Tag Archives: Greece

Monks and Odysseus

Just before 9/11 our families traversed the Ionian seas following the trail of the legendary Odysseus, gone for ten years from wife Penelope and their dog.

Of course the better name for the travels was “Chasing Ulysses” which is the Roman and not the Greek god, chosen by my dear brother of course.

After not seeing them for years (storage), I framed three long photos (film not digital) the other day and they look gorgeous in our entryway. One from Corfu, one from Zakynthos and the third from Lefkada. My dad would be proud.

On every island I picked up a sarong or two for $2 apiece. Having gone to a Catholic college I figured there would be a dress code at this monastery in Corfu. We hired a bus to take us all there and I sneaked about ten sarongs into my backpack for the day trip.

When I saw the monk at a table by the door I told all the gals what to do. He was checking to see if we had the appropriate clothing to enter. I didn’t want any problems so I whipped out the sarongs. You, with the tank top, cover your arms. You cover your head. You, with the shorty shorts, make this into a skirt.

We got by without a hitch and gave the monestery small donations as a thank-you for our visit.

These photos, 3×10 vertical, are from another age, pre-9/11. I put them in albums before I even got home as we watched CNN for days. Our worlds have changed since then. Nearly two weeks after I cried in front of the LAX customs agent and after a look at my passport he simply said, Welcome Home. Yes, I cried some more en route to my next gate.

All I know is that the Italians were wonderful to me as I attended services with the Consulate staff and held hands with 500 in the Piazza Signoria for the symbolic ringing of the bell. Neighbors obliged by banging on our door at 4:10 in the afternoon and calling CNN! CNN! Workers were there and we all huddled in the den watching CNN.

And the Greeks whose boat we’d been on for the past ten days called to ask if our families were OK. My brother was about to go into the north tower for a meeting about ten minutes before it blew up. Luckily the person he was meeting cancelled it beforehand.

Two lessons learned. Always keep an eye out for danger, and make certain ladies have their arms and legs covered in a church. Dee

Greece pre-9/11

Greece pre-9/11


Sophisticated Dee

I spent my 25th birthday on Crete. Play that back. My younger sister and I wanted to travel and I had my first real job so took three weeks off to spend in Greece and Italy.

My sister wanted to live in Athens, thinking she would run into Plato and Aristotle on the steps of the Parthenon. Instead, we smelled diesel fuel from Mercedes cabs and looked out on smog-filled skies. Once I left she escaped to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for six months!

We landed in Athens, backpacks on, and found a place to stay, a perfectly clean hostel where we had our own room with a sink, and shared a bathroom I’d like to have now, decades later, with the room next door. [Without the sharing and with double sinks.] All for the outrageously high price of $12/night (her reasoning, not mine, I became the financier because I didn’t want to sleep on someone’s roof for $1 per night).

Settled in, we fought jet lag and went to a taverna close by. Thinking I was worldly, I ordered Campari. Juice glass with an ounce of red liquid, warm and it made me cough with the first sip. So much for worldliness!

I reveled in the food in both Greece and Italy and tried whatever food I could. My sister ordered spaghetti and meatballs every meal and kept Nutella in the room.

More on the boat trip to Italy later and the flight back.

We got to Agia Galini (on Crete), a beautiful fishing village for $4/night with sandy muslin sheets and a 2′ x 3′ bathroom with a toilet that was also our shower.

The next night was my 25th birthday and our parents had given my sister $25 to take me out to eat. I insisted we get a real hotel room for $15 and spend the rest on dinner. We walked into an empty taverna early and the owner took such good care of us with seven courses, ouzo, retsina, metaxa brandy. Spoon sweets, he was the real deal. With tip it cost a whopping $14. I paid the $4.

Before sunrise I was at the airport with quite a headache for an interesting cancelled flight and two stops in the former Yugoslavia with baggage checks and bomb-sniffing dogs before arriving in NYC where my parents were moving in. After 18 hours on the road I walked in the door from an expensive taxi from JFK and my mother handed me a box and said “we work around here.” Welcome home! Then I went home to another place my roommate had found because we’d been broken into again on my trip.

Welcome home, world-traveled and sophisticated Dee, moving twice in two days! It was fun, I was young and got to sunbathe topless in Greece. Dee

Top Chef V

Sorry I’ve been away.  A setting got changed on my computer and somehow I had no internet access for nearly 48 hours.  Jim fixed it in about 20 seconds.  But I don’t even know what my settings are and it wasn’t something easily accessible.  Anyway, I’m back.

It’s too soon to know how Season Five is shaping up.  When seventeen start and fifteen finish the first episode one doesn’t have much clue into personalities.

There’s one thing that really bugged me.  Ariane lives a short hop from the culinary magic that is New York City (not just Manhattan, the Boroughs), yet she looked Tom Colicchio in the eye and flippantly said she didn’t need to taste these dishes, because she has books.

