Sunday, November 12

So, how's the water?

Well. It's Sunday evening, I've got a pile of laundry waiting to be hung out and a sink full of dishes begging to be washed, so this seems like an excellent opportunity to ignore all that and dip my toes in the water again, so to speak, by attempting to write a new post.
But what to write about? Is blogging like riding a bike, or have I lost the knack of spewing my guts out in the hope that some poor soul will actually find my ramblings interesting?
I suppose I should begin by reporting a truly miraculous occurrence - miraculous to me, at least.
This past weekend my father came to Athens... for the SECOND TIME in as many months.
Now this is a man who, it would seem, is bound by a sturdy iron chain - one end of which is strapped round his ankle and the other end to the bottom of the huge gangly olive tree that has sprouted, for at least the last couple hundred years, at the foot of our garden, in the middle of the fields and sheep where our house is situated, on the outskirts of the village of Molivos on the island of Lesvos.
(My my, it seems that my sentences have grown since last I wrote. Bear with me.)
This event, of my father's multiple visits, is miraculous because, as far as I know, and excluding the last couple of months, my father has only ventured away from his beloved garden (which will surely wither and die if deprived of two days of his attention) to come to Athens twice IN THE LAST TEN YEARS. And then for only half a day. But both these times he has actually stayed the whole weekend!
Now, either he's finally figured out (two years down the road) that he has a daughter with a comfortable permanent residence (where he is more than welcome to stay) and the requisite sofa and TV available for his nap time, or it just so happens that two weddings have gone down here in Athens in the last months that actually demanded his attendance.

The first wedding was my second-cousin's (the big sister of the cousin/parter in crime often referred to in these pages) and was a lovely event - everyone, besides the stressed-out bride, enjoyed themselves thoroughly and, to digress a moment, I can truly say it was the best wedding I've ever attended. It took place in a small church somewhere near Peania or Kanza (on the outskirts of Athens - and we nearly died driving there in the rain thanks to bad signage which led to us driving ONTO an off ramp of the Attiki Odos - but that's another story). Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for the ceremony, the setting was lovely, the priest genial (he even cracked jokes throughout the ceremony), the dress simple and elegant, and the guests for the most part dressed with a modicum of taste - a first for me at any Greek social event! And actually a disappointment as I was deprived of my usual favourite pastime at such boring social drags: mocking the elaborate bespangled costumes of the other guests.
However this was more than made up for by the reception, held in the Italianate courtyard of a winery (if that's what they're called) with excellent booze, gourmet food, and the amusing pastime of running around with my cousin and other assorted relatives, watching as they tried to sneak cigarettes away from their parents' eyes. It was like being 16 all over again! One girl actually announced she was going to the bathroom, then waited expectantly until it dawned on me that I was supposed to follow her. Good grief.
Mind you, the ceaseless 'kai sta dika sas' (and to yours) got a bit tiresome, not to mention being told about 6 times in a row that 'did you know so-and-so is your third cousin' (I hadn't known at the beginning of the night, but by the end I was starting to wish that the family connection between me and the girl, a rather insipid creature in a neon-green bouffant mini-dress, could be severed immediately) but despite these mild annoyances, my father and I had a very good time.
So that was visit number one; a nice wedding, followed, the next day, by a relaxing meal of mezedes where my boyfriend and father proceeded to bond over army stories and football. Typical. (Here in Greece, before men can be friends or talk about anything interesting, they have to get a few things out of the way: namely, where were you in the army and what interesting/terrible things happened to you there; what football team do you support, and finally, what are your politics. If they agree on at least 2 out of these 3 things they can, in my experience, take the relationship 'to the next level'. If, however, a common ground cannot be found within these three critical parametres, that's it. No bond will ever grow between them. And though my father and Panos had met before, they had never talked at length so, needless to say, I was relieved to have that out of the way between them.)
One last thing of note regarding the first visit: my father had arrived early Friday morning, before I left for work, and I simply had not had time to go shopping or cook anything before he came (as usual, he had left it to literally the last minute to tell me he was actually coming) so, feeling rather guilty, I had left him with a hunk of thawing mincemeat, a can of tomatoes and a packet of pasta, and had told him to fix his own lunch. I returned, however, to the sight of him be-aproned, spoon in hand, preparing his famous (really weird-sounding if I were to tell you the recipe, but excellent nonetheless) pasta sauce, having explored all the shops in the neighbourhood to procure the necessary ingredients. Moreover, I have the sneaking suspicion that, had the house been a mess as well as the pantry bare, he would have scrubbed it top to bottom like a proper Greek mama - this man who, in his own home, cannot even be bothered to throw out used tins of cat food. Humph!
I tell you this because it ties in to visit number two. This weekend my father arrived to attend the wedding of the daughter of a family friend, a local Molivos girl and fellow dentist whom he helped set up in practice here in Athens. And this time he came prepared!(I won't bore anyone with the details of this wedding - let's just say that for every good thing I said about my cousin's wedding, in this case you could say the opposite.)
Yesterday morning, (earlier than I would have liked to be woken up on a Saturday but never mind) my father arrived at my door wearing his oversized coat and raggedy colourful sweater, grey hair and moustache blowing wild (looking, as a friend of his later commented, like a compatriot of Toulouse Lautrec's) and clutching a faded green duffel bag. He gave me a hurried hug then, with rushed pride, wrenched the bag open and pulled out two enormous bags of fresh-picked wild mushrooms. Before any 'Hi, how are you's' could be exchanged, I was required to quickly transfer these to the fridge before they could sweat any more in their plastic prisons.
Now, I guess, would be a good time to mention that my father is a huge wild mushroom aficionado. He is actually considered something of an expert on the island, often helping others determine whether something is edible or will impart an instant and horrible death, and has a shelf of books on the subject and a lifetime spent tramping the fields of Lesvos in search of the succulent treasures. And though his long, rambling eulogies to the mushroom often get boring, and my stepmother must cope with a veritable carpet of mushrooms covering the sizeable dining table end to end each winter, we don't complain because the end result is just so very delicious.
If you've never had fresh-picked wild mushrooms, or (heaven forbid, like my freak of a boyfriend, don't like mushrooms at all) my rapture at the sight of those two bags will no doubt be lost on you. If you do, however, enjoy the velvety texture and the rich, heavenly taste, it won't, and you will no doubt start salivating as I now describe to you how, on Saturday, my dad whipped up a simple but exquisite field mushroom and cep's soup for us to feast on, and today a dish of pork chops which had been marinated in wine overnight, then slowly braised with a spoonful of capers and heaps and heaps of no less than 5 varieties of mushroom, for just about the tastiest resulting dish I have ever had the pleasure of savouring. And I've still got a portion of it sitting in my fridge for tomorrow's lunch! Oh joy!
So, to end this lengthy gastronomical post, here's hoping my father will be making many more trips to the ends of the earth that we call Athens, bringing with him more mushrooms (or, if they're out of season, wild asparagus, or in fact any of the other goodies he likes to collect). And now I suppose I had really better get on with doing those dishes! So farewell, dear readers, if you have gotten this far, and till next time - whenever that may be!


liz said...

like you boyfriend, i'm not so fond of mushrooms... but you do make them sound wonderful... glad to hear your dad is getting off the island once in a while...

Anonymous said...

Just on the wedding point, you should try my trick:

Get drunk and spend the night dancing, then you're completely oblivious to most of the goings on.

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