Purge all the meat, fish, cheese and eggs from the kitchen. Gone are all of the souvlaki stalls and the butchers are taking a month long holiday. The forty days of Lenten fasting has begun.
But, a last gasp of indulgent meat eating occured on the Thursday evening during the second of the three weeks of Carnival. It is called Τσικνοπέμπτη (Tsiknopempti), literally translated as the Thursday of the Smoke of Grilled Meat. Everywhere you went in Athens, BBQ smoke filled the air. Celebrating out, we were presented with an enormous – and I would say rather excessive – platter of pork & lamb chops, sausages & beef burgers, all topped with a mound of fried potatoes. Luckily, there was a large group of us to deal with the offering. Not the best of holidays for my vegetarian friends!
Much of this last month we’ve been away from Athens and missed the final celebrations of Carnival, including all of the wild and colourful costumes people don. There’s a shop just up the street from us that does brisk business renting fantastical attire and beautiful masks this time of year. I’ve always enjoyed window shopping here.
We were back in Athens just in time for Καθαρά Δευτέρα, Clean Monday, that marks the beginning of Lent. I still have no idea why kites are flown on Καθαρά Δευτέρα, but it seems to be a common practice. Although not so common this year with all the cloudy weather. Another custom on the day is lagana bread (which I discussed in a post last year). We duly purchased this flat bread at one of our local bakeries.
And resisted that other treat of the lent season – halva. The chocolate layered version looked very tempting, but having just seen the dentist….
I need to head to the market and shops soon for specialties of the season – shellfish, snails, tarama (cod roe, often in the form of taramasalata), bitter greens, fava beans… Luckily, our laiki hosts many Cretan foods, including their beloved χοχλιοί (σαλιγκάρια Κρήτης), Cretan snails.
Forty days of fasting. All too soon the smell of roast meat will fill the air again with the Pascal lamb.