A gentleman friend protested he had to bring a gift after all, he was Greek – he could not come without a gift. And so I had an idea, that he could bring me a gift which was Greek. Ouzo?! he said. Nope, Mastiha. I had heard of Mastiha liqueur when I was a tourist staying at the island of Rhodes. It is made only on the nearby island of Chios where the mastic trees grow. Mastiha is derived from the gummy sap of the low growing mastic trees and has a musky woody flavour. It has a distinctive “chewing gum” edge. It is used in sweets ( and yes, including chewing gum). You need to drink the liqueur cold over ice. Anyway I was delighted my gentlemen friend found it and it made a lovely addition to proceedings. Thank you !
Here is a pic of the (now opened) bottle:
I haven’t been to the Greek island of Chios which is the sole source of the mastic trees but the towns on the island are supposed to have some very distinctive decorative architecture.
Chios is reputed to be the island birthplace of Columbus. And the indications are this is quite plausible. http://www.christopher-columbus.eu/who-was-columbus/chios-greece.htm
Politically the island is significant because it was the site of the worst massacre by the Ottomans of Greek civilians during the war of independence: 25,000 people put to the sword.
And the coast of Turkey is all of seven close kilometers over the water. When I stayed at Rhodes it was wonderful to see how close Turkey was, and in the afternoons I would sit and look out from hotel balcony drinking Mastiha and eating Turkish delight, and marvel at it all.
This geometrical decoration involves scratching back the top layer of white plaster to reveal the darkness of the earthy surface in the next layer. The technique apparently comes from the Republic of Genoa – the medieval maritime powerhouse that dominated Chios. The plastering technique is not practised anywhere else in this form (though a few variants may be alive and well and living in Marrickville :-)).