Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday lunch

I enjoy long and leisurely Sunday Lunches; they have always been rather special to me.  For all the years during which I lived at home with my parents Sunday was the only day of the week on which we ate the main meal of the day together and at lunchtime.  It was always a feast, invariably of roast meat and vegetables preceded by soup and  followed by a 'pudding' which may have been anything from apple pie with cream to treacle pudding with custard but which always was good.  Later, when I had a young family of my own I enjoyed, when possible, Sunday lunches amongst friends and their families at one of the excellent county hostelries that nestled in that pleasantly bucolic triangle of Kent, marked by Canterbury, Sandwich and Hythe, in which I lived at that time.  These days, on summer Sundays I can usually be found at Maria's Taverna, Zapi.  I have been going there for many years now and although through the years there have been many changes, Maria's is still very much what it was when I first discovered the place; a simple, very informal, family run taverna directly on the beach.  In those early days of my acquaintance with the place there would be as many, if not more, boats pulled up on the beach or bobbing in shallow water as there were vehicles in what passed as a car park.  Venturing down the narrow, deeply rutted un-mettled mountain track that served as Zapi's road access was not for the faint-hearted.  The wise walked (Indeed, the very wise still walk!), rode down on their donkeys or came by sea.  The route has not altered but the road is now mettled; the final few kilometres were asphalted during last winter.  The first stretch of the road to be mettled, that nearest to the main road from which it branches, was competed several years ago and is now showing signs of deterioration; in all, and including that of last winter, there were four further sessions, over half a dozen or more years, of extending the tarmac surface!  This is quite normal here.  At sometime during the road improvements Zapi was, for the first time, linked to the national electricity grid.  The economics of supplying a hamlet of but few dwellings  with mains electricity and seven kilometres of good road  escape me but maybe these infrastructural improvements may eventually encourage the more self-interested among the well-heeled to do what they have elsewhere; to clear the beautiful wild scrub and grub up olive groves to make way for their palatial, tasteless 'holiday homes', thereby rewarding the state with their singularly material return for which its financial advisors must hope.
During the German occupation, not the present civilian one, the 1940s military occupation, Zapi served as an entry and exit gate for allied military personnel who either had business in Greece, organising and advising terrorist bands,  or who had become accidentally trapped here.  Many years ago I met an old man at a party who had been a Zapi resident during the war and who had hidden four British airmen in his house for an entire year before they were eventually taken by submarine to Alexandria.  The submarines could get in close enough to rendezvous with one of the small inshore fishing boats.  My informant has since died as must have most, if not all, of his contemporaries; sadly their potentially fascinating stories will have gone with them.


davidwoodwardesq said...

It is cruel to be reminded of the delights of Tsapi when I am facing the prospect of extra layers of clothing to cope with the English autumn. Many times have my feet sped over the hot sand for a refreshing dip in Tsapi bay, followed by cold Mythos (or three) and a plate of whatever emerged from Maria's outdoor grill. I look forward very much to joining you there again before long.

I was not aware of Tsapi's wartime role. I read recently Anthony Beevor's book about the invasion of Crete in 1941. This brought home the heroic resistance of the Cretans (often at the cost of terrible reprisals), and the generosity and loyalty they showed to allied troops left abandoned following the evacuation of allied forces. I suspect that the asterity measures now facing the Greek population would have been considered utter luxury to those who suffered those wartime experiences.

On the subject of austerity measures, I have just seen a headline that the Greek government intends to reduce student homework and increase the amount of time students spend being taught in the classroom. Without more information I cannot immediately see the logic. From memory, long hours in the classroom risk information overload, and a benefit of homework is that it enables the student to recap and apply the teachers' words of wisdom. Chickens and eggs(?)

John Foster said...

Logic, lexically, has deep Greek roots. Paradoxically, perhaps because we are not Greek and tend to interpret the idea of logic, along with much else, in a Western sense, we often fail to understand the motives and actions of people whose underlying ethos is inscrutably eastern.
Chicken and eggs? No! Give me eggs and bacon every time!

davidwoodwardesq said...

Maria of Tsapi: Treading in the footsteps of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle?
The dictionary definition of ‘philosopher’ includes ‘one who shows philosophical calmness in trying circumstances’. Does Maria qualify? I can think of at least two incidents which have demonstrated Maria’s qualities in this regard:

Eating at Maria’s taverna does not involve menus, price lists and itemised bills. Typically, Maria tells you what she’s got, you take your pick and at the end of the meal Maria tells you how much you should pay. On one of our first visits, following an excellent lunch I returned from the loo to find that Jane had queried the amount of the bill (totally without justification). Maria’s facial expression did not change. She moved her head slightly to the side while she considered the situation and then deducted an arbitrary 2 euros. She left the table without saying a word but gave no indication that she was even remotely put out. Maria smiled, thanked us and wished us well when we left. We are welcomed every time we return.

On another occasion, an idiot with a 4 wheel drive ‘Chelsea tractor’ had been silly enough to get his vehicle stuck axle-deep in the sand outside Maria’s taverna. Maria’s husband and several other Greek males got involved in the rescue effort. After several failed attempts the men could not agree on what to do next. The discussions became heated and increasingly angry and ended up in quite a row. Maria, arms folded, observed all of this from the front of her taverna. She made no effort to get involved or support her husband. It was clear that she felt that the incident was of little or no consequence in the wider scheme of life.