Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Italian Dinner

Theo checking on the cooks!

The day was hot and a swim at Agia Anna was refreshing!! 
On a hot day at the end of September, there were only 6 people at this beach.

Later, a group gathered at Jazzmin for an Italian dinner created by Simona and Julio 
from Lucca assisted by Reino and Diego from Bergama in Northern Italy. Wow!! 
Another culinary miracle emerged from the underground kitchen!

The appetizer plate included a thin slice of frittata(fried, not baked), 
a tomato stuffed with creamed spicy tuna and a delicious small thing. 
I learned that this was 1/2 tomato topped with a mixture of crumbs, 
ground nuts, herbs, garlic and baked in a low oven for an hour. 
The main course was the best lasagne that I have ever tasted, in huge portions. 
For dessert, a simple apple flan. Wow!!!

After dinner, Yorgos, the village fiddler arrived to entertain us with a few of his songs. 
Well fueled with beer, he was at his best! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Sandra barely fits in the underground kitchen!

Someone has to work while the other one dances!

Warning! When cooking in a foreign country, always ask someone to translate the directions on a package of food. Never assume that you know how to prepare anything that comes in a package!!

After a fitful night of sleep that involved many variations on the meal that I would prepare, I was relieved to find packages of couscous at the local market. The fact that it was called couscousaki seemed incidental. I planned to make a toubouli type couscous salad, a cabbage salad and frittata.

5pm: With great confidence I placed the couscousaki in a bowl and poured boiling water over top (just like I have done a hundred times at home). The liquid gradually disappeared. Twenty minutes later I almost broke a tooth when I tested the results. At that moment Kallyroi appeared in the doorway and asked if she could help. I suggested that maybe she could read the directions on the empty packaging. "Oh" she said "you should soak the grains first and then place in boiling water". Again, with slightly less confidence, I decided to boil more water and place the partially cooked grain into the pot.

By this time Sandra had joined me in the miniscule kitchen to prepare a pot of squash soup. She was less confident about the couscousaki results but I was determined to give it a try. Meanwhile I had parboiled some potatoes for the frittata, sliced zuchinni, peppers and onion and placed all the veggies in a large shallow baking pan. We were quickly running out of space!  I placed the pan on a narrow counter behind us.

6pm: Glancing at the stove, I noticed that the couscousaki had turned into a pot of porridge! What could I do now? Sandra and I agreed that it was a, into the garbage. I ran to the market for a package of rice. This time I asked Sandra to read the directions. The rice went onto the stove. By this time it was 99 degrees in the kitchen!

I started to chop the cabbage, apple, orange for the other salad while the rice cooked. How would I ever cool the rice in order to make a salad with it? Passing behind Sandra to the sink, I knocked the pan of frittata veggies upside down onto the floor. We looked at each other and wondered what the next disaster would be! "It's okay" she said "I just washed the floor". Choking with laughter, we threw the veggies back into the pan. 

I threw the cooked rice into a metal bowl, sat the bowl in another bowl of ice and gently moved the rice around for half an hour. It was threatening to become another glutinous mass!!

7pm: Sandra abandoned me after preparing a huge pot of delicious soup and a small quiche. I was still struggling while she created culinary delights! I tossed tomato, cucumber, parsley & onion into the rice along with capers, olive oil, lemon juice & curry. With luck it would have an hour to chill in the refrigerator before dinner.

7:30pm: The cabbage salad was tossed in honey, olive oil & lemon with apple, orange sections & raisins. I was fairly confident that it tasted good.

7:45pm: Sixteen eggs, yogurt & oregano were whisked together and poured over the recovered veggies in the pan before being topped with grated cheese that looked and tasted similar to parmesan.

8:00pm: I emerged from the kitchen, absolutely soaked with perspiration and exhausted. At that point, I could only hope that everything tasted okay. Kallyroi offered to clean up the mess and place the frittata in the oven at 8:15pm.

9:00pm: Twenty people started to gather around the tables outside. It was a beautiful night. The quiche was sliced into small pieces and served as an appetizer. We all agreed that the squash soup was a huge success! Very tasty!
Surprisingly, my efforts in the kitchen for the main course (with the exception of the couscousaki) were met with applause. Whew!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A swim

Agia Anna beach on a calm day!

I was knocked over and sucked under. 
My exit from the sea had not gone as planned. 
The Marine Biologist who accompanied me on this swim had given me 
careful instructions about how to gracefully walk out of the water.
 "Just wait for the right wave" she had said. 
I watched her as a wave lifted her up onto the pebbly beach. 
It looked so easy! 
Somehow I had chosen the biggest wave to lift me...and the force pushed me right over. 
I tumbled over and under, drinking sea water and losing the top of my bathing suit! 
Her hand finally reached out and pulled me, bare breasted, to safety!

This was the second day that I had climbed down to Agia Anna for a swim. 
Both days the sea was too rough. 
Eva, the Marine Biologist who has spent half of her life in the water, 
assured me that if we walked a little further, we would find a good spot.
Next time I'll wait for calmer water!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Kallyroi dinner

It was all arranged. Kallyroi was to pick up two freshly slaughtered chickens from the construction site near the electrical yard. We waited for her in the car as she disappeared from sight down a narrow pathway. She returned with 6 1/2 kilos of chicken, hoping that it had been gutted and defeathered.

The underground kitchen at Jazzmin came alive as she chopped and skinned and deboned. The soup pot went on at 5pm. Apples and bananas were chopped for the coconut curry dish. Aromas drifted outside, mingling with misty clouds.

Meanwhile Eva had joined Kallyroi in the kitchen to prepare a nectarine cake for dessert. Thinly sliced nectarines were carefully placed in rows on top of a cake batter. The topping was a simple mixture of egg and milk.

