By Semina Sarantopoulou
“What can I say about cinnamon? I could spend hours talking about this passion potion. Just close your eyes and taste it. It’s sweet and sour, like all women,” said the vendor on Evripidou Street. Traders and customers seem to share the same intensity here: When they talk spices it’s as if they’re discussing poetry. But the real ritual begins when they actually start tasting them.
On a recent Saturday morning, despite the fact that the city center was closed to traffic due to a demonstration, customers were queuing outside Bachar (est. 1940). No one appeared to be in a rush. They were happy rubbing between their fingers and smelling a few of the 2,500 herbs and spices from around the world, exchanging views over potions and spices and, when they finally reached the till, asking for more than they had written down on their shopping list. “Crisis or no crisis, the best buys are those made based on the palate, the nose and the soul, not the wallet,” said Evanthia, a resident of Korydallos, a northern suburb of Piraeus, who spent more than 50 euros on herbs and spices.
In the meantime, little Olga was playing with the peppers in a sack, as if shoveling sand on the beach.
“I was just like her when I was that age. Every festive meal would begin with my grandfather, who had a great nose, and me visiting the market to buy spices. I live in Elefsina now, but I still bring my daughter here once a week so that she too can have memories filled with the aroma of mahlab,” said another customer, Lenio.
Meze-restaurant, formagerie, charcuterie and grocery “Karamanlidika by Fanis”, a signature specimen of 19th-century Athenian neoclassic building, situated on the corner of Sokrates & Euripidou streets, near by Varvakeios central food market.
Pastirma and bubble tea
Arapian opened for business on Evripidou in 1935. Owner Fanis Theodoropoulos and Paraskevas Saribogias, co-owner of the award-winning Sary cold meats business in Drama, northern Greece, recently opened Ta Karamanlidika tou Fani, a mezedes restaurant in a neoclassical building on the corner of 1 Socratous and 52 Evripidou streets. The idea was to revive the Byzantine kitchen culture of cured meat and also serve gluten-free delicacies (these have proved very popular already) as well as Cappadocian recipes.
Images of crowds on Evripidou Street are nothing new. Ever since 1886, the year the city’s municipal market opened its doors, the Ermou-Stadiou-Athinas street triangle along with the broader Monastiraki area have maintained close links with the food trade. The portion of Evripidou stretching from Aeolou to Menandrou streets, for instance, hosts 15 spice and 12 food stores. In between these are artisan’s shops selling equipment (barrels, sacks) for the distribution of the market’s wares. Also open for business in the same spot for a number of years is To Magazaki tis Amorgou (The Little Store of Amorgos), with straw goods, while nearby there is a Byzantine icons store and a shoe shop for the elderly.
Ampazour was established at 1 Evripidou Street 60 years ago. The store specializes in handmade hats for floor and ceiling lamps, with prices ranging from 10 to 500 euros. Olympia Pervolaraki, current owner and daughter of the store’s founder, describes this traditional professional as “haute couture,” given that long hours are required for the confection of each item, from color and fabric selection (Italian and French silk and taffeta, among others) to designing, sewing, decorating and putting the finishing touches. “Lamp hats are not a priority for consumers, but we have survived nevertheless,” said Pervolaraki, who counts the Hotel Grande Bretagne among her clients. “I was afraid that large-scale industrial design chain stores would damage our business, but it turns out that people still prefer to decorate their homes with something special.”
Every day, except Sundays, many Athenians leave their suburban malls behind and come to visit this multicultural environment full of hidden treasures. Established in 1959, Elixirion is all about herbal therapies. “A pinch of spice a day keeps the doctor away,” said Maria, the owner, who in the space of just a few minutes informed me that cloves help with indigestion, oregano fights osteoporosis, sage improves memory, curry slows down the aging process, thyme is used as an antiseptic, marjoram is soothing for headaches, rosemary prevents strokes and coriander is good for the soul!
#Evripidou: Still adding spice to #Athenian life
This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s Sunday ‘K’ supplement
#Euripidou #Athens #cold_cuts #karamanlidika