Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Marvels of Chicken Fat

In 2021, Steve T reminisced about some of the injuries he and his family treated in Plessa:

“When my grandmother, on his mother’s side, Vasiliki  Kokmotos (born Vourdalás (Βουρδαλάς) (ΒΟΥΡΔΑΛΑΣ )  was young, during the war, there was an explosion of shrapnel and it hit her in the stomach and went right through her. The Italians were shooting off their cannons and guns at the village.  My grandmother was carrying her nephew on her back at the time. He did not receive any injury.  Her husband, Panagiotis Kokmotos, quickly butchered a chicken and used the chicken fat on the wounds* and the wounds healed.

I also got a knife cut when I was 4 years old that his grandfather Panagiotis Kokmotos  healed with chicken fat. I cut my hand when my brother Peter, had the knife by its handle and I had the hand made case it went it.  I wanted to see the knife and Peter pulled back. My grandfather had to tie my finger back together wrapped in the raw chicken fat.  The knife was clean so there was no infection. I still has a scar on my finger from that cut.

Then there was the time I  was running home from school in Plessa.  It is all downhill.  That day it was raining.  I was about ten years old when I went flying into a rock and fell, hitting my  head.  There were always rock walls in Plessa. I still have a scar on his forehead from that accident.”

*Animal fat has been used, often with honey, as an antiseptic and barrier against bacteria.

Wood, Winter, And Warmth: Plessa Before Electricity

In 2021, Steve T reminisced about growing up in Plessa in the  1930s, 40s, and 50s:

Woman carrying bundle of sticks in Métsovon, Greece. Source: Clarence W. Sorensen Collection, University of Madison, Wisconsin

“The first electricity came to Plessa in the 1960’s.  I studied with the use of a lantern at night.  It was fueled with kerosene, but you could use diesel fuel.

I would get up at 2:00 AM and go with my cousin to get wood in the summer. The place we cut was about 5 miles away. This happened every day during the summer. We would chop enough during the summer to last through the winter.  It took about 1 to 2 hours to reach the place that had the wood we wanted.  We would cut down the dead trees because the wood had already dried.  With us came the mule, a donkey and the horse.  We would begin cutting with the ax. This would last for no more than three hours.  It would begin to get too hot otherwise.   By 9:00 AM we were ready to head back to Plessa. We would load up the animals with wood and begin the journey back home.

My ax was always sharp.  I would grind it on the brown stone, a flat brown rock that was coarse in texture, located on the back steps of my Grandfather’s. I would put a little water on it and sharpen my ax.

In the winter we would throw a big log on the fire and it would last all night.  Every house had a fireplace. My mother would cook on it all the time. My father made her a round pan with two sides.  She put coals on the top and on the bottom.  That way the spanakopita of whatever she was making would cook on both sides at one time.  Today the fire places are used for special BBQs, to make shish kabobs or a half of a lamb.  Back then it was a source of heat as well as for cooking.

Greek oven that doubled as a fireplace. Source: “History of Greek Food” by Mariana Kavroulaki

To keep warm we had thick blankets.  My mother would spin yarn and then knit a blanket.  Then she took it to a place that had a water mill.  They would spin and soak it and beat it to make it felt.  Then they pulled it out of the water to let it dry.  The result was a very thick, felted blankets.  She made lots of blankets. We had no sheets so my mother would put blankets on the floor for us to sleep on.  Later my mother made mattresses.  They were filed with hay. In warmer weather I would sleep on the ground near the convent. I would scratch out a place on the ground and lay his head on the cleared area to sleep. Back then I wasn’t afraid of anything.

My mother would collect thin wood for her fire in the brick outdoor oven.  Everyone in Plessa had ovens in their yard.  She would go out with the mule and tie the wood onto him. Greater yet was the load that she would carry home.  She would put her rope down and put wood on it.  Then she would pull the wood together and lift the bundle so that the rope could be thrown over her shoulder then go under her armpit and then tie the rope in the front.  There were times when the women worked harder than the men and carried more than the mule.

The branches were used in the brick oven. When mom used the brick oven, at least once a week, she would get it so hot that the brick would turn white.  Then she would get all the fire out of it.  After that was done, she would mop the inside with water.  Then she would put the bread in to bake and the front opening would be covered with a round front cover to hold in the heat.  My mother was a very hard worker.”

Kallithea – Another Lost Village

Many of the villages in Central Greece are depopulated or have minimal population.

In 2021, Steve T reminisced about Kallithea, a small time 15 miles southwest of his home village, Amygdalia.

“My aunt Efrosini Kokmotos married a man named Kosta Katharakis  and they moved to his village Kallithea. The town has only 8 people now.  Years ago it had about 600 people and they even held court there for those that had wronged someone such as animals on other person’s property.  Each year they hold a “goat festival”.  They roast about 10 goats and everyone comes to eat. There is a very big, old, tree in town. They are like oak trees but not oak trees.  They like water.  It takes about 10 people with outspread arms to wrap around that big tree.

Plessa has three of those big, old, trees too.  One was close to my old house and another in the central area by the coffee shops.”

You can see a video of Kallithea and the surrounding area here

Kallithea plane tree in summer                                                     Kallithea plane tree in winter

A Mother’s Trip To See Her Daughter

In 2021, Steve T. told this story about his grandmother

Vasiliki Kokmotos nee Vourdalás (Βουρδαλάς)(ΒΟΥΡΔΑΛΑΣ ) (1930s). Click to see larger version

My grandmother on my mother’s side Vasiliki Kokmotos would walk miles at night time above the Corinthian Sea to the village of Kallithea (Καλλιθέα).  

Efrosini Kokmotos, married Kostas Katharakis (1930s). Click to see larger version

Her daughter Efrosini lived there after she married Kostas Katharakis  and had 4 children.  My grandmother would walk up and down mountains and over the river to get there. That walk is 1000 m or 3000’ above sea level. It took 4 hours to make the [15 mile one way trip].  There were no roads:  only animal paths, rocks and rough terrain.  She walked at night because it was too hot during the day.  She took an olive oil burning lantern with glass to protect the flame.  She also took a walking stick.  When asked if she was afraid, she replied, “Who is going to whip my ass with a woman who holds a stick?”

The trip from Amygdalia to Kallithea today by foot. Click to see the full version