SWMBO notices how quickly time flies when you’re having fun.
Somehow two weeks have gone by with us doing nothing more than lazing around eating sunflower seeds. Today is our last day by the sea – tomorrow we head back north. We’ll make a slight detour at Thessaloniki to visit the famous archeological museum there before continuing on our way to Skopje, the capital of an as-yet unnamed country. Let’s call it Macedonia. Well, let’s start calling it Macedonia as soon as we leave Greece. We don’t want to start a ruckus on our last day.
Today’s blog post is about the grocery stores and the restaurant food here in Leptokarya. Leptokarya is sliced in two by the train tracks that run through town. On the beach side of the tracks, there are many small supermarkets. These cater to tourists as evidenced by the pool noodles and post cards for sale out front as well as by the fact that ½ of the interior is devoted to alcohol. The other ½ is a mix of gift items like Greek honey in fancy jars and convenience foods like frozen pizzas.
To do some real grocery shopping you have to cross the tracks and head to Lidl. Ah, Lidl. It is normally one of my least favourite grocery chains, but I could spend hours in this particular Lidl. The store is always a madhouse and on the weekends the staff can’t stack the shelves fast enough. Most of the shoppers are Greek but there are also a lot of shoppers from Serbia. In fact, last time we were there, a tour bus from Serbia stopped and everyone got off to go shopping. One of the most popular items purchased by this group was liquid laundry detergent. I must remember to ask my Serbian couchsurfing host about this when we get there later in August. BTW – these clandestine photos were taken with Paris’ ipod in the Lidl.
Looking for an item at this particular Lidl is like embarking on a scavenger hunt. The store has little ethnic sections to appeal to various demographics and that is intriguing because all the people here are Greek, Serbian, Russian or German but the ethnic foods are Spanish, Italian, Indian, Texmex and Australian. There is a freezer full of frozen Indian treats like samosas and pakoras; a section with Sangria, tuna and torrone; another with flour tortillas, chili beans and spice rub.
Grocery shopping in the Balkans means high quality and great selection if you are looking for ajvar (a red pepper paste), yogurt, processed meat and sausages, cheese and honey. If you are looking for cumin or rye bread or basically anything non-Balkan, forget it. Coming to LL (Leptokarya Lidl) is pretty exciting after weeks eating sausages with cheese and ajvar followed by yogurt and honey for dessert.
Okay, now on to restaurant food. Fahbio and I came to Greece on our honeymoon twenty years ago. We spent a few weeks on the Peloponnese and enjoyed great food in simple little beach-side trattorias. The normal routine would be to follow the server into the kitchen and point to what we wanted. We had great calamari, octopus, tzatziki, goat, pita, salads. Here’s the thing: in Leptokarya all the beachside cafés are serving club sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, and caesar salads. Seriously. So we made a trip to a recommended traditional restaurant only to find out that they BUY their tzatziki. And it was lousy.
We headed to another traditional restaurant away from the beach but on the main strip – a busy place. There, we tried to order pastitsio and moussaka and vegetables stuffed with rice and – get this – we were told that they only make those things on the weekend. Even though it is high season. Wow. And they also buy their tzatziki! We are not sure what to think. It is possible that things have changed in 20 years and homemade tzatziki is too 1994. It is possible that the Peloponnese is more isolated (especially where we were at the tip of a peninsula in the deep south) and Leptokarya is just a place to serve crappy food to tourists. It is possible that tzatziki isn’t really eaten in this part of Greece. No matter what, it sure is sad for us. Luckily, I am an expert tzatziki maker and will share herewith a recipe that will take no effort to make and will transport you to Greece (1994 vintage).
Peel a few cucumbers. If the seeds are big, remove them. Grate the cucumbers on a box grater. Salt generously and leave to sit for 20 minutes or so. Drain the cucumbers. If the cucumber water isn’t too salty, drink it. Yum! Squeeze the drained cucumber mass in your hands and even squeeze it in a few paper towels. You want the cucumbers to be quite dry. Mix the cucumbers with HIGH FAT (10%) Greek yogurt. Sheep or goat yogurt is great if you can find it. Add a generous slug of good quality olive oil. Add some chopped dill if you want. Add some finely minced garlic or if you find raw garlic too strong (I do), brown some garlic in olive oil and add the garlic oil in place of the oil mentioned above. That’s it! Enjoy with Greek pita or slouvaki or grilled kangaroo or Argentinian hare.