Monday, September 19, 2011

Sweets and Smalti

We had separate vocational visits today and my first was immediately after coffee with Dora. We left the house and she drove me to a bakery (Top Bakery, to be specific) near home in Kiffisia where I was to put in my morning. While waiting for Dimitri, the owner, to arrive I had the chance to look about the shop and counted over 130 different baked products including varieties of breads, cakes, tarts, cookies, rusks, sandwiches, sweet and savory pies as well as gelato and espresso.

Dimitri arrived and we had coffee as he explained to me that they make and sell something like 500 loaves each day aside from other goods. The bakery makes gelato in house and we discussed specific types including one called Kaimaki made with Sheep’s milk and mastic (a special substance whose production is unique to one Greek island - Xios - in all the world), thickened with salepi, frozen and topped with a “spoon sweet” of sour cherries. I am thinking this one might just show up at the Magic Bean when I get home.

Aside from learning to make phyllo dough and about 8 other things, I had a very interesting discussion with Dimitri about the economy in Greece and how it impacted his business; the intriguing thing was how similar the economic challenges to service businesses in Michigan and Greece seemed to be.

I was picked up from the bakery by a Rotarian contact and spirited to meet Maria and her daughter, Aggie, in another part of Athens where I was allowed to visit the studio of a mosaic artist working in the Byzantine style on a piece of the Madonna for a church commission.

It was incalculably useful to be able to see, smell, touch the various natural adhesives, stone and glass smalti and backing materials that were strange to me; the artist was enthusiastic to share what she knew and her book of pieces was very impressive.

Having a chocolate and a sandwich with Maria and her girls at a French-themed café next to a large church afterward was an amazing way to chat and end the scheduled part of the day before returning to Kiffisia to rest and get ready for dinner.

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