Eating is Cyprus’ biggest sport. You have the heavy weight, the middle weight and the featherweight in this sport.
We eat at every given opportunity. I remember Christmas growing up was amazing – not because of the presents but because of the food! We’d eat the traditional English Christmas roast; Turkey, potatoes, sprouts etc but all of this would be accompanied by the Greek dishes too; Pastichio, koubebia, kolokassi. We’d feast on the English/Cypriot Christmas dinner, sleep like most families, then at around midnight my dad and uncle would light the BBQ! We’d pile on the souvla, halloumi and loukanika and eat again and 2am! You really did need to be in the heavyweight category to win the Christmas eating challenge.
In Cyprus, even if we don’t want food or are full up, we still eat. It is an offence to refuse food. If you are at work and it is someone’s Birthday or name day the tradition is to bring in cakes and pastries. The nation is obsessed with pastries! There are bakeries on every corner, of every street. A croissant for breakfast, a tiropita for lunch and a loukanikopita on the way home from work. Surely all this pastry cant be good for you? Having visitors, what do we offer? A plate of pastries! Thahtila, tahinopites, eliopites, haloumopites, lokmathes. What about the sweet pastries all covered in syrup! You can even buy bombes and lokoumia on the beach or at the side of the road. I bought some the other day. I’m at the beach sucking in my tummy trying to look thin and the man with the bike shouting “Bombes, Lokoumia” catches my ear and my mouth starts to fill with saliva. I hand over my €2 and receive a bag full of round, deep fried, honey covered balls containing the most amount of calories I’m going to consume that day. And I’m eating them at the beach – in my bikini – trying to look thin isnt working when you have syrup dripping down your chin!
Avoiding the dreaded pastry off the beach isn’t easy either, in fact its simply unavoidable. You might have just had your dinner and you need to visit a relative for only 5 minutes. This is an impossible task. Firstly he or she will make you tea/coffee or a beer in the summer. Then a plate of food will appear as if by magic before you. It is normally a plate of pastries – either home made or shop bought. In the UK you’d be lucky to get a cup of tea with a plate of rich tea biscuits. It’s no wonder I put on weight when I come to Cyprus. It’s hard to resist. I would have thought that after 2 and half years of living on this island I’d be sick of pastry related goods, but I’m not. I love flaounes at Easter, I love the little baklava you get given after a meal in a restaurant. I love the fact that you can get full up on a halloumopita for €2. I must learn how to make these little pastry delights, although on second thoughts that would literally be a recipe for disaster – I would make the pastries and then eat the pastries and then I would become the size of a house. No I shall I stick to the bakeries for my pastry fix. Or failing that I can always visit a neighbour to receive my pastry goodies!