Now I have a number of cookbooks, but that’s no reason not to travel to France, Greece, even Scotland where we were sent for three months last year.  Just don’t have a burger in Scotland.  Mussels and salmon, go for it.

There is something about the culture and the people and surroundings that give a cook a familiarity to try the dishes and then do a riff on them.  Books, while I love them and started cooking because of them, cannot provide that intrinsic one-ness with the people and their regional dishes.

That said, I can only “shop” vicariously, and Florence, Italy is my favorite city and foodie destination so Fabio, metaphorically, I’m yours!  Cheers!  Dee

A Cook Looks at Fifty

A WordPress site about Greece hit my site today and brought back memories.  The title of this piece is a riff on Jimmy Buffet’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

For my 25th birthday my sister and I traveled to Greece and Italy.  She’d been to Europe before and intended to live in Greece.  My parents wanted me to make sure she had a job and safe place to live before I returned to my home and job a few hours away from them.

She’d been to Europe before so kind of led me around the first day or two of this three week trip.  We arrived early morning and went to our hostel, three single beds for $12 with a shared bathroom, OK.  Lunch, I thought I was cosmopolitan so ordered Campari, straight up and almost choked to death.  I remember trying all kinds of Greek food and loving it, and my sister ate spaghetti and meatballs nearly every meal.  She wanted to save money by sleeping on peoples roofs for $1/night.  I said if it was going to be $6 for a room I’d pay $5.

She wanted to take the boat to Italy.  I was seasick.  She wanted to take the boat back.  I paid for flights to Athens.  The coolest part is that we stood in the airport and decided what island to pick, as every flight took 20 minutes.  We’d already done Corfu.  We chose Crete and spent a week there.

Greece is about the sea.  Agia Galina was fantastic.  I walked 1/4 mile out to sea and saw every stone and speck of sand.  We sunbathed topless even though it was illegal.  And we rented motorbikes but it poured down rain (bouncing up off the pavement 8″) so took a bus to Knossos and the rain stopped as we entered and we were the only people there.  We didn’t need people or maps to guide us and saw this place all on our own.

Last night there we walked into a restaurant early, about 7:00 p.m., because I had to catch a really early flight back in the morning.  Of course no-one was there.  We looked and left and the owner caught us and invited us in.  We had a seven-course meal starting with ouzo, retsina and ending with Metaxa brandy and a spoon sweet dessert.  I remember being appalled at the price: $7.50 each!

Mom had sent my sister $30 to spend for dinner on my birthday.  I said we’d spend half on dinner and the other half on a decent hotel with a real bath and shower.

After that my sister left Greece and traveled, then lived on a kibbutz (we’re not Jewish) for six months before returning home.

* * * * * * * * *

Now to Fifty.  I love the sea and Greece, but we did this for Dad’s birthday in 2001, toured the Ionian seas following Odysseus.  I named the trip, but it sounded better as “Chasing Ulysses.”  We have many wonderful memories of that family trip.  And I was in Florence for a couple of days when 9/11 happened, was stuck there and that story led to my meeting Jim and nearly six years of marriage.

So, I’m looking for something fun and appropriate for Jim and me to celebrate this occasion.  It’s only another year, but we should do something special, even not this coming weekend.

Jim hates eggplant, so I can’t make my wonderful moussaka to celebrate Greece, and forget Taramasalata, fish roe, as he’s allergic to anything that swims.  Don’t worry, I’ll work things out.  He wants to make sure I have a car this week, and has to do it or will drive me (ha) crazy talking about it.


Every place I go has food memories. I remember things from my childhood, especially food created by the people to whom I dedicated this blog.

I’d like to take you on some travels that have enhanced my appreciation for, and knowledge of food, its preparation and enjoyment.

To do this, I’ll have to make some outlines and give you cookbook references if I can’t get permission to post a recipe. I’ll give a name to the series (three parts for now) and hopefully start in the next week or so.

For now you’ll have to settle for a non-recipe and story.

My great-aunt Anna died when I was young. I’ve always had cool aunts. And uncles, sorry godfather! My parents didn’t think we were old enough for a funeral so went themselves, a 10-hour drive each way. Our regular sitters were college students but we needed a live-in.

They hired the most awful woman who broke our Scandinavian chairs from sitting in them and when I came home showing a 98% grade on a test just dismissed me. But the worst sin follows.

Mom followed Dad’s mother’s recipe for spinach that calls for a special roux that I (yes I can make a roux) don’t know even today. This woman made us spinach and I couldn’t eat it. I said, at age seven, “where’s the roux?” Yeah, I ate it because she probably would have thrown me across the room if I didn’t. But at nearly fifty, have I forgotten the spinach incident?

While we were good kids and didn’t put dead rodents in her bed or anything, I’m sure her brief stay was anything but pleasant. I can sleep well at night knowing that mean nannies will get their due.