Cooking my way through Greece !

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Jan 05, 2012

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Flag of Greece  , Crete,
Thursday, July 7, 2011

I was lucky to have both activities I had requested booked for the following day and I looked forward to the day very much. I completed my afternoon with a visit to the supermarket and bought (among other things) some past and a sauce to have 'dinner at home' that evening. I really enjoy cooking for myself hence when I get the opportunity to do so without time constraints I love it! Swimming twenty laps the following morning began my day on a great note as was the warm fuzzy feeling I experienced when the night duty manager bought me a cup of coffee ("on the house" he said) after I got out of the pool. (such lovely people). I had purchased my own breakfast (yoghurt and fruit) and sat eating it on my balcony while watching the sleepy township waking up to another beautiful day. The weather here has been perfect just as it was in Santorini and I am so pleased I chose to travel  around Europe in the summer months. The sun just makes me feel so happy and motivated its hardly difficult to wake on a morning such as these.

At 10am a guy in his early 50’s arrived in the Reception area to drive me to my cooking course and whilst he has little English language he obliged when I started taking pictures out of the window of his car, by pulling over to ensure a steady result. The Greek language (for me) is difficult to grasp however right at that point I wished I could express more than my skills allowed because I feel so inadequate. Greek to me sounds very much like the Turkish language and that is a possibility due to the close geographical location of the two countries. We arrive at another hotel and pick up a Lithuanian man who is also participating in the course that day. His English is basic however his comprehension is quite good so my prediction is the day will be ‘marvelous’ with the two of us working alongside Zoe and Rafaela.

The restaurant is GORGEOUS with an amazing kitchen right in the eating area. The setting lends itself well to a teaching environment and Zoe’s English skills are excellent, we find it not difficult at all to follow her instruction. There was also a kitchen out the back where washing up and preparations were completed, but we stand in the main area and are formally introduced to the most beautiful woman (40ish) and her equally ‘stunning’ daughter Rafaela who at 14 years old stands 6ft tall, has the most gorgeous long, thick and flowing dark hair that compliments her Grecian smouldering looks which support her appearing in her 20’s rather than teens.  She assists her mother with teaching and preparation and so began four hours of the BEST cooking class attended thus far. A fantastic family affair with the best fresh produce picked daily from the family Vegetable garden which is just around the corner from the Restaurant all members of the family support the growing of fresh crops by working in the garden on a regular basis. Because the basic ingredients used in the cooking process are top quality the end product is assured of being of the highest quality and very tasty.

The dishes made were mousaka, a vegetable dish using large green beans, a meat stew, Tszitski, wine leaves , stuffed peppers, meat balls and the most DIVINE dessert made with Filo pastry and vanilla cream filling.  Each and every dish was WONDERFUL and Zoe and I got along so well due to our similar ages and having children around the same ages. We had a lot of ‘chat breaks’ that morning in between stirring, chopping and preparing of the food. We began the day with a coffee and a traditional biscuit and for morning tea when enjoyed another traditional accompaniment the ‘cheese pie’ (Yes I ate them) Tiny pastry parcel’s containing the ‘old’ goats cheese that was now no longer fresh enough to eat straight from the fridge. The parcels were quickly cooked then honey drizzled over them ensuring that the hot sweet dessert just melted in your mouth!

