Nostalgia In My Kitchen

What is it about cool autumn temperatures that dredge up a feeling of nostalgia? The grey morning mist and the occasional shower tend to reinforce that yearning for home and hearth. Even the gloaming (Greek soúroupo) takes on a wistful edge in this season. You can smell the change in the air.

There’s change in my Athens market, too. They’re now full of pumpkins and squashes – sending me messages of jack o’lanterns, pumpkin pies, and spicy pumpkin bread. Four years ago when this blog was in its infancy I posted my homey version of pumpkin bread. It’s comfort food at its best, bringing memories of childhood and contentment. I am planning on making a few batches of that nostalgic cinnamon and nutmeg spiked pumpkin bread soon.

And, also those other “P” fruits – pomegranates and persimmons – are once again displayed in the liaki stalls: colourful indicators of autumn.


Some summer crops are still available – at the tail end of their seasons – like tomatoes and courgettes. Using up some of our last courgettes, I made that other homey spicy bread – zucchini bread – similar to the pumpkin one. That’s not such an odd councidence as they are both members of the cucurbita genus, although one white fleshed summer squash and the other orange fleshed winter squash. My recipe dates back to my teenage years. It is handwritten and smeared with evidence of decades of cooking – a nostalgic memento.

I noticed that, during the past month of October, one of my early posts was getting a lot of views – The Original Jack o’Lantern. In fact, it got quite a number of hits during the past four years, invariably spiking in October. The post discusses the old tradition of carving a turnip instead of a pumpkin with instructions on how to produce your own turnip head. It was a timely subject for the season, but it seems a world ago now. Greek halloween customs are almost non-existant and dressing up is usually reserved for carnival just before Lent. Plus, I don’t think I have ever seen a swede (i.e. rutabaga or yellow turnip) in the Greek market.

Yet another seasonally popular post from years ago is on the custom in the north of England of eating parkin on Bonfire Night. It reminded me that it is nearly the 5th of November. Bonfire Night is a very British holiday that marks a failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords in 1605 by the Gunpowder Plot conspirators including Guy Fawkes. I must see if I can find some treacle for parkin (more comfort food). Who knows? Perhaps we may even attempt a (suitably safe) bonfire here in Athens – with or without a “Guy” to burn.

Its nice to look back from time to time. And, although nostalgia is primarily a positive emotional experience, it can be tinged with a tiny dose of sadness. The word stems from Greek nostos – meaning homecoming – and algos – meaning an acute longing. We spent part of October back in England and had a homecoming in my UK kitchen. It was only for a short period of the time and it was great to see all my things again – faded Irish linen tea towels, my collection of nested ceramic bowls (with their cozy homemade and quilted separating pads), favourite china mugs, etc. But, now we’ve moved on and left them behind – tinged with a tiny bit of homesickness. I remind myself that they’ll be there when we return.

The Athens kitchen has now become home as well. I’ve been making a lot of sourdough bread here – thinking “outside the box” beyond my regular white loaves. With the Kastoria rye flour we brought back from our holiday up north in September, I’ve been making wonderful loaves of sourdough rye. The deli I bought it from has an e-shop which ships within Greece, so finding rye and other hard to find flours just become a little bit easier. And, if I find treacle for parkin, I will be able to make my grandmother’s Pennsylvania-style pumpernickel: a dark, almost black, rye. I’ve also found a great combination of whole wheat sourdough and walnuts which I’ll be posting on soon. These are very comforting breads for the cooler weather.

The walnut bread is great with butter and honey. It’s a good thing that a friend recently brought a gift of a fabulous jar of thick Greek honey with a honeycomb. I’m going through it at a prodigious rate – only half left now.

The juggernaut of time seems to move quickly this time of year. We’ll soon be approaching the year end holidays with all the baking and sweet making that entails. I still have quite a bit of egg white stashed in the freezer and will be making some of the meringue based sweets I explored last year – “cheat” florentines and walnut macaroons. Plus, there is a whole host of similar recipes from ladyredspecks, listed on her blog, Please Pass the Recipe. I recently made her simple amaretti biscuits, but they did not last long. There wasn’t even any time to think about taking a photo. As she warns – resistance is, indeed, futile. But, there’s always next IMK.

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, hosted by Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings. Earlier IMK posts can be found on former IMK host blogs: Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things, Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) and the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who began the IMK phenomenon. 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.

24 comments

  1. I haven’t made amaretti for a while. So glad you enjoyed them,
    I appreciate the shout out. It’s taken us a good couple of years for us to settle, to really feel like we are home. It must be difficult visiting your homebase in the UK and then tearing yourself away. We recently made the difficult decision to sell our place in Melbourne and that alone seems to have finally given us the freedom to put down roots and alleviate the sense of impermanence. Hope you can source treacle..

