Week Five in France: Frappés and oregano Lays (Vacances de Toussaint, Part II)
Before I continue with my bouchées, I want to share a line from an article I read recently in the New Yorker by my favorite writer, M.F.K. Fisher, that encapsulates the reasoning behind why I want to share with you all what I'm eating during my adventures in France and beyond. She writes about craving, about how even the simplest bites can linger with us for life.
"I can say just as surely that this minute, in a northern California valley, I can taste-smell-hear-see and then feel between my teeth the potato chips I ate slowly one November afternoon in 1936, in the bar of the Lausanne Palace … They were ineffable. I am still nourished by them."
The great M.F.K. had it right – food doesn't just nourish our bodies. It nourishes our souls, leaving indelible marks on them. One look, one sniff, one taste can bring us back to a single moment in our lives.
"The sensual and voluptuous gastronomical favorites-of-a-lifetime, the nostalgic yearnings for flavors once met in early days" – that's what I want to capture and immortalize in my writing. I won't be nearly as eloquent as she was, but you'll never get anywhere if you don't try.
Now, back to reality.
25/10/2019: A raging hangover in Greece has but one cure – a cold frappe, métrio me gála (half-sugar with milk). This ubiquitous, sweet and slightly bitter coffee drink is best sipped beachside. So, after I said goodbye to Portugal-bound J. and filled up on hotel breakfast, I made a beeline for the sea. The water was ice-cold, but I was thrilled to feel a little sun on my face after many a cloudy day in Mulhouse. For my pre-dinner snack, I grabbed a still-warm, cheesy and flaky tyropita from the bakery next door, speaking only Greek during the (admittedly short) interaction for a little confidence boost. Dinner? Zorba's, of course. Can't say I didn't warn you. I ate my pita while watching the sunset, locking eyes with two greedy cats and stifling laughter as a French couple forced their small children to take Insta-worthy photos of them. Then, I spent an hour organizing photos in the studio before heading back to chill and read on my hotel's rooftop deck. The rest of the week, I'll be traveling alone. While I relish in the independence and flexibility that brings, I can't help but feel a bit like lonely Pablo Escobar at times. Sometimes I want to yell at myself – "Why didn't you do more today? You're in Greece, for God's sake!" – but at the same time, we all know how sleep-deprived I've been. There's no harm in catching up on some zzz's to reenergize myself for the rest of my vacation.
26/10/2019: It's a good thing I wasn't in a rush today, because I spent an obscene amount of time waiting for waiters to wait on me at restaurants today. I've come to expect it in Greece, and normally it doesn't bother me, but today was a bit excessive. Luckily, the mushroom risotto I had for lunch was tasty enough to offset my impatience. However, the sloth-like service allowed me quite a bit of time to sit and worry about my travel budget. It's extremely frustrating to have a French bank account with money in it, but not be able to access it because I don't have my debit card or pin number yet. All this dipping into my U.S. savings and credit card use is driving me a bit crazy, and my anxiety was through the roof today. I don't need to eat at Michelin-star restaurants, but I want to be able to enjoy Greece and Italy to the fullest, and I don't want to spend every waking moment counting cash and feeling guilty about my purchases (which, 95% of them being food, are all very necessary, considering I want to, you know, stay alive). I'm going to try not to worry about it too much this week – I do have money saved up for this exact purpose, after all – and will rework my budget a bit when I get back to Mulhouse. Start-up costs, especially when you go on vacation a month in, are always going to be higher than average. Breathe, Aine. Breathe.
Anyway… after a few therapeutic hours editing photos in the lab, I was craving classic Greek, so I took myself out to dinner at a taverna – apparently, the oldest one on Paros. My dolmas were dolled up with a squeeze of lemon, but when my saganaki (fried cheese, a.k.a. one of my favorite Greek dishes) arrived, I was met with disappointment. Sad-looking, over-salted and a touch too squeaky, verging on rubbery. The basket of rock-hard bread did not smooth things over. I briefly considered causing a scene or demanding a discount, then laughed hysterically at the thought of me, me, telling off the gruff Greek owner like some Long Island lawyer. Thankfully, I had a beautiful sunset to distract me, and I capped off the night by talking to my beautiful, strong, smart, inspiring sister. We all fall into tourist traps sometimes. You live and you learn!
27/10/2019: I'm leaving before sunrise tomorrow morning for the airport, so today was my last hotel breakfast. *sob* Luckily, it was as delicious as all the rest, and it felt good to get an early start to the day (for me, that means 8 a.m.). I'll be dreaming about the crispy tyropita and the impossibly creamy yogurt with fruit and honey for days. Today, I spent six hours in the photo lab at the Aegean Center editing and printing photos, and I emerged with a stack of eight prints, feeling confident, reenergized, passionate and 90% thrilled with the results. And hungry. So, I sprung for a Greek delicacy – oregano Lays, which I've only been able to find here. The chips, plus another frappe, were the perfect afternoon snack. After photosynthesizing in the sun on top of the Frankish Castle for an hour or two, letting the wind blow any anxious thoughts out of my brain, I downed my second pita in as many days from Zorba's, a comforting end to an occasionally uncomfortable week. Now, I'm falling asleep to the roaring cheers of rugby fans outside my window and preparing for a mouthwatering few days in Rome and Parma, where I'm sure I'll make many more delicious memories that will nourish me for years to come.