Cereals, also known as the “gold of the Plain of Thessaly”, constitute a major nutritional ingredient for the natives while, for ages, they have played a critical role to the financial, social and cultural development of the entire area. Given they are cheap and in abundance, cereals have been used in all possible forms in many aspects of life. They were enriched, combined with numerous raw materials and evolved, offering an assortment of tasteful delicacies to the upcoming generations as well as serving as the foundation of the Greek cuisine.
One of the cereals’ major derivatives is pasta. Its origin is associated with many myths since it is lost back in the depth of time and it is claimed by different civilizations such as the Greek, the Italian, the Arabic and the Chinese. However, it is worth saying that the very first mention of its use was in the Greek gastronomy in 1000 BC, with the name “laganum”, which was nothing more than a wide flat dough, made of flour and water and cut into strips, similar to the current “Matsata” of Folegandros Island.
The particular features and needs of people in every part of Greece resulted to the development of various types of pasta, in terms of secondary ingredients, shape and way of cooking, one of which is the frumenty or “trachanas”, in Greek.
In the very first days of spring the plain of Thessaly is ready to welcome heartedly the cereals’ precious “golden” seeds which will germinate, grow up and mature until their harvesting in July. The area’s rich subsoil, in combination with the proper climatic conditions, offer to the residents grain varieties of excellent quality in abundance.
Meanwhile, as the highest summits of Pindus Mountain Range are still covered with the last snow, the flocks of sheep and goats make their first scoots to graze in the mountain slopes which soon will be wrapped with fresh green grass, till they finally move to their summer pasturage, deep in the heart of South Pindus. It is the season of lactation and high milk production.
Now it’s the time for the local households to take advantage of the raw materials offered by nature in profusion, for the production and storage of food to be consumed during the long-lasting winter period.
Indeed, the summer temperature increase, necessary for the food drying procedure, creates the proper conditions for the production of the most representative type of local pasta, with the typical granular form, the frumenty, integral part of the local menu during the cold winter nights.
Frumenty is produced of excellent quality wheat flour and sheep milk or yoghurt, depending on the type. More specifically, the sweet frumenty is made of boiled milk, while sour milk, in the form of yoghurt or pure yoghurt, is used in the production of the sour frumenty. The mixture of those ingredients results in a kind of dough left to mellow for a few hours to an entire night after being covered with a clean, damp, cotton cloth, completing that way the first phase of the production.
The second phase of the process starts the following morning. The dough after being cut in small pieces is spread into special white cotton clothes and left for a few hours under the sun to dry.
After drying, the pieces are smashed into smaller ones only to be left again under the sun. Then, they are in the right condition to be crushed into small grains, always by hand and by the use of particular sieves following the traditional method. The whole procedure is completed when the entire dough gets the typical granular form of frumenty. It is a long-lasting, difficult and tedious process, often serving as a meeting motive for the village women to help one another.
The third and final phase of the procedure demands a lot of patience since it includes the spreading of frumenty in a large surface in order to get dry and take its final form. Good drying lasts for a couple of days and is the secret ingredient for a long-lasting storage and preservation in dry and shadowy places even up to one year. The expression “he spreads frumenty” is proverbial in the Greek language for the one who takes an awfully long time to complete his tasks.