Midweek

It has been a busy few days. We are working hard to finish up our analysis of the small area known as E.F1. We have been working at the museum and apotheke, and writing at the hotel. Seems to be coming along pretty well. We are hoping to be done with this part soon, and then move on to some other projects. The weather is getting a little warmer, and the gnats have been particularly bad. But the sunsets can make up for that.

Since I couldn’t sleep the other night, I used the opportunity to do some work on my potato chip research. It turns out that I have evaluated 64 different flavors, with an average score of 4.57. I used the opportunity to go back and re-evaluated two flavors I tried early on Lay’s Prawn Cocktail that I originally tried in 2010 and rated as a 10 – the only 10 given so far. The other was Lay’s Feta flavored potato chips which I evaluated in 2013 and gave a 1 – so, complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

First up, Prawn Cocktail. No surprise here. Good crunch, great flavor – the chip by which all other chips should be measured…..and probably be found lacking. A clear **(10) again. Just a great chip. Not much else to say, other than why can’t I get these in the US? The Herr’s Old Bay Bay flavored chips are somewhat close, but not really. I like the Old Bay, but they are a step down.

For my second re-evaluation, I am trying Lay’s Feta flavored chips. I am a big feta fan, I even like the feta in the US which usually isn’t even very close to tasting the way that feta should. Fortunately, I can get real feta from either the Strip in Pittsburgh or from my local Italian supermarket. I don’t really remember what these chips tasted like, all I can remember is what Bill said after trying them – “They taste like cat vomit.” As a cat owner, or really as the servant of two cats, that really strikes home with me. Anyway, the crunch was good. The flavor was ………..hard to describe. It was certainly very salty, and sort of musty. I would say that this time I would give it a **(2). So slightly better, but still pretty close to my original evaluation.

RSM

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Busy Week

It has been a busy week. We took a trip to Larnaka on Tuesday to pick up Amy and Nassos from the airport. We also worked in a visit to Kourion for Bill to take some photos of the basilica, and a visit to the Larnaka Museum. It has undergone an update and looks great. The displays are really well-done. And of course, we also made sure to visit our favorite souvlaki restaurant on the island for lunch – and it was as good as I remembered.

Back at Polis, during the rest of the week we managed to work at the apotheke, at the museum, do some writing and data analysis at the hotel, and go visit the site. It looks like our work on EF1 is actually coming close to being finished, or at least a completed rough draft.

And of course, I also did some potato chip research. First up, Tyrell’s hand-cooked English crisps, Mature Cheddar and Chive flavor. As with the other bags of Tyrell’s chips, the crunch was perfect. The flavor was interesting, it reminded me a lot of Lays Cheese and Onion, but a bit more subtle. As a result, it scored better than the Cheese and Onion which had scored a three, this one scored a *****(5). Better, but not great, at least in my opinion. The Munsell for this chip was 2.5Y 6/4.

Next up, Handy Snacks Cyprus Potato Chips Vinegar and Oregano flavored. I was excited to see these. I like vinegar chips and I like oregano chips, so this would most likely be a great pairing. Unfortunately, no. The crunch was good, but the vinegar and oregano pairing didn’t work. The vinegar was very faint, but it seemed to make the oregano harsh and a somewhat bitter – not good, at least to me. I gave them a **(2). And the Munsell reading was 5Y 7/3.

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New Week and More Chips

We did not go to the apotheke on Saturday or Sunday. We did do some computer work on Saturday. and Sunday was a day off. So today (Monday) we returned to the apotheke and continued working our way through the ceramics from E.F1. Our goal is to make sure we had looked at all of the sherds, even the ones from less than secure contexts. We finished that today, which means I get to do some drawing of profiles. The art gene skipped me – both my mom and daughter have amazing skills when it comes to art, me not at all. With a lot of practice though, I can draw and then ink on the computer a relatively reasonable profile. Well, mainly reasonable, let’s say…it’s accurate.

I also have some chip reviews to share, I realize that I haven’t posted any lately. First up is, Pipers Biggleswade Sweet Chilli Crisps. I generally like chili peppers, so I had high expectations for this chip. The bite was pretty good, though not as crispy as Tyrells. The flavor, though, was …….. hard to describe. It started off in a way that me think that I was going to taste paprika, which I like, but then it became muted and heavy…..and didn’t get any better. Just not good, so I gave them a **(2).

