The triumph of Vlach cooking is the pita, a kind of pasty made in a wide, shallow, metal dish which has a hollow, conical metal lid of great importance for the proper baking of the pita. The pita itself is made by laying four or more thin leaves of pastry in the bottom of the dish, on which a thick central layer of vegetables, cheese or finely chopped meat is placed. The whole is then covered over with about six more leaves of the thin pastry, all of which are generously anointed with butter and occasionally small lumps of cheese. All kinds of pita are good, but perhaps the best is that made with leeks, nettles or some similar vegetable. For some obscure reason this dish is practically confined to the Vlachs, and is rarely to be seen in any Greek village.
(“The nomads of the Balkans: an account of life and customs among the Vlachs of Northern Epirus”, Alan J. B. Wace – Maurice S. Thompson, Methuen, London, 1914)
[photographic representation in the Monastery of Aghios Nikolaos, Metsovo]
Prepare the dough using white flour and separate the individual leaves of pastry, adjusting their number and thinness to taste. Grease the baking dish with olive oil and place two leaves of pastry on to it. Ensure that the leaves are wider than the dish to allow you to fold the edges back in later, creating the crust. Sprinkle the leaves with olive oil and spread a layer of chopped leak (make sure that this has been peeled, washed and drained thoroughly first) mixed with feta cheese over them. Place another leaf of pastry over the mixture, sprinkle with olive oil and repeat with another layer of leak and feta cheese. You can adjust the number of layers according to taste. A standard pita uses 6-7 leaves and the top layer must always consist of two leaves. Score the top layer of the pita, spoon some olive oil over it and put it in the oven.
Leak pie is a typical pita of Metsovo and is delicious when baked in a Dutch oven.
(Μετσοβίτικα Ανάλεκτα, Χρυσούλα Τόπη-Λαδιά, 2003)
According to the Ottoman census of 1454-55, the production of cereal was the second most important enterprise after animal husbandry, at the time. The census also makes reference to beekeeping, sericulture, arboriculture and viticulture, all of which indicate the presence of a settled population.
Over the next two to three centuries, the population in Metsovo rose steadily, so much so that during his visit to Metsovo in 1805, British traveller William Leake witnessed a severe food shortage caused by the increase in population: “The fields of Metsovo produce wheat, barley and rye, but wheat only lasts for a month or two and barley is even scantier due to demand by travellers.”
Women’s headscarves were mostly made in dark colours. The white headscarf (fakioli) was worn for special occasions such as festivals and celebrations, including the welcoming of livestock farmers and their animals at the start of summer. The headscarf was not tied at the back of the head, but the two ends were crossed behind the head and brought forward.