Just as we sat to eat the tasty morsels a little old Greek woman poked her head around the corner of the open fronted restaurant and said something very quickly. Rafael, Zoe and her husband all turned to acknowledge her with enthusiastic chatter and smiles.  Zoe was aware that we were wondering who this lady was and informed us that she was her husband’s GRAND MOTHER!  This lady was still spritely at her 95 years and lived upstairs always leaving the apartment for a walk in the morning and calling out to say ‘hello’ before retiring upstairs again. I asked if I may take a family photo and asked that she please join us for morning tea which she did without very much prompting at all. Helping her negotiate the two steps leading into the dining area she asked me many questions about Australia (Rafael kindly interpreted for me) and we had a lovely conversation and she thoroughly enjoyed the cheese pie that I offered her from my plate.  She really got into the swing of things when she posed for a photograph with her family, donning her ‘apron’ which was appropriately embroidered with the word CRETE across the front. Her great grand daughter(Rafaela) was her ‘favourite’ and Rafael’s  confirmed this without embarrassment. She gave me a huge hug whilst she sipped tea and indulged in more chatter until suddenly walking away with Rafaela carefully leading her by the arm, she was gone.  What an Experience!?  How wonderful! A Greek family who attribute their grandmother’s health and longevity of life to the fresh food regime followed all her life. Olive Oil is not only used with and for cooking but also as a moisturizer which explains her almost unlined and flawless complexion. Her appearance was that of a sixty year old rather than a 95 year old and I marveled at the difference between our two lives.    She worked hard physically, and mentally, ate well and even enjoyed a ‘tipple’ (red wine) on a daily basis yet she appeared stress free and very very content. Moi on the other hand was quite the opposite I decreed and whilst this year off is to assist the reduction of stress in my life I don’t know that I would ever be able to mirror her beautiful complexion even WITH the additional assistance of Clinique AND Estee Lauder! Zoe commented how her grandmother-in-law had enjoyed meeting me (all the way from Australia) and that she felt sure she would now ask every day “how is the lady from Australia”?  She would be excited to hear from me now and again and we vowed we would keep in contact!

We complete the final two dishes of the morning after the unexpected visit and before 2pm we had the dining table set for five people. We would all eat together (as a family) and I was really pleased that this cooking day had such a PERSONAL feel, I had thoroughly enjoyed that.  The food, each and every dish, was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!! I at Mousaka (with cheese that didn’t worry me at all). My favourite dish (but I loved them all) was the meat balls OH MY !!! and of course the Filo pastry with vanilla cream filling (and lemon glaze) completed the meal magnificently. I am so pleased that Zoe typed out the recipes for us because I cant wait to get into a kitchen and try them out for myself. One interesting note was that Zoe only used ingredients that she knew we would be able to buy at home so that we would taste the dish as it should taste when we replicate it later.

I so enjoyed the day I wanted it never to end and even considered going back again to attempt another course of recipes. I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore and the Zoe packed me another ‘doggy’ bag to take home. (I enjoyed Lovely REAL Greek cuisine for 3 days after that). The 50 Euro’s I paid for the day was excellent value and as I left Zoe and I hugged and I thanked her profusely – not only form her sharing her family cooking recipes and secrets so openly but also for embracing us in a true ‘family’ day with all that ensures its success. Zoe commented how much she would miss me and I wondered why this was so. She explained that her days were very often alike, she worked in the kitchen – all alone – most days until customers came in for the lunch or dinner rush.  I then saw a correlation between a few different women whom I have been most fortunate to meet on my trip.  Nezha (in Morocco) and Zoe here in Crete both craved the company of age appropriate females, however due to their ‘life styles’ and ‘responsibilities’ to their families this was sadly lacking in their lives. I realized then that my own life had at times been similar. When I craved friendships but was overcome and absorbed in child raising, work commitments or career aspirations. I really could empathise with these ladies because I too enjoy the interaction with other females to break the monotony of loneliness due to outside influences. The differences  I saw between the three of us however was that I had technology and now TIME on my side where the Nezha’s and Zoe’s of the world do not.

Zoe’s husband kindly drove me home to my hotel again and pulling over to allow me time to take photos of the gorgeous sun setting scenery along the way I found we conversed more easily than we had on the way TO  the Restaurant. Once again my life had been touched by such kindness and generosity, their homes and lives opened to allow me a glimpse (no matter how briefly) as they live their lives and once again I thanked my lucky stars for ALL that I have in my life !
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Louise on

I was quite happy to be home until I read the cooking blog, missing you now...

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