Here in Greece the 28th of October commemorates WWII. Surprisingly enough this date marks the beginning of the war, when a loud NO met the Italian ultimatum of surrender, rather than its end. Sentiment against the occupation was so strong the day was commemorated even during the war years. Nowadays, it is celebrated with a military march in Thessaloniki and many unofficial school parades. It’s a celebration and a reminder of bad times never to return and the hope that no one will have to face the hardship of war.
More on the historical facts can be found here:
For Greece, the worst of all the occupation’s repercussions was famine. The country suffered threefold under the Italians, Germans and Bulgarians which resulted in the country being divided into 3 zones. A poor country with insufficient food production even before the war, Greece was stripped of its tiny industrial infrastructure, blockaded by allies with no food coming in and occupying armies using up all they could find. The first harsh winter saw the death of 40,000 civilians in Athens and Piraeus alone. It came to be known as the great famine.
To this day grandmas still hoard food and soap for emergencies (or at least my grandmas do). Both of them were only girls during the war. As a girl, I remember being scolded for leaving my meals unfinished. “There was hardly anything when I was growing up and you are leaving such tasty food…”I couldn’t understand such scarcity or the feeling of going hungry. And I wish no one ever has to face it. This generation of grandmas and grandpas has taught us a lot when it comes to resourcefulness and self-sufficiency, especially in the kitchen and it’s a lesson we should always follow: Nothing should ever go to waste.
The crisis in Greece stirred memories of hardship and hunger during the Occupation. Journalists were quick to draw a parallel and people are defiant about how bad things have really turned out for many of us today. Eurostat statistics show 6.3 million people are hit by poverty. You can see more details in this article published by Kathimerini, about a month ago.
But I’d rather focus on the ingenuity and resourcefulness of cooks dealing with scarcity. Their philosophy can be contained in one big pot that feeds everyone and uses as few ingredients as possible. Especially when it comes to some traditional Greek dishes, simple ingredients are key because many of these recipes have been forged through hardship. So let’s explore one such earthly delight: pulses. We have a lot, and we eat them a lot, but perhaps you have not tried them in a tavern – they’re a little too homely and a little too humble.
So here comes fasolada, our national food!
- 250gr of beans
- 1 large tomato grated or 250 ml canned
- 1 tsp of concentrated tomato paste
- 4 medium stalks of celery
- 2-3 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
It is important to soak your beans overnight to soften them. The next day, boil for 20-30 minutes, until half done and discard the water.
Soften the chopped onion, celery and carrots in a pot, then you are ready to add the beans and water. Make sure your water fully covers the beans with a little extra on top. Your soup will be ready in 1 ½ to 2 hours. Although not a clear soup, it should not be very thick either.
Some fresh bread and feta cheese are a lovely side, so is smoked fish!