Halloumi Festival in Australia

The Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria (CCMV) is organising a Halloumi Festival, paying homage to the island nation’s famous cheese.

President Theo Theophanous said, “Cypriot, Greek and all other communities are all invited to participate in an event packed with something for everyone”.

“Halloumi is synonymous with Cyprus; moreover, it has been elevated into a global culinary star, not only for Cypriots, for all, and we must celebrate it.

Theophanous said Haloumi forms a core aspect of Cyprus’ cultural heritage and is “much more than just cheese”.

The cheese was usually made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, and now, often, cow’s milk preservatives were used, only milk, salt and mint.

The making of it was a cultural, social, and communal process. Households would drain the milk and keep it covered in big earthen pots with frequent stirring. When the milk collected tasted sour, it was ready to be transferred into the caldron and brought to a boil until it thickened.

The thickened mixture was placed in straw baskets, allowing it to cool down, and the Halloumi was cut and infused with mint.

Attendees at Halloumi Festival 2023. Photo: Supplied
“Not everyone had these unique straw baskets, so they were shared among the families which aided cultural maintenance, cohesion and cooperation among the Cypriots and sustained their survival.”

The cheese, said Theophanous, “will be celebrated with the Tsiatismata, the UNESCO-recognised Cypriot poetry jousts.”

Tsiatismata are impromptu oral poetry jousts often performed to the accompaniment of violin or lute in which one poet-singer attempts to outdo another with clever verses made up of rhyming couplets.

This uniquely Cypriot spoken word performance was inscribed in 2011 on the UN Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and is a popular component of weddings and public celebrations, where eager crowds encourage poets to perform.

The most common metrical form is the iambic fifteen-syllable verse in a rhyming couplet, although a poet may use eight-syllable, six-syllable or even nine-syllable verses.

Tsiattistaes who are poet-singers- must be versed in the Greek Cypriot dialect, possess knowledge of the popular poetry of Cyprus and the ability to retrieve existing, well-known Tsiattista and, above all, must be able to improvise a new couplet on a specific theme within stringent time constraints and be able to respond to their opponent.

The Pegasus Dance group will perform a stage reenactment of Haloumi making, accompanied by the singer-songwriter Jim Ioannou.

Secretary of the Cypriot Community, Anastasia Sarakinis, said the festival program includes various activities and performances.

Traditional Greek/Cypriot dancers. Photo: Depositphotos
“We aim to satisfy our guests with community dance groups, which include the Pancretan Association, Cretan Brotherhood, Pontian Panagia Soumela, Inspirit and the South Melbourne Greek Dance group, as part of the entertainment.

“This year, for the first time, students from the Oakleigh Grammar, the Greek Community of Melbourne and the Greek Community of Dandenong St. Panteleimon will participate with traditional dances and songs.

“We are also delighted that the Parikia choir will perform, poems will be recited by Haritini Trifonos, and Demitra Karatzas Aetos band will perform live.”

The festival will include cooking demonstrations and Cypriot specialities offerings to the public. The halloumi-making demonstration by Eleni Koliou and Chrysoula Demitriou with Cypriot recipes by Eleni Tziorzis will be a central part of the program.

“Loukoumades, shiamishi, souvlakia, sheftalies, koupes, taxinopites, as a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available at the Festival Sarakinis said.

Stalls will be packed with diverse imported small goods and other products, including icons, jewellery, and skincare products.

Entry is free, and all are welcome.

When: 12 noon until 11pm (Saturday) and 12 noon until 9pm (Sunday).

Where: The Cyprus Community Building, 495 Lygon St. East Brunswick

Picture of Michael Yiakoumi

Michael Yiakoumi

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