Meatheads: Not Only at the Jersey Shore

5 Feb

Athens is covered in smoke. No, fires aren’t raging in the forests like they did this summer. After all, when I arrived in Greece at the end of August, I couldn’t see smoke while wandering the streets or relaxing on campus. But this smoke, the smoke that’s blanketing this city in gray, is everywhere. And it smells. Not cigarette smoke. Not car exhaust smoke. Not oh-shit-I-left-my-straightener-on-all-afternoon smoke. Instead, it’s a delectable aroma of smoke you can taste with every whiff. Meat smoke. Yep, that’s right. Meat. Look’s like it’s Smoky Thursday here in Greece!

Smoky Thursday, or Tsiknopempti in Greek, marks the final day before Lent and the time of fasting. During this period in Greece, those who observe Lent can eat no meat, and according to what I’ve been told, the more strict observers fast for the duration of the time. I’ve heard that this more commonly translates into something resembling Vegan-ism, but don’t quote me on that. However people choose to respect this holy period, Smoky Thursday is an evening of costumes, partying, and meat. Lots of meat. Every taverna and restaurant smokes meat all day, and families not dining out smoke meat in their own houses (basically what we’d call a BBQ). The air is physically filled with this smoke, and no matter where you are, I promise you cannot escape the haze or the smell. I unintentionally left my window open in my bedroom today, and looks like I’ll now be sleeping in a makeshift BBQ shack tonight.

A colleague of ours informed us about Smoky Thursday earlier today, and advised us to eat in town and soak in this meaty tradition. Never ones to turn down an insider’s tip, we headed down to Monistiraki this evening in search of the perfect taverna for our carnivorous feast. And boy did we find it. We took advantage of the beautiful chilled night to wander the dizzying streets and breathe in the breathtaking views of the lit-up Ancient Agora and Acropolis, and happened to come upon a cozy little outdoor restaurant, enclosed by a tent and warmed with heat lamps, in the heart of Monastiraki. Not only was the place cute and quaint with a large menu, but it had live music, complete with patrons clapping to the beat. Doesn’t get more Greek than that, eh? From the stuffed tomatoes and peppers to the saganaki (fried cheese) to the tzatziki to the potatoes to the complimentary halva to the featured guest of the evening, Chicken Souvlaki, we left more than satisfied and a little intoxicated on smoke.

As we made our way back to the metro station, we spotted locals decked in costume ready to embark on tonight’s festivities. After a 3-course meal and bloated bellies, we were ready to call it a night, but for the Greeks, the night is just beginning. I would have liked to partake in the night’s fun, but school tomorrow and a flight to Milan in the afternoon equate to an earlier bedtime for this blogger. While the rest of the city is running amok and chowing down on heathenish amounts of flesh, I’ll be nestled in my bed tucked in by the aroma of meat. Looks like I’ll be dreaming of ribs tonight.

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One Response to “Meatheads: Not Only at the Jersey Shore”

  1. Ariana February 14, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    That sounds deliciously fantastic. No such thing happens here. Sometimes you can smell the end of the day sushi smell…not that that’s a good thing…

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