When life gives you lemons…

Are there police who patrol blogs for cheesy headlines? And if so, can someone offer me safe harbour? That headline should be arrested. And summary justice dispensed.

It’s not even accurate because it wasn’t life who gave me lemons, it was Kosta.

Kosta is one of the many elderly Greeks who live in our very multicultural area. He only seems to have a few words of English and I only have three words of Greek (including ‘shit’ which isn’t really something that’s come up in our conversations to date) so our chats involve lots of head nodding and gesticulation.

Every day Kosta wanders for miles around. Which is quite the feat given he’s had a stroke which means he walks with a pronounced limp and has one completely paralysed arm.

One day, out of the blue, Kosta arrived at our front door with lemons from the tree in his front yard. LOTS of lemons. I was touched and delighted.

And he clearly took my delight as carte blanche as he not only delivered every single lemon from his tree, but then began helping himself to lemons from any other trees he found on his daily peregrinations. At least that’s what I think he’s telling me. If not, he has the most prolific lemon tree in the world.

Sophia calls him ‘the old man with the magic pockets’ because every second day or so there would be a knock at the door and there he’d be, fishing lemon after lemon out of the depths of his trouser pockets. One day he also arrived with a small, perfect yellow rose from his garden for me. Between his teeth. I nearly cried.

Another time he motioned to me to help him get the last lemon from his pocket because his movement is so restricted. I hesitated for a split second, as visions of all the old men who flashed me on my year backpacking through Europe filled my head, only to take a quick breath and plunge in. Thankfully, all I found was yet another lemon.

My friends rolled their eyes and called my deeply held desire to believe in nothing but Kosta’s purest of intentions naive. Please let him have asked me to do that simply because those particular pants had unusually deep and unwieldy pockets I prayed silently.

And my prayers were answered when the next day he turned up in the same pants and asked Andrew to help him get the last couple of lemons out. “I was right” I crowed to doubting husband and friends. He’s just a lovely old fellow who needs the odd bit of help to retrieve things from awkward places. And felt very happy with the world until Andrew reminded me of the ancient greek predilection for bisexuality.  Cheeky bastard.

So what does one do when dear Kosta brings you nigh on 200 lemons over 3 weeks? Well, you make lemonade of course.

This is Stephanie Alexander’s recipe which I’ve made countless times and love. It has that delicious old-fashioned tang.

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER’s LEMON CORDIAL

2kg castor sugar (I actually halve this amount as I prefer my lemonade a little tart. Follow Stephanie if you prefer a sweeter little tart)

1 litre water

30g citric acid

30g tartaric acid

Juice of 6 large lemons, strained (I tend to use closer to 8)

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Dissolve castor sugar in water over heat in a large pot. Add citric and tartaric acids. Stir to ensure all is completely dissolved. Cool. Stir in juice. Bottle in sterilised bottles. Dilute to taste with water, lemonade, soda or mineral water.

Makes around 1.5 litres.

The other thing I made was lemon curd. Pots and pots of gloriously silken lemon curd. Or, as it’s always been referred to as in my family, lemon butter.

It’s delicious on toast or scones or as the filling in a sponge cake. Or do as I did with one large batch and use it to fill sweet pastry shells and top with some double cream for a quick and decadent dessert.

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER’s LEMON CURD

2 large lemons

100g unsalted butter

175 g sugar

3 eggs, lightly whisked and strained.

Finely grate zest and juice lemons. In a heavy-based saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir constantly over heat until sugar has dissolved. Add eggs off heat and stir to mix well. Cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour straight into hot, sterilised jars or into a bowl if using immediately. The mixture will firm up a little more on standing.

Makes around 2 cups.

Preserved lemons is another fantastic way to use up a glut and they last for years. I like this recipe.

And so we come from bitter citrus to a sweeter topic: the winner of the twirling betty giveaway. I loved reading about all the good things that happened to you. So many things to be thankful for. Thanks for all your comments.

A random number generator did the honours and here is the result:

Congratulations George! I’ll email you shortly to discuss which twirling betty accessory you would like.

Don’t be upset if you didn’t win because I’m planning another giveaway soon as I’m about to launch a new product. Hurrah.

Now back to the lemons for just a second. I made the cordial and lemon curd to give Kosta as a gift to say thanks. But when I tried to give them to him he refused. I think what he was trying to tell me was that his throat (which was constricted by his stroke) can’t tolerate the acidity. Which would explain why he’s giving all his lemons to me. I was so disappointed as I really wanted to do something to thank him for his generosity. What does one get for an elderly Greek man who has an extremely restricted diet and a penchant for deep pockets? Any ideas gratefully received.

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16 thoughts on “When life gives you lemons…

  1. Oh you make me laugh!! I would have been sucked in by the deep pockets as well!

    Great choices of what to make. I wish my lemon tree was producing a few more lemons this year so I could be making a few more things as well. I bought lemons this week and it was very sad.

    No idea what to give George. We have a few older greek men who walk around our streets taking people’s bins back in on bin day, waving to the kids, etc. Cute but sad.

    • Yes, I defy anyone to resist an impaired old fellow asking for help with his deep pockets! And it is so lovely to have them wandering around. I really feel sad at the thought that they won’t be around forever and that whole generation of immigrants, with all their amazing stories (and lemons), will be gone.

    • Yes, he is a gentleman. And I think he’s starting to feel like one of the family as he’s berated me twice in the last week for not clearing up the empty boxes down the side of our house!

  2. A Greek who doesn’t eat lemons? I don’t think that is biologically possible. Perhaps he doesn’t want sweets. Perhaps you should try one of the upteen elembty other Greek recipes that use lemons. I wish there were lemon trees out my way! Good luck!

    • I know, I think it’s actually illegal in Greece. Lucky he’s here or he would have been expelled from his homeland. I think the issue is not the sweetness but the acidity. I might try making him a risogolou – Greek rice pudding that is soft and gentle.

  3. I must say you have a sweetheart in your midst. It’s so sad that society automatically thinks of a dirty old man instead of the kind hearted soul he is. I hope many men take note of this behaviour and continue this when they get to this age 🙂

    • He is a sweetheart. I wish I hadn’t had the “potentially dirty old man” thing flash through my head but if you had seen the number of old men that either flashed me or worse when I was backpacking through Europe that was enough to make Mother Theresa wary. Although I must confess that now I reflect on it (not a pleasant task, by the way!) they were all in Italy and Spain and not one in Greece. Hooray for Greeks – bringers of democracy,lemons and lovely old fellows!

  4. Surveyed a few old Italian men – which they enjoyed – and the general consensus was that they were sure an old greek man would like a bottle of good olive oil. Appropriate I thought given your thing for olives, you could put in a gift box in the absence of deep pockets! And perhaps he could use a bit to lubricate those pockets (I do believe that connects two blog posts and possibly went a little too far)
    May I suggest Uliveto Moscato from Trafalgar, Victoria. (moscato.dsci.net.au and from some shop called Olive in lefy Hawthorn)
    XX

  5. I think this generosity must be something bred into mediterranian men of that generation. I used to live next door to an elderly italian couple and the man used to leave bags of fruit on my doorstep.

    • How lovely of him! I think you’re right. And the fact that many of them grew up in impoverished areas in tough times meant that looking after your neighbours was second nature. Great hardship, for all its horror, often breeds great humanity.

  6. Pingback: My weekend interspersed with ideas for using fabric to decorate cards. As you do. « twirling betty

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