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    • The amaretti were wonderful and I’ll already thinking about how the recipe can be modified to other nuts and flavourings, although nothing really can beat almond. We are here in Greece for at least five years (on secondment and nearly half way through) with the intention of returning to the UK. It is hard having roots in two places simultaneously. I’m glad you are beginning to feel at home in Brisbane, but it must have been hard for you to give up your home in Melbourne. Hope I source that treacle (or molasses), too.

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  2. Hi Debi we used to have Guy Fawkes Night or as we kids used to call it, bonfire night. We always had a huge fire in the back garden and fire crackers. Alas, so many kids got injured fire crackers were banned in Australia and Guy Fawkes Night went by the way side. I am nostalgic for a lot of traditions we used to have as kids that have long gone. I wonder what the current generation will remember fondly. Halloween was not big here when I was a kid. It is becoming bigger now but only for commercial reasons, I am afraid.

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    • So odd that the would have bonfire night in Australia! It is such an English holiday. I agree the fireworks are a hazard and sometimes those bonfires get out of hand. We used to go to our village bonfire early in the evening when we lived near Oxford and it was tightly regulated + there were Morris Dancers which I always enjoy. Halloween is commercial in Britain as well – ever since they adopted American trappings of the holiday. Hope it doesn’t catch on in Greece!

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  3. This is also the time of year back in the 50s when my mother would make a massive pan of Pea & Ham soup. Ham bones for free from the village butcher, dried peas from the grocers soaked overnight, a couple of carrots from the garden resulting in a fantastic meal. Ham scraped from the bones with boiled potatoes from the garden made it a two course dinner in a country still recovering from WWII and enduring rationing!

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    • Soup = comfort food. My gran also made a mean pea & ham soup and had her own produce from a tiny back garden. You’ve now got me craving some! The only problem is there are no ham bones in Greece – smoked pork is made with cuts of meat off the bone. Will need to wait until I’m back in the UK again, but I doubt that butchers give you bones for free anymore.

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  4. The produce in your Greek market appears very different from what we have here — that Mediterranean climate is so mild and beautiful. Nostalgia is a good subject for the current moment, and having two kitchens, one that’s really home and one that is sort of home, is a good way to find it.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • Funny, but I am ‘at home’ in either place. I think it is the leaving of one for the other that sparks that homesickness. The key, I guess, is to enjoy where you are when you are. The Greek markets are fabulous and I do love exploring them.

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  5. oh yes i have fond memories of bonfire night too. the whole neighbourhood would get together for it, but of course it has long been outlawed here in australia – sadly. being a british colony, it was of course an established festivity here. i agree about cold weather; somehow it brings on the nostalgia. for what i’m not really sure. thank for joining in IMK this month and for using the badge. much appreciated. cheers S x

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    • Getting together for a bonfire is a nice thing. Much better in the autumn rather than your spring. Uncontrolled fireworks is another thing and I’m not particularly a fan of these. I always enjoy writing my IMK post and reading other’s. It’s a way to reflect on what’s been happening in and around the kitchen. The badge wasn’t a problem – simple to download and display!

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    • For some reason, autumn really triggers that nostalgia, more so than spring. In spring, I get this urge to travel…. I guess it’s a consequence of being holed up all winter long. Those ‘P’ fruits in the market are really lovely to look at – good to eat, too. The Greeks call persimmons lotos which reminds me of Homer’s Odyssey and the lotos-eaters, but these modern market lotos are not narcotic!

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  6. Nice to pop into your old english kitchen again , becasue, as you know, I am very fond of those bowls. Great pomegranite shot there, and the honey looks too good. Looking forward to your sourdough walnut loaf recipe.

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  7. Dear Debi, there are SO many things to love about your In My Kitchen post, nostalgia included. (Thanks for the links to your previous posts!) My hubby & I recently discussed “The Borg” and their “resistance is futile” stance 🙂 — somehow I feel the same way about viewing your luscious-looking breads and Autumn produce. xo

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  8. Falling leaves always make me feel nostalgic for the fading summer I think… My little pomegranate and persimmons are currently covered in buds for the first time, so I’ll be hoping for fruit about six months from now 🙂 I remember Bonfire Night as a child i think, but your chances of being able to light a bonfire in Australia in November these days are pretty slim unfortunately, due to fire danger, but I always make gingerbread 🙂

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    • Bonfires in rainy November UK aren’t such a risk, but people sometimes are careless with firecrackers. I miss it (the bonfire part, not the fireworks) here in Greece. I know it marks an historical event, but it always seemed pagan to me. Hope your persimmons and pomegranates flourish!

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