Culture Shock and Foraging

Ok, I have to laugh at myself. I live in the very centre of Athens, a city of over 5 million. As a Canadian, this in itself would be overwhelming. But over the past four years I have begun to understand the rhythm of Greek culture, the crush of the people, the intensity (and physical closeness…yes it is all within my bubble) of the daily interactions. One would say that I have come to love Athens as my home. Every once in a while, the Canadian in me screams out for space, for open fresh air, dare I say solitude. So with this in mind, my family and I purposely book some time off at the beginning of September in hopes that we will miss the August crush of people. (All of Europe takes holidays in August.)  We reserve a beachfront campsite and head down to Pylos anticipating the escape of humanity. By “we” I mean myself, my lovely wife, our two kids….and yes two dogs. I must add that as well as a love of food, I have a profound love of dogs. Our family are the proud owners of Pearl and Van.

So on a hot and sunny Thursday afternoon, we arrive at our piece of paradise. The campground is not too full and we set up our gear, enjoying the sea and the sun. The fire of my new found freedom is soon quenched by droves of Germans, speedo clad, arriving in their caravans for the weekend. They are all nice, friendly, smiling and nodding as if understanding even when language fails. They are eager to help, all the while wearing rainbow somethings I wouldn’t even consider as underwear. Let’s just say I “snapped” that thin veil in the brain that separates normative behaviour from insanity. Even the dogs sensed my fragility, attempting to guard our 5m by 5m campsite. We were so packed in I felt like I was in a refugee camp. Some time during the weekend I realized that my agitated behaviour was due to interacting with a new and different culture. Greeks I understood, Germans I didn’t. It was as simple as that. So Monday morning we packed our gear and moved 200m into the solitude of the olive orchard. Peace at last.

As I walked around the orchard, I noticed fig and pomegranate trees bursting with ripe and colourful fruits. I quickly gathered what I needed and headed back to the  camp kitchen, instantly knowing what I needed to cook to cure my culture shock blues.

So if you are in need of a respite from whatever stressful cultural situation you are in, use the recipe below to regain your sanity and enjoy life once again.

What you need:

  • 12 ripe figs peeled and quartered
  • 1 ripe pomegranate, seeds removed
  • 200g smoked salami (you could use bacon or prosciutto) rough chopped
  • 1 medium sweet red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic squashed
  • Olive oil
  • 500g of your favourite pasta (I used egg noodles)
  • Romano or similar hard cheese to sprinkle on top
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How it’s done:

  • In a little olive oil over medium heat, sweat the onions and the garlic until soft
  • Add the salami, browning it for a few minutes
  • Reduce the heat, adding the figs and pomegranate seeds
  • Simmer slowly until the figs ooze into a nice sauce
  • Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Cook your pasta to package instructions
  • Toss your pasta with the sauce, and serve with freshly grated cheese
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