Fifteen people gathered around a line of cafe tables again for a wonderful meal. Helpers from our group took turns, carried bowls of soup up from the kitchen, cleared the tables, brought the curried chicken course, cleared the tables, presented dessert. For two hours we toasted our hosts and our cooks as we shared stories, debated issues and created memories.


Music mingles with low clouds pouring over Chora, shrouding Steve as he plays with his new ipod. Veronique, a young interpreter with the United Nations, sips white wine with her boiled egg breakfast. Bright bunches of cherries dangle from Sandra's ears as she cooks in the underground kitchen. Later she will transform a piece of fabric into a work of art in her small room at the windmills. An elderly man from Vienna wears a unique hat created from white surgical mesh to protect the injury he sustained two days ago. Two Greek women at the next table share gossip in whispery tones. They are not happy to have him so close, suspecting that he is an unbalanced tourist.  Meanwhile he quietly sips a coffee and smiles at them.

Inside Eva perches on a bar stool, talking with Kallyroi about her trips to Ethiopia and Nepal. Originally a Marine Biologist, she has lately diverted her interest and energy to reforestation around the globe. Kallyroi listens attentively but her mind is distracted by the challenge of preparing a dinner for 12-15 people this afternoon.

In the corner, quiet as a mouse, sits an old woman. She has finished her daily breakfast of coffee and bread but often lingers to listen and watch. The cafe owners do not expect her to pay.

Behind the bar Theo prepares coffees and teas, adjusts the mellow music and greets customers. People return year after year for the pleasure of sharing time 
with him. He is welcomed into customers' homes around the world during his winter travels.

The daytime atmosphere in the cafe is transformed in the evening when Yorgos takes over from Theo behind the bar. Music is upbeat, encouraging dancers to spin and twirl to a salsa beat. Voices become louder. Locals and visitors share the energy. Around 5am the last customer pays and stumbles home. Yorgos cleans and prepares the cafe for Theo's arrival at 8am.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Full Moon

Dinner at Katina's before celebrating the Full Moon.
The island of Amorgos is behind us.

Last night's dinner of fish soup and salads.
My photo theme this year is culinary sharings.

Everyone was there! A full moon kept slipping behind transparent clouds, 
exposing herself shyly from time to time to the revellers 
who had gathered to celebrate her glow.

We kissed and hugged, first one cheek, then the other with each new arrival. 
Elpida, Sophie, Mereille, Gerry, Deela, Mariella, Vivi, Alexandra, Dimitris, 
Thanos, Anastasia, Demetris, Andre, Sarita, Yorgia, Manolis, Michael Anne, 
Mimis, Andrea, Sandra, Veronique, Alexander, Jenny, Igor. 
By midnight there were almost one hundred gathered from around the island.

Theo was the DJ for this celebration in Tholaria. World music surrounded us. 
We spilled outside, into the courtyard, onto the road and the stone wall. 
The moon peeked out from the clouds, watching as we talked, laughed and danced.

On the drive back to Chora, goats littered the road, refusing to move from their sleepy positions. 
The moon had retired before us when we climbed into bed at 3:30am.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The first day on Amorgos

We arrived on Amorgos at 2am after a windy, rocky trip. Booking a cabin was a great idea! It gave us the opportunity to doze and read during the nine hour sailing.

Kallyroi, along with Alexandra and Miguel, greeted us with warm hugs at the dock. The crammed little car was filled with chatter and laughter all the way back to Chora where we finally threw ourselves into bed at 3am!

It was after 11am when we climbed the pathway to Jazzmin for breakfast. Theo welcomed us with big hugs. It was a steady flow of visitors for the next two hours, some known from before and some newcomers.

In the afternoon we picked up our rental car from Evi and drove down to Katapola for groceries and a visit to Caramel, the new cafe operated by our friend Armelle. During our visit with her, a hairdresser arrived to trim her hair in the cafe!
After a much needed nap in the late afternoon we returned to Jazzmin for the evening. Apparently everyone wants to cook a dinner for "the group" in the underground kitchen, so they have set up a schedule for the next week. Small cafe tables were joined together for eighteen of us to share an amazing meal. Andre and Silvie made ragou on rice for the first dish, Vivi prepared stuffed melatzana(eggplant) with a bechamel topping for the second dish and Andrea created a decadent chocolate mousse with sliced pears for dessert. Wow!!

I decided to give myself a gift during this meal. Normally I would be helping with setup, cleanup, etc but I gave myself the gift of sitting, enjoying and not feeling any guilt. It will be my turn in the kitchen next week!!

After dinner the tables were cleared away, the music was turned up and the dancing began. Jazzmin was overflowing with energy. We danced, shared stories and by 1am it was time for the walk home. The wind had settled and the moon was almost full.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The view from our Hotel rooftop last night!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A fun nite!

Brian brought his award winning beans
Diana brought her first pair of hand knitted socks
Marg arrived with wine
Lucy with a swollen hand
Heather and Meg with photos of their princess float!
What a fun nite!!

Friday, September 10, 2010


Someone skimmed our account for $400 on Vancouver. Thankfully the security system through the Credit Union picked up on it right away so my debit card was cancelled. After signing an affidavit stating that I did not share my pin number or banking info with anyone, the Credit Union reimbursed our account immediately. I am grateful that it didn't happen while we were travelling! Whew!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Greek Lessons


tavli (backgammon)

bread kneading

almond husking

We have learned many valuable lessons during our visits to Greece,
but, the biggest challenge has always been the language.
Two months ago, I started a Rosetta Stone online language course in Greek.
It is hugely challenging!! I wish that I had the flexible mind of a three year old!
There has been a barrage of expletive-deletives during the lessons
as my frustration has far outweighed any successes!
When we return to Greece on September 19th, I will be able to ask "what is that?"