4.C Personal Care and Beauty

Violet, Viola odorata

Women of Corfu had no time to spend on trying to look beautiful since they were working all day long in the fields and then they had to take care of the house, their elderly relatives and the kids. Furthermore, married women were not supposed to care too much for their beauty since that was behavior suggesting interest in having an affair with men other than their own husbands.

Strengthening the hair was however everyone’s concern! This is a recipe from Maria Faita’s grandmother for the hair:

“Boil rainwater in a pan with cypress tree cones, an olive tree twig with the leaves on, lemon tree leaves or the peel, chamomile, laurel and rosemary till the water turns black. Strain and use this tea to wash and rinse the hair.”

Young women used to wash blond hair with St. John’s wort tea, chamomile tea, wheat or oat tea to make them look shinier and light colored. Women with black hair used walnut leaf tea to darken the color and even cover grey hair.

Hair was generally washed with rain water mixed with ash from the hearth. Olive oil soap was also commonly used for cleaning the hair.

“Rinsing the hair with thyme tea works miracles with dandruff.” (Aristea Metallinou)

People rubbed sage leaves on their teeth to clean them and keep them healthy, as well as for refreshing the breath.

Sage, Salvia fruticosa

Spiros Metallinos from Korakiana told me that his family burned vine twigs and rubbed the ash on the teeth for cleaning.

Eleni Zoumbou remembers her grandmother using wood ash from the hearth to clean and whiten the teeth.

Women in Corfu town took more care of themselves, even if they were not rich. Eleni Zoumbou has the following memory from her grandmother:

“I will never forget the smell of my Nona (grandmother). I still feel like I am smelling her aroma. Talcum Powder mixed with vanilla. The smell of love, care, tranquility. Angels must smell like this, as well.

She made the talcum powder herself from boiled rice that was left to dry and then it was powdered and mixed with vanilla.”

Other women used to make a cologne from violet flowers, but I haven’t managed to find yet the exact way they managed to preserve violet’s delicate perfume.

“My aunt, Sofia Papavlasopoulou used to make a fragrant cologne with violet flowers. She picked the flowers, made small bouquets and placed them upside down in a bowl with rubbing alcohol in it. She covered the bowl with a piece of cloth and kept it in the shade. I don’t know more details. I only remember that when she removed the flowers from the alcohol, they had completely lost their color.” (Spiros Balis)

Violet flowers, Viola odorata