Recently, I’ve had to shift to different flours in my bread making. Our small local grocery store indicated that it could no longer source the Canadian brand, Robin Hood flour that I mentioned in a previous post, written at a time when we first arrived in Greece. It dawned on me that this development was, no doubt, a consequence of the Capital Control measures put in place here in Greece last year. Basically (if you will forgive the simplification), Capital Controls restrict the flow of money outside of Greece in a move to support the country’s banking system, which is in everybody’s interest. As a consequence, payments by retailers in Greece to suppliers outside Greece have become difficult.
However, I can still readily source flour from Crete – the brand Μύλοι Κρήτης (Mills of Crete). The company began in 1928 in Souda Bay in the western part of the island near the major town of Chania. Although the mill was destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt and modernised in the 1950s. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, diversifying into such things as cheese production (for which Crete is famous) and animal feed (using only raw plant foods that have not been genetically modified), becoming one of the largest companies on the island. It has also become one of the major flour producers in Greece with a milling capacity about 450 tonnes of flour per day. Both their hard (σκληρό) and basic all-purpose flour (για όλες τις χρήσεις) are perfect for making superb sourdough bread loaves.
And I have discovered really lovely flour from the island of Limnos – white, semolina (or “pure yellow” as it is labeled) and wholegrain (ολικής αλέσης). All of these flours make fantastic bread – great elasticity and wonderful flavour. I particularly like the semolina for baguette baking. According to the packets, the company has been producing flour since 1910. Unlike Μύλοι Κρήτης, it appears to be a small company with limited production. From what I have read, in Classical times, the island of Limnos (located in the Northeast Aegean and also spelled Lemnos), was known as the Athenian granary, having been controlled by that city-state. Jumping forward a few centuries, the island supplied wheat to the imperial Byzantium court at Constantinople. In later historic times, windmills dotted the landscape evidence for its production of flour during Ottoman and early modern times. It is nice to see that quality flour is still produced today on the island.
Flour procurement, however, is simply one small example of a larger issue. During a dinner party we hosted, conversation turned to the topic of local (Greek) companies filling the gap in supplying a variety of produce on the supermarket shelves, giving those companies a much needed boost. It was also mentioned that, in some instances, a few (primarily small) producers who had been forced to shut down because of the recent financial crisis, were now operating again. Although this is primarily hearsay, dinner table talk, it makes certain sense. And, if true, it is an unexpected – and positive – consequence for the country’s economy in what is surely a difficult time for Greece.
It has brought home to me that one should always, in the first instance, source local produce. It is not only a case of freshness, better taste, or even reducing the “carbon footprint”, but it has ramifications for many more things as well.