Illegal food – Pickled Cyprus Songbirds

Orthodox clergy (Bishop, Priest, deacon)/ 教会の神品(主教・司・輔)

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It was a very long time ago (in a country far far away…) so please don’t berate me for revealing this but yes – I have partaken of ‘forbidden food’. In this case, the occasion was a Cypriot wedding (about 1968 I would reckon). The family was invited and we drove into the Kyrenia foothills in the North of the island where our local delivery boy was getting married. The service – performed with the full flamboyance of the Greek orthodox Church – was a mysterious ritual to a young English boy who’s only experience of religious rites was the Sunday service performed by our local Army Padre in a white Nissen hut which had been converted to a church. The wedding party paraded on foot from the Church through the village into their new home. The neighbours had built a temporary kitchen complete with a bee-hive style oven around which half a dozen elderly ladies were busily sliding in pans and breads using giant long handled paddles. A series of long tables were lined up in the open air and as guests arrived the drink started to flow, a group of bouzouki players assembled and the partying began (this was about 2pm). The food and drink just didn’t stop and as darkness fell and the tables were cleared the evening supper – the mezze started – a bewilderingly diverse range of dishes to pick at. A large glass jar appeared on the table which contained what appeared to be miniature chickens packed together in a clear liquid. These – it was explained – are a delicacy – ‘ambellopoulia’, and a specialty of the island. Having been taught to never refuse proffered food (it insults the host) I gingerly accepted a serving. The way to eat is I was advised is ‘all in one’. The closest appreciation I can offer is to imagine ‘mouthing’ a soft boiled egg which has been soaked in white vinegar then discovering that some enterprising spark in the kitchen has stuffed it with shreds of pickled celery. The bones are softened by the pickling process and these are meant to be eaten (a la Sardine). I passed on a second and went looking for souvlakia.

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About chris

The eternal optimist...
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