In an effort to have a positive potato chip review after the the last two chips, I decided to try another chip, also by Pipers. This was Pipers Burrow Hill Apple Cider and Sea Salt. The crunch was like the previous Pipers flavor, pretty good. The flavor was also pretty good. It was a bit muted, unfortunately. It tasted good initially, but the vinegar was a very delicate flavor that you had to focus on to be aware of it. It was easy to forget about the vinegar and almost believe it was a plain salted chip. Since I am a vinegar fan, I wanted more vinegar, much like more cowbell. I gave them a *****(6). I also added another step to the process, since the other night a fellow archaeologist in Polis pointed out that I really should be Munselling the chips, and since I have my Capsure X-Rite rm200 with me, I figured why not. Plus, it is always good to go high-tech, right? In case you aren’t familiar with Munsell Soil Color Books, they are a way for archaeologists to standardize their vocabulary for describing soil and ceramic colors.

These chips are 2.5Y 7/3 (pale brown). It will be interesting to see if there is much difference across the potato chip spectrum, though I doubt it.

I also intend in the coming week to provide some numeric analysis of my data, as well as some fancy charts and graphs, etc. All in the name of science.

RSM

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Chips and Chips

Hundred of people have emailed or texted or tweeted or called me saying that “yes, it is great you are studying Roman ceramics, but when are you going to get to the main point of your research trip – your ongoing study of the potato chip on Cyprus?” Today is your lucky day if you are one of those people deeply concerned over the hiatus in my potato chip research. Never fear, when Bill and I went to the store Monday, I was able to snag some chips to evaluate.

The first contestant is Tyrrells Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar. This was a brand I had not seen before on Cyprus. The bag says that they are hand-cooked English crisps and that the company was established in Herefordshire, England. The bag’s design was not bad-looking and it was about average priced when compared to the other chips available. As for the taste, it was nice and crispy. The flavor was a really nice blend of salty and sour. I am a fan of vinegar, and especially apple cider vinegar since it is the base flavor in my barbecue sauce – the proper sauce for barbecue in eastern North Carolina, which is the best barbecue (I know everyone should know this, but it is always worth repeating in case someone reading this is unaware of the undisputed best barbecue in the world.) I score this a *********(9) – a very good score. So good, in fact, I had to run some analytics to check and see where this placed this chip in the overall record of my research. This chip received the second-highest score I have ever given, behind the prawn cocktail chips which achieved a perfect score. In case further confirmation is needed about how I scored them, I finished the whole bag.

To celebrate my return to my chip research, I also evaluated a second flavor of potato chip, Lays Baked Tomato & Basil. It came in a very typically designed bag for Lays, with a very busy design. As for taste, it was very crispy as expected of a baked chip. My first thought on tasting it (regarding its flavor) was that it tasted like a lasagna, which was quickly followed by a growing presence of basil….and then even more basil….and then too much basil. This was something I didn’t expect, I really like the way basil smells, and I use it in my cooking a lot. If I was worried that my evaluation of the cider vinegar chips was inflated due to my eagerness to continue my research, this one demonstrated that wasn’t the case. I gave this a *(1).

So, quite a range in scoring today – from my second-highest score (9) to tied to the lowest score ever (1). This really sums up the field of potato chip research and the way the journey progresses, from the heights of culinary satisfaction to the depths of taste buds’ despair.

RSM

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Museum Day #1

Today was our first full day of research in Polis. We did a bit of cleaning, mainly sweeping and cleaning the tabletops before setting up our stuff in our usual places. The first day at the apotheke is always a bit like the opening day of baseball, a lot of ceremony and tradition. Since we had stopped at the bakery on the way to the apotheke, Bill and I each ate our inaugural vanilla glazed doughnut. Then we discussed a plan of action for the day. For me, that meant grabbing some pottery trays to analyze our work in the area known as EF1. Before I could begin studying the pottery, I needed to decide on which songs would be selected as this field season’s opening songs from my pottery playlist – a great honor for those selected. After a few minutes pondering the issue, my opening day selections were:

Once the music started, then it was just a matter of looking at pottery for the next few hours. It is always a little slow getting back into the groove, and after missing the last two summers, it felt a little harder to get things moving at the correct speed. But, by the end of the day, things felt pretty normal.

RSM

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Back at Last!

