Sugar cane worker in the rich field, vicinity of Guanica, Puerto Rico (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
As I mentioned in my previous post Let’s talk Food I will be doing a talk/cookery demonstration in February, my thoughts have now moved on apace and I’ve started to write down my main points of discussion. To give the participants a snippet of insight into what has influenced Cypriot food and culture to become what it is today we need to view the constant traffic of visitors over time and the fact that Cyprus has been constantly occupied by invaders throughout history up until very recently when in 1960 they gained independence.
Cyprus was rich in natural resources, the richest was copper. The word for copper in Greek is Kupros and either the island was named this because of the copper or the name of the island came to mean copper because of the abundance of the stuff in ancient times. In the Roman period Cyprus was the main source of copper in the world. This is a little snippet I’ve learnt in my research for information to embellish my talk. Another fascinating snippette is that sugar was being produced on Cyprus from the 10th century.Quite remarkable really. The Arabs introduced sugar production techniques and set up sugar mills and refineries across the Levant. Sugar was an amazingly valuable resource worth more than its weight in gold. Sugar production ‘though was very labour intensive and needed a lot of irrigation and when the Venetians arrived in the mid 1400’s they decided to switch production to cotton which was just as lucrative and much less costly to produce.
From these exploits you can see that on Cyprus it was possible to cultivate most things due to its temperate climate and fertile soil.You would think with all these rich resources Cyprus would be a wealthy country but sadly the indigenous people did not enjoy any of the profits as they were no more than serfs or slaves paying heavy taxes and dues to the rulers.
When my aunt Eugenia came up to Treis Elies to share her recipes with us she made us many forms of pasta. These have been part of the traditional diet for centuries and I puzzled at this. When delving into the origins of pasta however there is no clear way of knowing where exactly it started. There is evidence now that it could have originated in ancient Greece. So either they could have brought it to Cyprus or much later the Venetians. Wherever the tradition originated pasta in its various forms was eaten frequently:- macaronia, ravioles, trin, phides, tomachia, koulourouthkia all are made from pasta.
Well more next time now I’m on the research trail.
This could be the title of this site in a way, the title ‘though came from a road name I came across in Rye, Sussex last week. It seems I can’t go very far without coming across something that connects withCyprus.
My good friend Gill of Paisley Pedlar fame who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and I had another of our jaunts last week, this time to take a look at Rye. It is a town that has a very long and interesting history spanning over a thousand years. It is an Antient town of the Cinque Ports which was an association of five sea port towns along the Kent and Sussex coast; set up by Edward the Confessor, its aim was to improve and fortify the sea defences of the English Channel against invaders. Rye, a late addition was an important trading harbour probably the most important of England in medieval times. Today this is difficult to visualise as the sea is two miles away due to the vagaries of weather and waterways. I don’t know why there would be a place named after Cyprus in this small coastal town, it seems like a quaint backwater now but if I sat in an old quiet spot and meditated it wouldn’t take much imagination to carry me back to those times of bustling activity with sailing ships arriving from far flung corners of the trading world.
Cyprus was under Venetian rule from 1489 −1571, the Venetians were great merchants and at that time England had greatly expanded and was a major exporter of wool and trading with the Middle East so I’m sure there was trade between these countries, it isn’t too far fetched to connect Rye with that time and possibly ships coming from Cyprus. I recently finished reading ‘The Venetian’ by Lena Ellena http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15701151-the-venetian a fascinating read that covers a lot of detail of what it was like living on Cyprus at the beginning of this period of Venetian rule, certainly no picnic for the Cypriots. The Venetians were beginning to establish cotton production on Cyprus at that time to replace the more costly production of sugar, who knows Cyprus could have sent cotton to England!
Towards the end of our brief sojourn in this delightful historic town,we visited an emporium selling all manner of goods connected to cloth and the sewing thereof. Quite a fitting finish to this piece as its name is Merchant & Mills and ties in nicely to the theme of trade and merchants past and present. My friend Gill is a sewista and introduced me to this company, I was right in my comfort zone as soon as I set foot over the threshold. It had in stock some really good quality cottons and linens that were just calling me like sirens to buy them; it was tough but I resisted. There were the accoutrements of dressmaking and tailoring all around and memories of my father’s tailor’s shop came drifting into mind. Card patterns hung from a nail and tape measures, tailor’s chalk and twine were all lined up neatly. I will return when I am in need of any of the above, if not to this shop then certainly the virtual one.