Cooking, Eating, Playing and Looking

July 28, 2012 at 9:14 am (Uncategorized)

Our downstairs neighbours, V and V, have been so welcoming, arriving on the doorstep just after we arrived with a bag groaning with homegrown fruit and veg, later returning with a pair of floaties for the Touring Toddler. So sweet. The first gift caused me a small amount of anxiety, however, as it included a small pile of something I couldn’t identify. It seemed a hybrid, part zucchini, part eggplant, possibly even part cucumber, and the cluster – some large, some small – sat reproachfully on the homely wooden kitchen bench here while we easily made use of the rest of the offering: delicious tomatoes and nectarines. V also cleans our apartment by arrangement with the owners, and when she came on Tuesday, it caused me untold consternation to realise that she would see the still unidentified, still unused vegetable sitting there in its little unclaimed group. Oh no! I thought. They’re going to think we don’t like it! Just thinking she’d interpret the lingering presence of this vegetable as a sign that their generous offering had been rebuked was enough to make me cringe, but it also broke the deadlock. I would cook these things, goddammit, and we would eat every last morsel and be glad of it.

My research began with a big bite into one of them. Not a cucumber, then. So I sliced one, skin on, into rings, which I then cooked on a skittle in a little oil, seasoning liberally. The flesh became almost translucent, but the skin released a metallic bitterness I did not enjoy. Llew suggested it was a kind of eggplant; he doesn’t really like eggplant, so this was not a rousing endorsement. Next I decided to peel and deseed them, after which I headed to Google and began searching terms like ‘Greek vegetables’ and ‘Greek white zucchini,’ eventually succeeding in finding an image match. White zucchini. Now I was getting somewhere. ‘Greek recipes white zucchini’ turned up a perfectly reasonable fritter recipe using green zucchini (skin retained, but that was too late for me); I was cooking at last.

I was determined to use the white zucchinis because of the spirit in which they entered my kitchen, but in truth they required far more work than anything I have made in a good long while. The recipe suggested grating then salting the zukes to draw out as much water as possible (apparently this results in a much crispier fritter, which was justification enough for me); I did both then left the bowl in the fridge overnight, by this stage a bit defeated by the epic session they’d already required.

Next day, rolling the grated flesh in paper towel revealed a truly surprising amount of liquid. The small bowlful saturated countless sheets of towel. I rolled them out and rolled them over and rolled them again – I probably went through half a roll of paper towel trying to pat these fuckers dry. Leaving the small mound on the last sheets, I turned back to the mixing bowl I’d rested them in, cracking in 2 eggs, which I lightly mixed with a fork. I wasn’t exactly  following the recipe I’d found online, but I had read through it carefully enough and was satisfied I could pull something together with ingredients I had to hand.

Next I chopped a brown onion and added that to the eggs, then I threw in the grated zucchini, some of the dried herb that’s used everywhere here (our grocer pressed a pouch on us during our first visit), some flour, a packet of feta-like cheese (not quite feta, this was unsalted) that I just crumbled with my fingers, lots of salt and pepper and a liberal slug of my secret weapon: tabasco.

I cooked a couple quite slowly on the skittle last night and served them with plain yoghurt as an accompaniment to the fish Llew bought straight off the boat yesterday morning, and you know what? They were beaut. I am going to cook up the rest today; my first thought was to run some downstairs to V and V, but it looks like they’ve gone away for the weekend. Still, when V comes to clean next week, the kitchen bench will be bare, and maybe that’s enough.

Meanwhile it’s another glorious day here. The boys have gone to the beach – I’ve already been for a run and a swim and shall follow them down once I’ve uploaded this post. Our friend J is here from London for 4 days, nursing a fairly gothic-looking head wound after coming off second best yesterday snorkelling straight into a boat’s propeller. No, really. Thankfully the boat wasn’t actually moving at the time or he would have lost his face and possibly his life. As it is he has a Frankenstein-style zippered skull – ten stitches and I can’t believe that’s all. It gets better: he didn’t take out any travel insurance, and guess how much the trip to the hospital in Volos cost?