So, COVID shut down our work in Cyprus for two summers (2020 and 2021). This year, however, we are pushing ahead and trying to get our work back on track. It has been an unusual few weeks getting ready for the trip. In the past, I never really worried about packing or making sure I had what I needed for the field season, but after a few summers of not doing any international travel, I adopted a new approach to my travels – sudden and frequent panic. This technique resulted in frantic buying on Amazon, trips to stores, and waking up one night at 3:30 AM and realizing my rolling duffle had broken down on its last trip back from Cyprus and spending the next two hours reading reviews to order a new duffle.

The trip was relatively uneventful. My Pittsburgh to Philadelphia leg had a large number of Pittsburghers who were on their way to Las Vegas, including the older woman sitting next to me who called me “Bro” every time she talked to me. My Philadelphia to London leg was nice and quiet since the flight was only about 50% full resulting in me having a row to myself. The London to Larnaka leg was very crowded with only one empty seat – fortunately, it was next to me. This flight was on time allowing me to get the rental car and then pick up Bill. We spent the night in Larnaka before driving to Polis this morning. The weather in Polis is sunny and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and is expected to be like this for the next week to ten days.

We are set up at our usual place, Renos – and it looks like nothing has changed – still nice and quiet. We are staying in the same room we have stayed in for the last two trips. Our balcony looks out into a neighboring house’s backyard, which has always been a pleasant view because of the large number of flowers they grow. This year, the flowers have grown so high that you can’t see into the yard. The village looks almost the same, though one of our favorite places to stop by for something to eat or drink has closed.

We ran some errands this afternoon in an attempt to hold off the jet lag which was noticeable – a lot of nonsensical statements and long pauses in an effort to recall names, places, etc. We made a grocery run, and visited with the museum staff to discuss our plans for the summer. We then started discussing our plans for the summer and gathering computer files together to make sure we have everything we need. Since I mentioned going to the grocery store, let me assure you that I did find some potato chips to try out. Thousands and thousands of you have emailed me concerned over the pause in my potato chip research. Well, it starts back this week! Bill is trying to get me to go back through the chips I have already tasted and regrade them, to see if my tastes have changed – we will see if I am up to that. Meanwhile, a quick review of my past work (55 reviewed) will help set the stage for this season’s work.

The Potato Chips of Cyprus: An Exhaustive Study:

  • Argentinean Steak — ***** (5)
  • Baked Lays with Mediterranean Herbs — *****(5)
  • Barbecue — ******** (8)
  • Brazilian Mango and Chile — **** (4)
  • Caramelized Onion and Balsamic Vinegar — ******* (7)
  • Cheese and Onion — *** (3)
  • Crunchips Barbecue Flavour — *** (3)
  • English Cheese on Toast — ***** (6)
  • Frit Ravich Onduladas Jamon Chips (Ham Flavoured) – ** (2)
  • Frit Ravich Mediterraneo Chips – **(2)
  • Goldies Bacon Extreme. Bacon – *(1)
  • Goldies Extreme – *****(5)
  • Greek Salsa — **** (4)
  • Handy Snacks Cyprus Potato Chips Vinegar and Oregano – *** (3)
  • Lay’s Baked Barbecue potato chips – ***** (5)
  • Lay’s Cream Cheese and Bacon – ******(6)
  • Lays Greek Salad Flavor – ****(4)
  • Lay’s Heinz Ketchup flavored – **(2)
  • Lay’s Pesto and Mozzarella with Cool Effect – ******(6)
  • Lay’s Scoops Chili Flavoured – ***(3)
  • Lays Cider Vinegar – **** (4)
  • Lays Lasagna Flavored chips – ****** (6)
  • Lays Maxx Deep Ridged Chicken Wing Flavour – ** (2)
  • Lays Maxx Deep Ridged Salt & Vinegar Flavour chips – ******* (7)
  • Lays Mozzarella and Pesto flavored — ******** (8)
  • Lays Mushrooms in Cream – ***(3)
  • Lays Sensations – Japanese Teriyaki – *****(5)
  • Lays Smokey Bacon – ****(4)
  • Lays Sour Cream and Black Pepper – ****(4)
  • Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean 3 Peppers — ******* (7)
  • Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean 100% Olive Oil — ******** (8)
  • Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean Provence Herbs — ******* (7)
  • Mama’s sundried tomato and basil chips -***(3)
  • Mediterranean Herb — ****** (6)
  • Mexican Peppers and Cream — ******** (8)
  • Oregano — ******** (8)
  • Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme — **** (4)
  • Prawn Cocktail — ********** (10)
  • Pringles Texas BBQ Sauce – ******(6)
  • Quavers with Cheese — ******* (7)
  • Replay’s Cheese flavored chips – ********(8)
  • Replay’s Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips – *(1)
  • Replay’s Terra Bites – **(2)
  • Salt and Vinegar — ******* (7)
  • Thai Sweet Chile — ** (2)
  • Tsakiris Bacon and Cheese Flavoured Chips – * (1)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Florina Peppers Flavor – ** (2)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Graviera Cheese Flavour – ******* (7)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Ketchup and Mustard – ** (2)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Mytilene Sea Salt Flavour – ******* (7)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Oregano – ****** (6)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Vinegar Flavour – ****** (6)
  • Tsakiris Chips with Santorini Tomato Flavor – ******** (8)
  • Tsakiris Chips Sweet Barbeque – **** (4)
  • Tzatziki — * (1)

