ΨΗΦΙΑΚΟ ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟ ΒΛΑΧΟΚΕΡΑΣΙΑΣ

Our Pastas, Breads and Pies[1]

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Stockbreeding and grain cultivation constitute pre-requisites for the present thematic unit, in view of the fact that milk and flour are basic ingredients for the preparation and making of pastas, breads and pies. The present unit deals with two long-duration pastas (e.g. trahana[2] and noodles[3]) and two short-duration (e.g. breads and pies). The preparation of trahana (trahana – sweet and sour) and noodles constituted in the past a basic pre-occupation of the agrarian families, especially the women, since the consumption of meat constituted a luxury (only at Christmas and Easter), while pastas together with vegetables and their by-products constituted for almost all Vlahokerasiotes the basic sources of food.

Summer, and after the grain harvest, was the most favorable season for the preparation of long-duration pastas (trahana and noodles), as all the basic ingredients were available (milk from the domestic and free-range goats, fresh wheat flour, and fresh eggs from the chicken coops). Moreover, the sunshine helped in the drying of the pastas, before they were stored in white cloth sacks. The families produced trahana and noodles to meet their annual needs.

The preparation of short-duration pastas, the bread and the pies, was exclusively the work of women. The preparation of bread (large round loaves with wheat or corn flour)[4] was done at regular intervals, independent of the season, the frequency depending upon the size of the family. On the contrary, the preparation of pies (round-shaped loaves) was sporadic and a function of either joyous (e.g. weddings) or sorrowful (e.g. memorials) events that also determined the nature of the design embroidered on the crust. Both of these (breads and pies) were baked in the traditional family oven found in the yard of the house. Families usually had built ovens both in the village and in their winter settlements, although in the latter place there were cases, where more than one family shared the same oven.

We start the present thematic unit with materials (photos and hyperlinks) on the preparation of sweet trahana (boiling, cutting, spreading out, sunning, etc.)[5], we continue with the cutting of noodles, the kneading-baking of bread and pies, consecrated bread, kourabiedes (cookies with almonds and sugar powder), and we close with the cooking of pastas. The relevant hyperlinks consist of (1) narratives, to the undersigned from Eleftheria Margetis and Constantina Sarantakis and concern recipes for the preparation of both sweet and sour trahana and the making of bazina and (2) film/video clips from (a) Angelike Contogiannis (Contis) on the preparation of sweet trahana, the cutting of noodles and the kneading/baking of bread (2001) and (b) the undersigned on the preparation of sweet trahana by his parents (1968) and his brother and sister-in-law (2012). Angelike Contis’ video on making bread contains snapshots of all phases, while that of the undersigned shows generational continuity in making sweet trahana with the more recent video clip showing all the phases of home production.

Nowadays, few of the above traditional practices survive. The use of the yard oven has been essentially abandoned by over 90% of the villagers. The work of the house ovens has to a large extent been taken over by the village bakery, which besides baking bread and food also operates as a confectionary. This village oven (it’s the only one in the village) serves the villagers, the Vlahokerasiotes, who come from the cities on holidays, residents from the surrounding villagers and the passersby (e.g. tourists, trekkers etc.). However, most of those, who remain in the village continue to make the long-duration pastas, but purchase the necessary raw products (milk, flour, semolina) from stockbreeders in the area, from bakeries/ovens in Tegea or Tripolis who make pasta products or from the supermarket in the village. Since, as you may observe, the making of pastas in the traditional manner is an arduous multi-phased task, less and less villagers make their own trahana. Some of them adopt a combination of practices, especially in the making of noodles: they round up the necessary resources (e.g. milk, fresh eggs etc.) from local or their own sources and then take them to a factory in Tegea or Tripolis which mass produces pasta products (e.g. sweet and sour trahana, noodles, etc.). With the biological displacement of the 1930-1940 generation, it is almost certain that the home-made pastas will become a thing of the past since there is little interest in the younger generations. Naturally, this will constitute a significant loss given the social and dietary advantages accruing from the traditional production of foods.

Nikos P. Petropoulos
VDM Committee Coordinator

Click here or on the image above to browse the flipping book.

 


[1] My gratitude to Constantina Sarantakis for her valuable contribution to the present thematic unit.

[2] The D. N. Stavropoulos Oxford Greek English Dictionary translates trahana as “frumenty” but checking the Webster Dictionary, the term “frumenty” is an approximation. Besides hulled wheat, “frumenty” uses both sweeteners and spices. In the local Greek situation, the “trahana” can be either “sweet” or “sour”, depending upon the type of wheat flour and whether or not the milk is soured.

[3] Large round pastry sheets are cut down to lasagne size and these, in turn, are cut further to small square-shaped noodles. In the past, this was done by groups of women standing around a table.

[4] The corn flour was also called “bobotenio” and the bread made from it, “bobota”. Many of the living and aging Vlahokerasiotes were raised on corn bread.

[5] The sweet trahana in our area has a dark brown color and the sour trahana has a light yellowish color, while in other regions of Greece the (e.g. Crete, Thessaly, Thrace) the color varies depending upon wheat variety and the ingredients used (e.g. there are regions where sweet trahana has a white or orange color and the sour trahana a dark color).

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