Wednesday 18 May 2011

SOLE for the soul


There's more to eating locally than you think.

I'm here in Greece. Specifically in Mykonos. More specifically in Psarou Beach.

Psarou Beach looks like this:

Which is what most people think Greece and its Islands look like. And it does. I know this, I took the bloody photo. But this isn't all.

Greece is a bloody hard, rocky, barren, goddamn difficult palce to eek out a living. Moreso now with the oft-reported and usually over-hyped "Greek-led second wave GFC"

Behind the glam and the night life and the minor celebs and the dancing all night and the naked lovelies adorning the beaces, is the harsh, sun baked reality of Greece.

Quite literally like this:

All that grey 'stuff' behind the azure-blue-and-white Cycladic architecture is where the locals ply their farming trades. And it's bare, sun-baked rock. 

So. to Cavo Psarou.

It's owned by friends of mine, I will admit that up and foremost. Cos and Petroula have run the family-owned resto since 1993. It's been in Petroula's family since the 50's.

Cos and Pet have a severely physically disabled son, and the only access they can get to appropriate and reasonable health care for him, is in Athens.

So every Tuesday morning, Petroula and her son fly to Athens for 4 days a week, for him to get therapy. It's difficult, and it's costly.

Costas and their daughter stay and run the restaurant. And every day, they watch ships and planes fly in crates of caviar and sushi for the endless appetites of those frequenting more "known" venues.

Petroula hasn't the faintest idea what sushi is. She learnt to cook as a child, and then started working in the kitchen of Cavo when she was 15. Her food, and that of the restaruant reflects all that is SOLE. Apart from the very basics of flour, sugar, salt and a few other 'bits', every single thing you eat at Cavo is grown on the family farm at Drafilki. The lamb, goat, most of the beef, the vegetables, the olives, the olive oil, the oregano, the beans, the sweet baby zuccini's. The whole freaking lot.

And it's all grown without pesticides, because they just can't afford them. Like farmers in PNG, 'organic' is a term that is unknown amongst locals here.. it's just food.. As Mani says "why you put chemicals on things that just grow?'

And they reap all of the above out of the rocky, thankless soil of the hinterland of Mykonos, far away from the wanker-azzi oonce-ooncing down on the sunlounges, hoping for a glimpse of Adnan Khashoggi's grandaughter.

They serve:

Chicken souvlaki, on home-made pita, with kale and garlic, and beans in tomato sauce.

Greek salad, with all the ingredeints, including the fetta AND the oregano that adorns it, from the farm. The sparking mineral water is from a small supplier in Athens.

local octopodi, pickled in their olive oil, with bread from a bakery in Mykonos town, and beer from Athen's first (and currently, only) microbrewery.

And as I sat there, yesterday, soaking up the sun that is as heavy and thick as honey, I saw at least half-a-dozen tourist walk in and order cheeseburgers and fries.

Or eschew the food, in favour of a sushi platter and Stella Artois at N'assos.

This isn't a post designed to tug at the heart-strings. NONE of the family would want that.

But next time you holiday. Whether it be on Mykonos, or Crete, or Ibiza or Bali or Maldives, or Portsea, just take a moment to think about where your tourist dollars (or euros) are actually going. WHO they're helping, who they're harming and what kharma you're wracking up along with those holiday calories. Sometimes a child's access to affordable and appropriate health care depends on your choice of lunch.