RSM

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Two summers..and counting

Summers have become quite strange. I had spent every summer since 1995 in the Greece or Cyprus with exception of the brief period of 2000-2001, when I was finishing up my dissertation and looking for a job. Then last summer (2020) the pandemic shut everything down, but I was on a committee making plans for how my university was going to manage classes in the fall. This involved a wide range of activities, such as meetings, spacing chairs, putting down stickers, etc.) and as a result, even though I didn’t get to go to Cyprus, it was so busy that it distracted me. Not going this summer has really felt different. While there are a fair number of activities going on at IUP due to a reorganization, it doesn’t have the same feeling that 2020 had. As a result, I really find myself thinking a lot more about Cyprus and worried about getting back there. I noticed that I have been cooking a lot more of the foods I normally eat in Cyprus. For example, I made souvlaki, schawarma, tzatziki, and hummus in the last few days and am thinking about cooking Tavas this weekend.

I guess the food will have to do for now.

RSM

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Trip to Nicosia…..Moore…Scott Moore

So yesterday I made a trip to Nicosia with Nancy. I had received an invitation to the US Embassy to celebrate the 4th of July and the 243rd anniversary of the founding of the United States. The event was actually celebrated on June 6th (D-Day), and so also celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Finally, there was also mention made of the 50th anniversary of the US crewed moon landing – a picture of the moon landing was on the front page of the invite. Since I had never actually been to an embassy event I was determined to go. Unfortunately the dress code was business professional which meant suit and tie. I spent a lot of time during my undergraduate years working as a sales associate at a retail jewelry store, and had to wear suit and tie. As a result, I really don’t like wearing one to work and seldom wear one, reserving it for special occasions. I realize that wearing jeans and a polo shirt doesn’t fit in with the traditional view of how an academic should dress, but …

Anyway, I really wanted to attend so I actually went to Larnaka last week and bought what I needed to wear. The US Embassy is located near one of our favorite restaurants the Syrian Friendship Club so I had driven by it before. I was amazed at how crowded it was, there must have been 500 people crowded into an outdoor garden area. It was hard to move around and you had to wait in a security line to enter the building. Inside in the outer courtyard they had a fancy Cadillac you could take your picture next to, and a silhouette of an astronaut on the moon with his face cut out that you could stick your head in so that you could take your picture of you as an astronaut.

The event started off by an address of the American Ambassador to Cyprus, Judith Garber. In addition to a number of references to the founding fathers and American history, she spoke about the strengthening ties of the US with Cyprus and concerns over the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus concerning natural gas drilling in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus. Here speech was followed by a speech by the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades. His speech echoed the ambassador’s though it dwelt more on the drilling issue and how it could impact the energy corridor. So, there were about 20 minutes worth of speeches and then everyone was free to mingle.

I had two goals for the reception. One, to feel like James Bond attending the event (in my mind, and yes I realize I wasn’t wearing a tuxedo. Two, sample some very good or at least fancy food. The ambassador mentioned in her speech that Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with a cookout and that was the theme of the evening. There was a blues musician providing the music and American restaurants providing the food. There were tables set up for you to try out items from Jack Daniels, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, KFC, Pepsi, and dessert items from a Cypriot bakery – Zorba’s. There were servers circulating with wine and little fancy appetizers.

