Good Reads: “The Summer of My Greek Taverna-a Memoir” by Tom Stone

April24

I read this book many years ago, almost all in one sitting.  D and I had driven up to our beach house for one last fall weekend and to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  We have a lovely time on this annual weekend, walking the beach, lying on the deck and watching the stars and cooking up delectable little treats to eat.  But it is also the first Sunday in the NFL Season and D is often anxious to make his way over to the “big cottage” that is equipped with satellite TV.  In the mean while, I will make a cup of tea and cozy up on the deck or if the weather is still really fair, down to the beach for an afternoon read.

Tom Stone lived in Greece for twenty-two years and one summer, was partner and cook of a tavern which catered to the fishermen of the area in the mornings, locals at lunch and tourists in the evening and sometime early into the morning.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled “The Main Course”, with the sub-head of “First Lessons” about the weekend before the Taverna opens for business (page 104-105):

That Saturday morning, I unpacked the rest of my things and began making space for myself in the kitchen.

It was, of course, infinitely smaller than the one I had remembered when I was indulging in my fantasies back in Rethymnon.  Barely large enough to accommodate tiny Demetra and myself, much less Memis and the boys, every available space in it seemed to be utilized twice over.  The walls were lined with shelves, cupboards, plates, glasses, flour, pastas, herbs, matches, old lottery tickets, nails, string, and, among other useless items, a broken telephone.  In the center stood a large working table, and another, smaller table was in a nook leading to the glass-fronted display units.  Along the back wall crouched a huge, blackened electric stove with four hot plates on top.  Next to it was a gas-operated three-burner range.

To the left of the stove, also along the back wall, were two stained, stainless steel sinks and a draining board, and leading off that to the rear, a long, narrow space that Theologos had recently added on in one of his attempts at improvement.  It was a bedroom, dressing and storage room, with two narrow cots that were used both for quick naps and for the boys to sleep at night.  A narrow passageway running behind the walk in refrigerator linked it to the taverna’s single toilet, also accessible from the dining area, and barely larger than those you find on airplanes.  In an alcove was a wash basin and a door that led to the outside storage area, mainly used for empty creates and bottles and for washing and peeling vegetables.

I staked a claim to the small table between the kitchen area and the refrigerated display units and set up my food processor and work area there.  Since Memis was apparently also going to help (at no extra cost, it seemed) and had clearly fallen for one potato cutter, I left him to find a space for it.

One of the features of this and many of my favourite stories of living in a foreign place, are the appendices of recipes in the back of the book:

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Greek Meatballs
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4-6
 

Good either as marble-sized hors d’oeuvres or, when walnut sized or larger, as a main course. Try to serve these hot or at least warm, otherwise the congealing fat in the meat will make them increasing less appetizing. There are infinite varieties throughout Greece. The ones that I prefer are those that I remember Eleni making, flavoured in the spicy Levantine style of northern Greece. I have been told, but never come across proof, that keftedes were on the menus of classical Athens.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound beef or lamb, ground several times over or kneaded or pounded in a mortar until almost a paste.
  • 2-3 slices of bread, crusts removed
  • 1 T vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 T grated onion
  • 4 T finely chopped parsley
  • 4 T finely chopped mint (I substituted cilantro)
  • ½ t oregano
  • ½ t cumin
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ⅛ t cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ red wine
  • flour for dusting

Instructions
  1. Once the meat is ground or pounded to a paste, moisten the bread, squeeze the liquid out, and mix into the meat with all the remaining ingredients except the flour for dusting. Shape into walnut sized balls and dust with the flour.
  2. Fry in oil in a skillet or in a deep fat fryer until brown on the outside but still moist within.
  3. Variations on this recipe include the addition of a few pine nuts and mint in place of the parsley.
  4. Also, the meat mixture can be shaped around skewers, fried or grilled, and served wither as brochettes or wrapped in a pita bread as a variety of gyro (pronounced “yeero”).
  5. Finally, the meatballs can be served in a tomato sauce of your choosing (usually a simple one of tomato paste, water, cinnamon or cumin, and a little lemon juice) and served as a main course with rice.

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I was going to fashion these around a skewer to grill but the weather turned cold, so I didn’t want D to have to fire up the barbeque.  There were moist and delicious and reminded me of my own time in Greece.

Kath’s quote: Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher, once advised a young courtier, “If you lived on cabbage, you would not be obliged to flatter the powerful.” To which the courtier replied, “If you flattered the powerful, you would not be obliged to live upon cabbage.” - Diogenes

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Love-that is all.

2 Comments to

“Good Reads: “The Summer of My Greek Taverna-a Memoir” by Tom Stone”

  1. Avatar April 30th, 2014 at 4:48 am Jackie Savoie Says:

    I hope it comes in an e-book because I’ve never read this and now, you must know, I absolutely have to. ;)


  2. Avatar April 30th, 2014 at 7:40 am Kathryne Says:

    If you can’t find it, you can have my copy. I bought it eons ago at Liquidation World.


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