Friday, 21 October 2011

The Austerity Diet in Pictures - and the Department of Silly Walks

Saligaria: a word that fills me with even more foreboding than the thought of teaching this evening. Here in Tilos, thanks to the rain last weekend, we’ve been eating snails, saligaria. Far, far more snails than I thought I’d ever want to eat.




After catching them, you have to leave them for a few days with some food. We left them with herbs from the hillside in the hope it would give them flavour. I went out the next day and found the sack we’d tied around the pan had come off, and they were making their way slowing down the chair, trying to escape, and felt a bit sorry as I dropped them all back in the pot...

You have to leave them a few days in case they’ve been eating anything poisonous before; you have to let the new food go through their system – yes, that’s right, you have to clean off snail poo afterwards. (‘You’ in this instance being Stelios; I suddenly became very busy with an urgent work deadline.) And there’s a clicking of shells in the sink as they wake up and try to escape again. Snails can move surprisingly fast out of a sink when they want to.

And then it gets even better – you boil them to get the slime out. ‘But you’ll like them afterwards!’ said Stelios, who really likes snails, and who is an exceptionally good cook. In case you’re interested in having your own snail-fest back home, you heat up in a big pot: olive oil, bay leaf, roughly chopped onion, salt and pepper, chopped garlic… snails… and a tin of tomatoes and water. Bring to boil then let simmer.
The smell becomes rich and hearty as they cook and the sauce is good, especially with warm, fresh-from-the oven, home-made-by-Stelios bread. Am just not terribly keen on the snails themselves, although in the days when meat was harder to acquire, finding snails on the side of the mountain would be a huge treat.



Thankfully, there are plenty of other things to gather and eat on the island. Lemons, fresh from Pavlos’ chorafaki or little field; not perfect on the outside but when you cut them open the smell and taste is delicious. ‘Why did you buy lemons? Always ask first if we have any!’

These green fruits, also from Pavlos’ garden are gavafes, guava, which make the kitchen smell heavenly.
Stelios also brought skate wing back from fishing, and delicious anchovies which you just dust with flour and fry in olive oil. And huge red juicy pomegranates. I never understood the point of pomegranates until I tasted these.


The rain stopped and the sun came out again and there is now green grass. The green, green grass of... Tilos? It doesn't seem right!
It's been perfect walking weather. I finished work one afternoon and went off up the mountain behind my house. I hadn't planned on walking quite so far but the top look tantalisingly close and it was such a clear day, I knew the views would be spectacular from the top. I do have a habit of going for long unplanned walks. When it comes to the Department of Silly Walks, John Cleese has nothing on me. For more pictures, see here:


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