The demonic Greek who treasured in Argentina with the sweets that are running out (Photos)

By | May 7, 2023

A well-known recipe, a small but decisive variation, a combination of ingenuity and knowledge, and that was it: Argentina got its national dessert in the Greek style. Mantecol, a smooth peanut butter-based nougat, is essentially a “mocked” halva. The inspired creation of a man who left Chios in his early 20s to try his luck in a foreign land. Michalis or Miguel Georgalos, his name. Synonymous with the sweetest flavors and memories of this Latin American country.

Born in 1915, the eldest of five children, Georgalos left his village (Nenita) in Chios, heading into the unknown as the threat of war spread across Europe. He first went to Poland, where he learned the art of halvah from an uncle, a pastry chef. When World War II broke out, he fled. Following his uncle’s advice, he took the first ship he came across, not even knowing where he was going. It was (a ship) for Argentina. It was his gateway to a wonderful new world.

He excelled with plan B

He arrived there, in 1939, without even a passport. But what she had with him was a halva recipe. Hoping that this would be his “passport” to happiness in this faraway place that fate had sent him to. Solidarity was his salvation. HEThe Greeks who were already in Argentina always disembarked in the port of Buenos Aires to see if any people from the country disembarked from the ships. One of them (who were waiting) was Michalis Orfanos. He will take him in, while in time he will become something of a second father to Georgalos.

Michalis, Miguel, Georgalos

He immediately tried to find a way to start making halvah. Except there was one big problem. Sesame, the ingredient in tahini, was nowhere to be found in his new homeland. He didn’t give up. He saw that there was an abundance of peanuts in Argentina. And he decided to experiment with them. The result delighted him. And not only him. The new product was called Mantecol, from the word “Manteca” which means butter in Spanish. Legend has it that a neighbor was the godfather. She used to tell (him) that the product looked like a shortbread.

With the end of the war, Georgalos was finally able to find out what had become of his family, every day he tried. When he was informed that they were all alive, he was overwhelmed with happiness. And he did everything possible to bring his own people to Argentina. Slowly but surely, one after the other, his brothers Sophocles, Timoleón, Constantino and Odysseus arrived in Buenos Aires. They were soon followed by cousins, other relatives, and some townspeople! One paved the way for many.

The “Georgalos Brothers” that became a legend

Almost all of them were involved in the business. Which was getting bigger and bigger. Under the name “Georgalos Hermanos” (“Georgalo’s brothers”) it replaced the original “La Greco Argentina” (The Argentine Greek). I was no longer alone. There were many. No boss, employees. But partners, shareholders. A family. Big, narrow. Three years after his arrival, the Greek immigrant met Markela, with whom they married and fell deeply in love. The Argentinian wife not only learned Greek, but also how to make Greek food. The two would raise their three children with warmth. Mary, Cleopatra and John.

In the 1950s, the headquarters of Georgalos Hermanos moved to Córdoba, since 98% of the Argentine pistachio production is concentrated there. At the same time, the production of additional products began. Chocolates, sweets… Almost everything they produced was irresistible. With Mantecol always as a crown. The great success of which undoubtedly, in the first place, has to do with its taste, its nutritional elements. But also with the inspired advertising campaign, outside the schools or with the help of a famous cartoonist in the country, Manuel García Ferre.

For several years, everything would go smoothly until 2001 and the financial crisis. Serious problems threatened the very existence of the company, which in order to survive was forced with great regret to sell Mantecol, synonymous with 35% of its turnover, to the multinational Cadbury. But the entrepreneurial spirit that had started everything (since) 1940 was constantly in the atmosphere. Heritage, tradition, DNA. In 2009, the company launched a similar product on the market, called Nucrem. This quickly took a 30% market share, leaving Georgalos with huge profits and giving him a strong outlook again.

The wheel had turned. Work began to “fly” again. And in 2021 the company achieved it and recovered Mantecol. From Mondelez, which had meanwhile bought Cadbury. A triumph, a claim and a great moment. It is a pity that a year earlier, Odysseus, the last of the Georgalo brothers, had passed away at the age of 91.. It’s nice to think that from up there, the 5 of them saw that what they built with so much effort had managed to return to the hands of the family. Because still today, many of his descendants work in the company. Its products “travel” to different countries, enriched with new options, such as cereals or, by adapting to the demands of the times, healthier options.

Mantecol Friday in the 60s

the last pilgrimage

Michalis’s daughter, Cleopatra, in an earlier interview with the Athenian/Macedonian News Agency, had spoken about the Greek upbringing she received as a child. And how important it is “as a family to feel good, to have good roots, to be able to pass on to our children the love that we also received from our parents and did so many things”. His father loved his country very much and made sure to pass it down to his children. Once he tried to repatriate them, they went to school in Greece, but the “experiment” lasted 9 months, then they returned to Argentina.

The visit to our (her) places, however, that Cleopatra Georgalos never forgot was that of all her siblings, her children and other relatives, a wish of her brother Giannis, shortly before he died… “When my brother got sick, he asked us to come as three families to our island with all our children. 33 of us went, all together, to Chios, four months before he died. “I want our children to have this place as a ‘stamp’ on them and I want us all to go together,” he told us and we respect his wish,” Cleopatra Georgalos had said. Keeper of the name left by Michalis Georgalos. The Greek that sweetened Argentina.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *