Greek spoon sweets win fans in China

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IPHI­GE­NIA DIA­MANTI

There have been some con­sid­er­able changes in the lives of cer­tain women liv­ing on the is­land of Sy­ros as well as in the vil­lage of Aghios An­to­nios in Halkidiki. While they still have to get up early and cook, they are no longer cook­ing solely for their own house­holds. Dozens of large bak­ing pans fill up with food and at some­time be­tween 11 a.m. and noon, pies cov­ered with hand­made phyllo pas­try start to turn golden brown while bean soups bub­ble away on stove tops.

The housewives are mem­bers of two co­op­er­a­tives: the Agri­tourism Co­op­er­a­tive of Sy­ros Women, Kas­tri, and the Women’s Agri­cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tive of Tra­di­tional Prod­ucts, Aghios An­to­nios, which is based about 35 kilo­me­ters out­side Thes­sa­loniki. In the case of the for­mer, a work­room and restau­rant set up with fund­ing from Euro­pean Union pro­grams such as EQUAL of­fer em­ploy­ment to job­less women. In Aghios An­to­nios, mean­while, the women took ad­van­tage of their do­mes­tic skills, cou­pled with knowl­edge ac­quired at mar­ket­ing and busi­ness sem­i­nars and are now, 10 years on, ex­port­ing their prod­ucts to China.

As it turns out, Chinese palates are very keen on “glyka tou koutal­iou” (spoon sweets). Wild cher­ries, quince, orange, grape and cherry spoon sweet sam­ples were sent to China for tast­ing and were ap­proved. “They will be part of the menu of a Greek restau­rant which is open­ing in China,” said De­spina Ioan­nidou, pres­i­dent of the Aghios An­to­nios co­op­er­a­tive, who noted that the top spoon sweet fla­vor was wild fig. Mean­while, aniseed-fla­vored “tsipouro” al­co­hol did not fare very well. Ac­cord­ing to Ioan­nidou, this is be­cause many Chinese reme­dies in­clude aniseed, and so they pro­ceeded to ship plain tsipouro in­stead. The Aghios An­to­nios co­op­er­a­tive pro­duces over 30 prod­ucts.

Over at the Kas­tri restau­rant on Sy­ros, the women come up with about 70 large bak­ing trays of food per day. It was Anna Darzenta, the co­op­er­a­tive’s pres­i­dent, who came up with the idea of putting the EU fund­ing to use. As a re­sult, 28 women work on var­i­ous re­gional recipes and earn about 1,000 eu­ros per month. The restau­rant’s clients in­clude se­niors, work­ing and young folk, while prices range from 3.50 to 6 eu­ros. Take­out is an­other op­tion, while the restau­rant also caters to wed­dings, par­ties and other events.

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