Probably you are wondering what hora sixta is. Well, this is simply the “sixth hour” after dawn when southern nations which live in the sun-drenched Southern and Mediterranean countries of Europe (and also in tropical and subtropical countries) need a deserved rest in the afternoon heat that influences greatly over their work productivity. The midday rest (or better known as a Mediterranean nap or siesta in Spain, or riposo in Italy) is the sacral period when even bosses have no power over their employees and managers don’t even dare call their subordinates to come back to work. Any attempt made in the hottest hours of the day is in vain because people spend their time indulging in a long lunch at home accompanied by giving pleasures to one another (by the way, the increase in the birth rate in the above-mentioned and other siesta-countries is owing to the midday rest … 😉 ) and a daytime nap in the end. Hmmmm … I know from practice that very often siesta-people would say Hasta mañana, amigo to you during the siesta time and you won’t be able to reach out to them at all till tomorrow morning. 😀
And which is the most preferred activity by siesta people? Of course …. to grab the utmost of The Flavour of the Mediterranean during their about 2-hour lunch. Sun heat doesn’t allow them to eat much at that time of the day but if they do their best, they can follow the rule of thumb of the three-dish lunch. They could take some starters first or soup. The Italians would have their traditional vegetable Minestrone with pasta or rice in addition. The Spaniards have their own raw vegetable soup (usually tomato-based), i.e. Gazpacho, which is served cold. The Portuguese would also prefer their traditional vegetable-based Caldo verde soup that is made from kale and potatoes (and sometimes garnished with sausage slices). As for the Greeks, they would definitely choose Avgolemono that is their traditional egg-lemon soup with chicken.
Are you done? Could we move to the main dish? Yes?! Okay, then … I don’t think one would feel nice, if they have a pizza or pasta in a 40-degree heat. Even a simple Margherita or a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese would be stodge at that time of the day. So, you’d better take frutti di mare (seafood) with a glass of prosecco or simple white wine. The Portuguese would also prefer fish-based Bacalao (a traditional Portuguese meal of dried and salted codfish with vegetables or cream) with some Port wine. Spanish Sangria would go well with either Paella (Valencian, seafood or mixed) or various Tapas (snacks and appetizers consisting of Mediterranean ingredients such as olives and olive oil, garlic, fish and seafood, sometimes a free range of pork and ham). And what about the Greeks? They would choose Moussaka with eggplants and a filling of meat and top of creamy béchamel, and tzatziki that is something like a cucumber-yoghurt salad with garlic, and a glass of Ouzo.
Yummy-yummy ….. And it will be become “more yummy-yummy” because we are going ahead with the sweetest part of the Mediterranean lunch. 🙂 Are you already screaming for Italian ice-cream? Or are you starving for a greenly delicious cassata siciliana or tube-shaped cannoli siciliani? Or maybe you would want Tiramisù eating it a like a true Medici in Tuscany or Ali Baba’s dessert of Naples – Babbà napoletano. The latter is very sweet and soaked in syrup and its sweetness is close to the taste of Baklava and Tulumba that are extremely characteristic for the cuisines of the ex-Ottoman Empire and Balkan countries like Turkey, Bulgaria, Hellas, etc., in particular. Another extra syrupy cake typical for Greece is Karidopita that is often nicknamed as the Souvlaki for the Soul. It is the traditional Greek Walnut Cake with the aromas of cinnamon, vanilla and grounded clove. If you are not a fan of such extremely syrup-soaked sweets, your choice would be either Spanish or Portuguese desserts that are not so sweet. The Spaniards would please you with fried dough Churros served with thick chocolate, Polvorones cookies, almond cake called Turrón or Mantecados traditional crumble cake. As for the natives in Portugal and Lisbon, in particular, they would mandare giù (soak up) egg tart pastry called Pastéis de nata.
And what is a sweet without coffee, a? It is like tea for the English. Or it is like being in a Southern or Mediterranean country and not having a siesta. What I meant is that coffee tradition is inseparable part of the life of these nations. They drink the aromatic hot drink every time and especially after a heavy lunch or dinner. The Italians, surely, would choose a strong Espresso corto. It is only one sip but it hits you in the heel of your foot immediately. The Portuguese would drink Bica that could be described as an Italian espresso but longer, lighter and smoother. The Greeks are milder and would “frappé themselves” with iced coffee with foam, much sugar (or if you want to, it can be without any), milk (white Frappé) or water (black Frappé). As far as the Spaniards are concerned, they would gather courage for the phases 2 and 3 of the siesta by drinking a Carajillo. And what does this “courageous coffee” look like? It is, actually, the Italian caffè corretto or Irish coffee (coffee with alcohol – brandy, whiskey, anisette liqueur or rum). The name of Carajillo comes from the Spanish troops that occupied Cuba. They mixed coffee with rum and the newly prepared beverage made them braver and courageous.
When we talk about alcohol (of course, I don’t mean the excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks at all!), it has always been regarded as a digestif served at the end of any meal in order to help digestion since ancient Greek and Roman times. People of the past mixed alcoholic beverages with herbs, seeds, roots, flowers, plants and cream. These blends are known as sweet liqueurs nowadays. In Italy such digestivos are called amari. Amari drinks are quite popular in Bel Paese and that is why you might feely drink after the meal a glass of Campari (bitter and red-coloured with herbs, fruits and plants) in Milan, Limoncello (lemon flavoured liqueur) on the Amalfi coast, Nocino (walnut liqueur) around Modena, Vermouth (Carpano, Cinzano, Martini & Rossi) that is a white-wine-herbs based beverage typical for Turin, or grape-based Grappa spread out all over Italy but more popular in the northern parts of the country. If you have already tried out the Spanish pre-meal aperitif from Cádiz – Jerez sherry (even praised in the play “King Henry IV” by Shakespeare), now it’s high time you tasted the sweet liqueur with the tongue-twisting name of Patxaran that is with an anise flavour. If you happen to have a siesta in Portugal, in Lisbon, in particular, don’t miss the chance to have an after-meal sour berry digestif called Ginja. And finally, Hellas would offer you two alcoholic drinks bearing the same name. The first one is Mastika Chiou that is the brandy and liquor of the island of Chios and the second one is the “hard” version of Mastika similar to Ouzo.
And what did we do? We ate and drank and now we are ready for the second and third phase of the siesta …. 😉
¡Ay, caramba! La fiesta-siesta del mediterraneo …. 😀 Hasta mañana, hombre ….. 😀