20 years ago, my beloved London, was home to Cardboard City, a mini metropolis in the pedestrian subway by Waterloo Station . The cardboard in question constituted the ‘homes’ of the homeless, who gathered here for shelter, solidarity and proximity to the soup kitchens. Now a giant IMAX cinema has taken its place, the homeless have disappeared, or maybe dispersed to less visible parts of the city.
Homelessness, once an alien concept in this part of the world, has risen alarmingly in Greece since the economy started to nose dive. Bums, junkies and hobos have multiplied. And in Athens, middle class families have been selling their possessions on the streets, not so they can pay the rent, but to buy food to feed their families.
But here in Mani, a paradox resides. As poverty and austerity grips the nation even tighter, here, everywhere you look, the seemingly barren landscape offers up an abundance of sustenance for free. Served up by nature and nurtured by the climate, in the fields, by the roadside, at the sea, there’s food lying around, just for the taking.
Fig trees everywhere spill their ripe fruit all over the roadside. Pomegranates lie strewn on the path, neglected by all except the wasps. Olive trees, ubiquitous, cover every part of the land, farmed or neglected. Wild greens, (horta) the kind you’d pay handsomely for at the Whole Food Store, grow like weeds. Today, at the beach a young guy clambered over the rock pools with a kitchen knife and a carrier bag full of sea-urchins, ripe for picking after the blue moon two days ago.
Yes, it’s my romantic, Northern European view of a simple Mediterranean rural idyll, but you know what, this is how it is. We’ve got figs here to feed an army, prickly pears -forget it – nobody can even be bothered to harvest them. I love my food, and it’s in abundance here. Fresh, local, organic, taste-mongous, and absolutely free if you just open your eyes.
Here’s my words I learnt today:
- δοκίμαζω – I try – (tho-kim- azo)
- μπερδεμένο – complicated – (bear-the-meno)
- μοιάζει με… – looks like – (mee- azee-may)
- λίγο ακόμη/ και άλλο – more (ligo-akomi/ keh-allo)
- γιατί όχι; – why not? – (yatty – ohee)
- θυμάμαι – I remember – (thi-ma-may)
- βάζω – I put –(va-zo)
- αν – if – (an)
- προς – towards – (pross)