The summer before my grade 12 year, my family took a vacation with our close friends the Krisches, and my math tutor/the most patient woman alive/Aunt Patty. We were off to Italy and Greece for six weeks.I wish that, at seventeen, I had been interested in the nuances of thin crusted pizza that glistened with olive oil and rendered fat from fresh mozzarella. Or pasta cooked perfectly al dente tossed with shrimp and simmered in real cream. Or beautiful, sliced baguettes. I should have spread the butter thick across the ciabatta and baguette and the apricot scones and then sprinkled it with salt like Kelsey did (but Kelsey didn't sprinkle the salt so much as spoon it on). Or for the love of god, treasured the authenticity of the food I was eating. Instead, I worried about carbs, and I did a lot of sit-ups when I could have been at the buffet. I know. I hate myself.
There was a perfect harmonious moment when we were in Greece (my stomach and self-confidence in perfect alignment), and it might have been one of my initial nudges toward an obsession with food. Indulgently thinking ourselves "travelers" rather than simpleton "tourists", the nine of us decided to lounge lakeside at a local watering hole, a few miles and an autobahn (freeway) out of the city.
Driving in Europe is like being in a James Bond movie. No one pays attention to the lines, and sometimes there simply are no lines at all. Those painted white lines end abruptly, and you speed on on what looks like a landing strip, sweating the loss of an invisible barrier. Have you ever missed chalky white paint before? There are also no speed limits, and lights are always optional. Traffic police encourage you to avoid hitting other cars/people (but accidents happen- look at the dings on every car in Italy for proof), and offer you a friendly wave when you flit by at two hundred kilometers per hour. My dad would go back to Europe and drive the whole time. I spent entire car rides with my head between my knees.
We did arrive at the lake. It was cute, if a little swampy, but nothing was so sweet as the gravity. We spread ourselves out and gripped our towels until we stopped psychically drag racing.
To our left on the way home: a little cabin in the woods. Bright and breezy and cheery, with white curtains billowing around an open, wraparound porch- something from the American deep south. Even the vines look like kudzu; even the air was starchy and full.
There must have been a sign, something to suggest it as an eatery, but I don’t remember one. Only the dreamlike quality of the place: everything emanating a glow of blue and yellow. The long wooden table we arranged ourselves around. We were the only people there, other than the owner and her chattering five-year-old son. He ran a toy truck up and down my arm while his mother called him from the kitchen, apologized to me, and shrugged as if to say “he’s a sweet thing; you don’t mind.” And I didn’t, not even when he bit my hand and left his mouth there, oozing spit.
Did we order? The owner sat at the table with us for a while, and then food came, but there were no menus. Only suggestions and nods for “you like sound of?”. No one sad no to anything- to do so would have been unspeakably stupid.
I must have eaten only a plate of fresh feta cheese. Real greek feta is nothing like the rubbery crumbs I eat from Apetina tubs here in Canada. Greek feta doesn’t sweat salt. It rarely deigns to take on the flavor of the humble vegetable ingredients in your salad. Piquant: smooth and sweet, curdy in texture. It doesn't crumble, it doesn't have a brittle bone in its luscious, creamy, softly lumpy body.
Kelsey ate salted butter on bread. My Mom ate salad thick with rings of raw red onion, knuckley olives, oregeno oregeno orgeno.
It’s time to get out of here. Paris for wine and long hair in buns and espresso and walnut cake. India for real black tea and a thousand different curries and maybe a dreadlock and street meat.