Needless to say, not what I was expecting. But I was hungry and decided to sample what the restaurants were serving. I was able to grab a slice of pizza and a glass of Pepsi fairly easily. I then tried to get to the Taco Bell table and was never able to get closer than two rows of people from it. I was stunned, I am usually very good at working my way through a crowd, but this was a total shutout. It was like when a team has fourth and goal from the one yard line and they send the running back into the middle of the line in an attempt to try to hammer it into the end zone only to meet everybody from the defensive line in the backfield and lose yards. I literally could not get closer than 5 feet from the food without hitting a wall. I backed off and tried it again several times with no success. This also happened over by KFC and Jack Daniels. I eventually settled for a slice of pizza, two cups of Pepsi, and three cookies.

All in all an interesting evening.

RSM

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Last Full Week in Polis

This is out last full week in Polis. Bill leaves for Greece on Monday and I leave for PA a week from Friday. It is also the point in the season where we go from feeling like everything is under control to worrying about getting everything done. We used Sunday for catching up on computer work. Then we spent Monday at the apotheke continuing to refine our work in EF1, this time looking at the earlier Roman material. This morning we spent some time at the Polis Archaeological Museum looking at stamped pottery and the lamps, or more accurately lamp fragments, that came from EF1. There were a couple of nice lamps, but most were small fragments. This involved cataloguing them and illustrating them. We spent the afternoon back at the apotheke working through some more pottery. The rest of the week will be pretty busy. I am going to the Kourion Museum tomorrow to look at some pottery from the Kourion Amathous Gate Cemetery and Thursday I am going to a reception in Nicosia. That really only leaves Friday and Saturday to get things wrapped up at the apotheke, so it will be tight to get everything done.

RSM

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Saturday Chip Day

Since I have been a little behind on my potato chip research, I decided to double up this afternoon. I thought I would also provide everyone a little glimpse behind the curtain to the large scale operation that is potato chip research in Cyprus. The main thing is to approach it employing a “scientifical” method avoiding any of the techniques of the softer social sciences or god forbid, the humanities. This is science, people!

Anyway, I also conduct potato chip research in the middle of the afternoon, so I am neither too hungry and looking forward to dinner, or too full from my midday repast. Too close to either lunch or the evening meal could “skew” (notice the correct use of scientifical jargon) the results, which could then lead to issues with my funding agencies. The only thing that I make use of during my double blind, peer-reviewed research is water. Plain water, purchased from the store. BUT, and this is critical, not just any water purchased from the store. Research has shown consistently that the best water for potato chip research is square water, which in Cyprus is Ayios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). The square water molecule is more neutral flavored than a circular water molecule, allowing it to be a more effect palate cleanser. If I need to, I will diagram this in a future post to help the less scientifically inclined of you (historians, classicists, mathematicians, physicists, etc.) understand the cutting edge technology being employed in my research.

So, first up today. Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean Classic, with 100% Olive Oil. As I am sure all of you remember, the Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean flavors have scored well so far. And…..this was no different. The chips were crunchy and flavorful. A well-crafted chip. I liked the flavor, the crunchiness, and the slight olive oil taste to them was enjoyable. While I do personally prefer flavored chips, for a plain chip this is a solid contender. I score it a – ********(8). Now that I have tried all three of Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean, or all of the ones available at the local grocery store, I have to say that they are a good go to chip.

Contender 2 – Crunchips Barbecue Flavour manufactured by Lorenz. The bag is what attracted me to this chip. It has chips around a small grill on which rests two kebobs or kebabs depending on you preference. Upon closer inspection I realized that the kebobs consisted of alternating slices of potato (maybe a russet) and something else that I first thought was a slice of meat, but now I am not sure. It looks more like red pepper slice. In checking the ingredient list, it does have paprika flavoring, so maybe it is a red pepper slice. We are fortunate to have an unpaid intern with us this summer (Bill) who is considering a career change from history to the food sciences. Unfortunately, all he could say was that he did not know what was pictured, and expressed no interest in researching this further. I think he might be stuck in his current field since he doesn’t seem to have that scientifical drive to conduct complicated research.

Anyway, I tasted the chip and…..my first taste was barbecue, but it quickly became a “flat barbecue” taste – that is never good. As someone raised in the south, my DNA has literally been modified to provide superior knowledge and tasting skills concerning both “real barbecue” (pulled pork) and “pseudo-barbecue” (all other forms of barbecue) to use their technical terms. As a result, to me these chips tasted like flat barbecue – no depth of flavor, just a quick hint of barbecue that quickly becomes a little bitter in the mouth. So, I give it a – ***(3). A disappointment, even the superior square water qualities of Saint Nicholas had a hard time cleansing the palate.

RSM

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