Indulge me. This is a personal post on my professional site. My son and I took what could be considered a trip, rather than a vacation - sixteen days in Greece. He's fourteen, beginning to be a man, old enough to haul the very heavy suitcase with the very broken handle, old enough to read a (paper) map and old enough for my uncensored rants while circling the traffic-choked mazes of ancient city streets. So narrow were they I thought of greasing the fenders.
We ate. Me as adventurously as possible, him not so much, but admirably for a somewhat cautious archetypical teenage American boy. I plied him with creamy gelato, dense and sour frozen Greek yogurt and icy drinks in lurid colors, sometimes three times a day. It was hot there day and night.
Taking good pictures is hard! Taking good food pictures is very hard. The line between appetizing and revolting is a mile wide. Most of my snapshots fall into that crevice but I cannot resist snapping away, and posting too. Eating, drinking and browsing at markets are some of the greatest pleasures of travel and we all want souvenirs. Here are mine. I did my best, fell short often in the lighting/focus/composition departments, but my mouth waters with remembrance anyway.
As I said, indulge me. We don't travel enough around this joint. Here is my album, my bids to share the thrill of our adventure.
Breakfast our first morning on the island of Andros. Greek breakfasts were splendidly simple, the pears picked from a tree right outside. We picked our own figs, often, while walking, going for those that were slightly shriveled with ripeness, sticky and sweet inside.
I don't believe we ate a single meal indoors. Little pots of basil were everywhere in lieu of flowers. Fragrant and in all varieties, some with leaves as tiny as thyme.
We had one, just one, fancy dinner. Honestly, we were happier in places that were more plain, although it was fascinating to see and eat traditional Greek food reinterpreted and upscaled. Teddy plowed through the carbonara. Have pork, will travel.
I realize that this image looks upside-down but it is not, I swear. There were many lovely little touches on the Greek tables such as the pretty, lace-edged napkins in the bread basket, a basket with an accordioned lid, no less - beautiful, made of natural materials, and functional.
Watermelon season it was! Watermelons were ubiquitous, piled in backs of mini-trucks, served in bold red chunks at the end of (nearly) every meal, cooling in a perennial water source spring, bumping along on the backs of scooters, pyramiding at markets. We ate our share and more.
As I said, lighting issues are no small challenge. Finding something good to eat, no challenge at all. Potato croquettes, a Greek "salad" - typically a mammoth slice of feta blanketing chopped tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper and onion- plus a tender pork stew, unctuously sauced, made a superb lunch under a tree. Followed by - surprise! surprise! - watermelon.
Our best meal. Miraculously, I had an appetite after driving up up up up up on a single-track, two way, hairpin turning road high above the Lasithi Plateau en route to the birthplace of Zeus. Stuffed squash blossoms, homemade sausages grilled out front over wood, a mash of split peas and a mess of olive oil.
The hospitable grill man brought us galaktaboureka, which we scarfed, and a generous carafe of raki. Raki, close kin to grappa, from what I can tell, is distilled from the pressings of grapes. White lightning, in other words. Teddy tasted and headed straight for an open window. I sipped, then surreptitiously emptied the raki into a pot of basil. No need to seem ungracious.
You could not turn a corner without happening upon an inviting Taberna, any time of the day or night.
Sealed in a Fanta bottle with a metal cap, the retsina in our sunbathed, freshly white-washed Myrtos room, had been fermented by the innkeeper. Overlooking the bluer than blue Libyan sea I sat and sipped, relishing. No one on a Greek island needs mindfulness training.
The Greeks got the coffee thing down! Cappuccino hot or freddo, double Greek with sugar, you name it, I drank it.
Horta, a wild green, is something I have only seen in Greece, although it must be available elsewhere. And boiled zucchini, little ones. I kid you not, just boiled. With olive oil, salt, pepper and lemons, it was delicious. The citrus trees were stooped with fruit this time of year.
One morning very early these two charming ladies worked me over like a couple of carnies. Intending to buy nothing - noth-ing - they pulled me over and managed to empty my wallet, loading me down with honey, walnuts, sage and raki. If I ever open a business they will be my first hires.
Dinner date! He does clean up nicely. When he cleans up. Haha. Why are teenage boys so resistant to personal hygiene? (He'd kill me if he read this comment.)
In Athens we were surrounded by Asian restaurants. Feeling a little homesick we headed out for sushi. Hands down, some of the best we've ever had. Refreshing too after a solid diet of traditional Greek meals. You know people must eat differently at home but we never got a peek or taste of what Greeks eat when in. Another time.
On our last day in Athens I dragged my son through the massive Central Market, counter after counter of raw meat. Giant livers laid out, baskets of skinned lamb heads, beef hearts, large yellow birds hung by their ankles. Then we went to lunch. He ate meat. What a trooper.
Market shots are easy. When does a fresh vegetable in natural daylight not look good? I pined for a kitchen after strolling, sniffing and touching.
Fresh pistachios! Have you even seen or eaten them? I had not and it took me a bit to identify them. Mild, legumy, tasty. The man sent me home with a kilo and customs took them away.
Browsing the miles of fish purveyors, Teddy was appalled to be in flip flops. "Tread lightly," he said, "and do not splash me!" Back at the hotel he hit the shower, shoes and all.
There was no shortage of sardines, red mullet, dorade and anchovies. Happy to report, I had eaten all of them along the way. One of these days my son will realize that fish is not just for cats, although we did feed our share of feral kittycats while at the table.
The Greeks love tourists. We loved the Greeks. Dreaming now of our next big adventure. His heart is set on Japan.