given me my favourite job. I get to strip the leaves from the basil that we picked fresh, earlier this morning. I love the clean fragrance that it allows to linger on my fingers. My Grandmother uses the same recipe that she and her mother used when she was a young girl on Kythera, passed from mother to daughter for generations. I can't help but wonder if each cook has added her own special touch or whether the recipe has actually changed over the years, for it remains unwritten, "kept in the heart" as my Aunt would say. My Grandmother doesn't talk as much about Kythera as my Grandfather did, but there's something about the routine of preparing food that encourages her to share. I'm like a little sponge, soaking up every word.

 I start to ask questions, I always have questions, but my Aunt shakes her head slightly, as if to say "just let her talk". My Grandmother's broken English fascinates me and I hang on every word as it follows it's own rhythm. She doesn't say much, just how important it is to use the freshest of ingredients. She is chopping and cutting, "just so, Crissouli" and every piece is the same size as the last. She tells us that her mother would have all pieces the same, so that the salsa would cook evenly. She says something in Greek which I don't understand and she and my Aunt laugh. No one explains, but I don't mind, for I know they are happy. The rhythm of the cutting occupies them both now, so much to do, and they are all but silent, just the continual soft chop of the knives against the boards and the kettle, bubbling and beckoning as it awaits it's call.
 The kitchen is large, far larger than ours, but there has been a big family growing up here, and they needed the room. It's spring time and a gentle breeze is playing with the white lace curtain, daring it to come out the window to play. The room is filled with all the promise of great meals ahead. As I watch the white lace, it reminds me of the copious amounts of icing sugar that the kourabiethes are drenched with. I can't decide whether that's my favourite cooking day, baking so many varieties of biscuits or whether I like it best when my Grandmother bakes baklava. To this day, my favourite spice is cinnamon... I use it in so many dishes. There was no bought pastry, my Grandmother made her own. I was allowed to help crush the nuts and sometimes to brush melted butter over the pastry sheets, urged to work quickly so the pastry wouldn't dry out. The sheets we weren't using were kept moist under a damp towel, " not too damp, just so " The crowning glory as it were, was to listen carefully as the hot syrup was poured over the crisp pastry... if you were very quiet, you could hear a gentle crackle. That was the sign of a good baklava. I could barely wait for it to cool.
 My Grandmother and my Aunts, also my Mother, made almost everything themselves, as many others did. There were shelves laden with homemade sauces, and pickles and chutneys. Olives were resting in brine and fruit was in tall jars, carefully sealed and looking so inviting. But it was the jams that always caught my eye, jars and jars of so many varieties, nearly all of the fruit was home grown, or from a relative's or friend's garden. Each of the jars proudly displayed their contents, the fruit within looked as if had been carefully arranged, piece by piece. There were silky smooth jams, but the most majestic were always the marmalades. Some had whole slices pressed up against the sides of the jars. Others had the peel in fine, long strips. They had all been cooked "just so", so the colours remained vibrant and tempting.
 As I wandered between the rows of heavily laden market stalls, revelling in the pleasure of choosing from the wonderful displays of fresh produce, my eye is taken by a snowy white cloth, stacked with jars of jams. It's a long time since I made jams...I'm easily tempted, as these days,
 "Grandma don't make marmalade".
 Crissouli (c) 2007

Thursday, July 28, 2011


One ANZAC Dawning

In the cold, clear dawn of an April morning, the world was all but silent,
for tears rolling down the older man's cheeks made no noise.
The two minutes silence ended, then the last post called across the
land, across the years.

A shuffle of feet, still no words. A shiver in the cold morn and he
clasped my hand...

"I was just 17... the same age as you are now girlie".

This was at my first dawn service with my beloved grandfather.
He hugged me, but offered no more words, and I had none to give
through a veil of tears.

We wandered away from the wreaths, moved through the small crowd
and went home. Then my grandfather left.

It was well into the evening before he returned,
with a wink and a laugh and a strong smell of beer.

I resented that then.

A while after, my family, with Pa in tow, visited the Australian War

There, my big strong Pa, cried like a he wandered around the
panorama of the villages of France where he had been. This was the only
time he actually talked in detail about his experiences, as he
recognised village after village.

While I was growing up, I always believed my grandfather was an ANZAC,
for he had led us to believe he was.We taught our children the story of
Gallipoli, it wasn't until I did the research that I found he wasn't. By
then he had lost the final battle. I guess he was in France, around the
same years and that was close enough. I've told the story before
about him winning a Military Medal for bravery under fire and rescuing
two others, also several mentioned in dispatches for similar feats, but
also a court martial, and being in the brig for assaulting his CO and
going AWOL with a young French girl... he was only 17...So, I guess we
can forgive him for misleading us, wrong though it was. These are the
stories he forgot to mention.

Crissouli (c)

 There is so much more to my grandfather's story.. I will add it to another post. 



4  tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons  sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1  egg
3 tablespoons milk
3  tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate  chips (optional)
A small splash of  vanilla extract
1 large coffee  mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients  to mug, and mix well.  Add the egg and mix  thoroughly.
      Pour  in the milk and oil and mix  well..    Add the  chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract,  and mix again.
Put your mug in the  microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000  watts.
     The cake will  rise over the top of the mug, but don't be  alarmed!
     Allow to cool a  little, and tip out onto a plate if  desired.
EAT ! (this can serve 2 if you want  to feel slightly more  virtuous).
 And why  is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the  world?
 Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or  night!
P.S. not sure about that much oil.. 


Monday, July 4, 2011


Three little girls were playing in the park
They played all through the morning

Until it was quite dark
They tossed a ball and skipped with ropes
And smelled the pretty flowers
They wandered through the gardens
For hours and hours and hours.
Then, right beside the roses they saw a pretty sight
A tiny, twinkling fairy all bathed in silvery light.

“Now that you have found me I simply have to say
 I must grant you three wishes, you must use them all today.”

The three little girls all clapped in great delight
They knew they had to hurry or soon it would be night.
One did wish for starlight to light the evening sky
Another asked for moonbeams to help her learn to fly
 But the third girl was quite saddened and didn’t want to say
 For she knew that when they used the wishes, the fairy would away.
         “I wish, I wish..” she stammered “I wish with all my might
I wish that you could stay with us right throughout the night"
Then they heard a tinkling, as the fairy flew away
And that is why you see the silvery moon, after every day.

Crissouli (c) 2008