As far as the matter of diet is concerned, Antiparos followed the route of self-sufficiency; and this naturally so, as the island could not constitute an exception to the rule of insular isolation. Antipariot cuisine was based on the products of the sea and the land—a lot of fish, very little meat, game, greens, legumes and cheeses, while wine was not absent from the dinner table either.
With time, new dishes came to enrich the daily menu. New ingredients were added to recipes, and the means of cooking were modernised. However, the nutritional value of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, the unsurpassable quality of the local harvest and the incomparable savouriness of the local ‘mezes’ were never replaced on the daily or festive table. The friendly gatherings at one another’s homes may no longer be called ‘veggeres’ and may not take place as often as in the old days, but the company of friends remains one of the basic secret ingredients of every Antipariot recipe.
Guide to Local Cuisine: From Before to Now….
SEAFOOD AND FISH
Seafood, which is found in abundance on our island, creates the best ‘mezedes’ for ‘tsikoudia’ [a type of raki] and ouzo. Grilled octopus, cuttlefish (grilled, fried, or boiled with oil and lemon added), squid (the larger ones grilled, the smaller ones fried), sea urchins, shells, limpets and pinnas (raw with oil and lemon, boiled or fried) all become mouth-watering mezedes. Fish is boiled, fried or grilled. Sun-dried whitebait, lobster in oil and lemon and ‘kakavia’ [a bouillabaisse-like soup] in a white broth are extremely delicious dishes worth trying!
The octopus found in our area is, by the general admission of locals and visitors, the tastiest there is. They say that this is on account of the food and nutrients found in the channel between Paros and Antiparos.
Whether sun-dried, charcoal-grilled, in vinegar, in a red sauce with potatoes, little macaroni or rice, in a stew or fried with fresh tomato… there is no chance of one not enjoying its tastiness.
Octopus catchers set off early in the morning, at daybreak. Some use ‘the glass’ and a harpoon, others a ‘bragarola’ [a special implement with hooks for catching octopus]. After returning, they beat the octopus on a rock a hundred times, so that it softens, and then string it, along with all of the other octopuses on a ‘perastra’, rubbing all of them together, until they whiten and curl. The ones that are to be grilled are laid out in the sun, so as to dry.
In the old days—when there were no refrigerators or freezers—in order to preserve them they would dry them very well and intertwine them, forming a ball shape. They would send them like this to the market or store them for winter. Whenever they wanted to cook the octopus, they would place it in water, so as to soften it.
Legumes were the dish par excellence in the old days, both before and after the German Occupation. Chickpeas, black-eyed beans, ‘fava’ [yellow split peas], ‘koukia’ [broad beans] and ‘fasolada’ [haricot bean soup] were to be found on the daily culinary agenda.
They would cook these in a variety of ways. On Friday night—especially during the ‘Megali Sarakosti’ [the 40-day period of Lent before Easter]—they would put chickpeas in water to soak and very early on Saturday morning they would take them to the bakery. In the evening, the entire village would be cloaked in a wonderful scent.
On Sunday, after church, they would pick the pot up from the bakery and, after opening it, would offer the baker a portion for having cooked it in the oven for them.
In the old days, every home raised a pig, too. They would slaughter it at Carnival time, mainly, and the home would fill with cuts. People would lend each other meat, and would make various delicacies. Nothing would go to waste. They would prepare ‘kavourmas’ [broiled meat with butter and onions], collared pork, eyes, sausages, ‘lardofouskoti’ [lard pie], they would put the fat into an earthen pot and cure it. They would try, as much as they could, to preserve it for a very long time, so as to be able to make various dishes with it.
Snails—called ‘saliaki’ locally, and not ‘saligaria’ as in many parts of Greece—are gathered in winter, when it rains, from under thyme and stones. Some preparations must be made in order to cook them.
They are first put into a basin filled with water and the basin is covered. This is allowed to stand for some time, until the snails come out of their shells. Then they are washed well and boiled in plenty of water. The appropriate amount of salt is added, so that they will be tasty. After they have been boiled for 20 minutes, they are strained and the boiled water is saved.
Those wishing to can eat them like this, as a meze, especially during Lent. However, they can also be made into a variety of dishes in a sauce, with rice, courgettes and crumbs from stale bread.
Before being cooked, they must be removed from their shells and rinsed in the water they were boiled in.
Wild rabbits can be found in abundance on Antiparos, even today.
At the end of August, the island fills with hunters—both local and residents of surrounding islands, predominantly Paros—who organise all-nighters and depart the following morning, proud of their take.
Tsikoudia is always accompanied by a fine meze, merrymaking and the good times experienced by Antipariots.
It is produced every year in the autumn, and is an important event for the island. It combines staying up late with having good company, grilled octopus, yams on embers… A wonderful scent lingers in the air throughout the island, an aroma produced by the wood burning under the cauldron and the scent of the boiled grape husks and lentisk.
The grapes are pressed and the husks (grape pomace) are taken away. They are stored in underground tanks. Rocks are placed on top, so that all of the juice can be extracted, and they are strained for about 40 days.
That is when the ‘kazani’ [cauldron] makes its apprearance. Lentisk branches with their nuts are placed at the very bottom of the cauldron, in order that the tsikoudia acquire an aroma and also so that it will not stick to the bottom. The grape husks are added, along with the appropriate amount of juice. The kazani is sealed well, and a fire is set underneath.
The liquid that begins to very slowly come out of the distiller is the tsikoudia. It starts at about 27 percent and when it reaches 14 the process is halted.
Everything is emptied out of the kazani. The old husks are removed—after the fire has been reduced—and new husks are put in. Each kazani session lasts about an hour and a half, and the kazani goes out and is sealed when there are no husks left.
Women’s Society of Antiparos (pub. 2010), Maerotskalismata: Tastes and Aromas from Antiparos, pp 7, 9, 15, 21, 43, 47, 57, 83