Get prepared for a lifetime experience in the island of Corfu!
The month of February is a busy month in Corfu, and all over Greece. Let’s begin with the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, that gives way to Tsiknopempti, the last day meat is allowed on the table, amidst a crazy, carnival season in which most people are dressed up in costume, roaming the streets or ‘kantounia’ as they are known in Corfu. Once the Carnival is over and done, the first Monday following the last festive Sunday, is a national holiday characterised by seafood and kite flying!
What we do: Kites and Picnics
We make or buy a kite. Making a kite requires some level of skill and to avoid it ripping at first lift-off, the most common practice is to buy one from the many local vendors. There are so many lined up on the sides of the roads, you won’t be able to miss them! As soon as the kite is set, the entire family goes out into the countryside to find their spot under the sunshine. It is usual that the father flies the kite with the help of the son(s), while the mother and daughter(s) are already preparing the picnic set-up to lay all the tasty goodies to be savoured during this wonderful day.
This first official occasion for a picnic is rather well embraced by Greeks as it gives us the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as a way of ushering out the winter, and paving the way for the much anticipated spring time. And, as Greek weather is never in crisis (hopefully never ever!) temperatures are in fact quite pleasant for planning this day out. The sun is gentle and warm and spring is slowly making its appearance all around you.
What we eat: Seafood and Halva
In Greece, we are blessed with rich seas that surround our mainlands and islands, and Corfu is no exception. Greece has been living off the fat of its seas for centuries and Clean Monday pays tribute to this healthy diet that is full of delicious, lean goodness. Think prawns and shrimps, calamari and squid, octopi and all sorts of mussels, clams and scallops are freshly prepared, in a dozen of ways: dried, marinated, steamed, grilled, vinegared, fried, baked.
This meze feast of seafood assortment is of course accompanied by fresh lagana bread, a special type of sesame seed flatbread made only for this day. Greeks love dips and spreads, and on Clean Monday we traditionally enjoy pink or beige Taramosalata, made from fish roe although if you tasted without knowing, you would probably not be able to guess the dip’s origin. Tasty, light and full of nutritional elements, we have lots of it!
And for dessert, we dig into Halva, a semolina based sweet that comes in a few different varieties according to their place of origin. On Clean Monday specifically, we eat the dry, Macedonian type of Halva, which is made using tahini, sugar and vegetable oil, while some may contain nuts, honey or cocoa powder. Incredibly healthy it is eaten sprinkled with cinnamon and lemon zest.
Photo by: @hellenic_grocery