Wait for it.

4 euros and 87 cents.

Yep. Be my guest. Take as long as you need.

Under 5 euros for x-rays and attention from a surgeon to stitch his head back together. Seriously. That may be the source of the country’s economic problems right there. Unbelievable!

Today I expect to see the resumption of the ongoing battle that rages between families with small kids and the young pairs of ‘bat and ball’ enthusiasts down at the beach. The latter stand at the water’s edge every afternoon, their numbers swelling each weekend, clad only in their swimwear and thwacking a tennis ball back and forth, back and forth for hours, pausing to occasionally saturate themselves beneath the showers that sit as a gateway to the tavernas. They exude entitlement, which means arguments regularly break out between the players and other beach goers, whose enjoyment of the beach is definitely affected by this thick clot of obstruction down by the shore. It becomes genuinely alarming when incompetent players take up their bats; yesterday’s Greek geeks down our end were so hopelessly, hilariously uncoordinated we were constantly using our bare hands to deflect their stray tennis ball away from the Touring Toddler’s vulnerable skull. We played the usual game of charades to make ourselves understood: there are lots of little children playing down this end; can’t you please move further up the beach? After limited success negotiating with them, their gang of equally nerdy mates turned up and what followed was a kind of round robin of slapstick ineptitude. I suppose they were probably just as intimidated as we have been by the more serious (and seriously glamorous) players along the main stretch; these players thump the ball with a largely joyless intensity I find a bit unsettling. Perhaps the repetition is hypnotic. But they do monopolise the beach as though it’s their sacred duty to do so, and it was a relief to get to Monday and realise it’s much worse on the weekend. But now here it is, Saturday again. We’re here for a full month, and it’s a big shock realising that our time here is already more than half done.

In other news, images of nubile young Greek gods and goddesses have been replaced by the wildly imbalanced reality of obese young boys and men and largely slim, beautiful women. Llew is spoilt for choice as far as idle appreciation of the opposite sex goes, whereas I find myself appalled by the shocking and all too common sight of men of all ages with unsightly protruding guts and damp looking breasts that are far larger than my own. I wonder at the discrepancy between the two; why are the men clearly falling prey to the same obesity epidemic that has so overtaken the average physique elsewhere, whereas the majority of the women (admittedly my sample size is very limited) seem to have sidestepped it? Strange, since the oily net of obesity certainly captures both sexes in parts of the world, including Australia, where the problem is so upsettingly rife. Perhaps Greek women are endowed with more restraint, resisting the bowls of chips and/or nuts that arrive unbidden each time one orders a beer? Perhaps they are likelier to eat the salad and order their food grilled instead of fried? I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you the sight of all this near naked male flesh does not conjure images of Zeus and Achilles, but recalls only the wrong Homer.

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6 Comments

  1. davidrochester said,

    Whatever the explanation may be for the Greek male expansion phenomenon, your closing line cracked me up.

  2. doctordi said,

    Dear man, I only wish I were joking.

  3. soph said,

    Well done on the white zucch! Wouldn’t mind a fritter right about now. Oh dear poor J, what a strange thing to have happened must have been a lot of blood……heyzeus indeed. Loving the updates – and we are all crying not to be there living the good life. Sounds amazing and so glad you are embracing every morsel………………………xoxoxo

    • doctordi said,

      The good life is right, Soph – it is divine. Yes, my first sight of J’s open skull was a bit bracing – but he really took it all in his stride and shall have a lasting reminder of his Grecian sojourn…

      Wish you guys were all here too, it’s the best idea we’ve had yet.

  4. litlove said,

    You are brave! I would have reacted very badly to the sight of an open head wound… But well done on wresting the alien veg into submission and thank you for giving me such a laugh about the Greek men, followed naturally by an ohhh of disappointment. I like the idea of lithe Greek Gods to watch!

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