In My Lenten Kitchen

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.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, now hosted by Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things who has graciously taken up the challenge (and before her by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) to list all of us IMK bloggers. For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.


  1. I love the look of that Lenten bread. I think I would enjoy Lenten offerings in Greece, though the removal of olive oil and cheese would be hard.


    • I’m sure you would enjoy Lenten offerings here. Despite the removal of cheese, there are very inventive dishes – sometimes quite opulent since shellfish are permitted. The vegetable stews etc. are often lumped into a category called lathera, a word derived from oil, which means that the dishes rely heavily on olive oil. From what I understand, oil is only restricted in the last week of Lent. In fact, many people who eat meat and fish throughout, follow all the rules during this last week. It all seems very individual and flexible. It is very interesting how people interpret their fasting rules. I even knew one Greek who ate fish during Lent when outside of Greece, but wouldn’t touch it when in the country.

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      • Anna, my next door neighbour, has an amazingly riualised Lenten eating programme, and at other times of the year. Her version is old Orthodox from the 1960s. The other younger Greeks in the street seem to have a more flexible approach.

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  2. Kalo Mina! According to my Athenian husband, Clean Monday kite flying marks the end of a long weekend in the country. The seasonal winter winds usually keep the kites up in the air. Not always, though. Would love that halva with my morning coffee!


    • Kalo Mina! I thought that kite flying had something to do with outdoor activities! It seems that Lent really is the best time to celebrate the turning of the seasons. It is good to have it confirmed.


  3. Nice for you to see these traditional holidays marking off the progression of the year, they seem so few and far between in our fast paced lives. I could find away to enjoy a little halva….


  4. Hi Debi, it’s interesting to see some folks still observe the christian rituals such a Lent. I’m with everyone else, that halva looks amazing. What does it taste like? Thank you for the lovely shout out, and happy March to you xxx


    • It is really interesting observing these customs and I am always asking questions from locals. The halva is addictive – think tahini with loads of sugar. The texture is somewhat crystalline and it partly melts in the mouth and partly sticks to your teeth. In addition, there are many flavours, particularly with additions of nuts and chocolate. My favourite is pistachio. If I buy it, however, I have to hide it from my husband. He has a weakness for halva and will eat so much of it in one sitting he would be bound to get sick. Καλό μήνα (happy or good month)!


  5. Debi, this was a fascinating look into your life and Lenten observances. Thank you! Your “Thursday of the Smoke of Grilled Meat” festival sounds similar to “Fat Tuesday” in New Orleans (not too far from here) — indulgence followed by abstinence. I truly enjoyed following the links to your previously posted customs, history, and recipes, too.

    P.S. Thought of you today when I got our your Fajita Marinade recipe again… simply the best! xo


    • Kim, I am quite fascinated with these traditional customs. Surprisingly, after so many years coming to Greece, I’m still learning new things. Oh, I’ve forgotten about that Marinade! Really odd to have to look up recipes on your own blog!


  6. Hi debs
    Snails? Mm not sure what I think about them. I’ve had garlic snails and all I could taste was garlic:). Which was a good thing. Lent doesn’t seem to be a big thing in Australia except for Pancake Tuesday:)


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