Greece, Greek food and me

I’ve just been watching my very favourite TV chef of all, Rick Stein, on his trip from Venice to Istanbul. I love his approach to food and enjoying it - simple, peasanty, plenty of it, just-caught-this-moment-fresh; down to earth. I like food, and I've never really required fancy restaurants.

Rick was in Greece, always close to paradise to me. I've been there so many times. I fell in love with Greece at the start of the ‘70s and couldn't resist returning year after year. The combination of ancient history, heat and beauty was irresistible. Sometimes I think we really should have branched out a bit more, but it was Greece again and again and I do not regret it. So many memories.

Rick was reminding me of some of that simple generous food that has slipped my memory over the years: stuffed peppers and tomatoes for lunch. Of course there's the avegelemono, never a favourite, moussaka, very tasty and satisfying, ouzo, which I persevered with (feeling a bit guilty that I found the other Greek signature glassful, retsina, undrinkable) and got to like very much; then the whole grilled fresh fish - head on compulsory - with chips and a chunky Greek salad. Nothing fancy. The smell of oreganum and thyme in the dry heat and dusty pine needles, the white granite rocks against the azure sky, the light local white and red wines, the friendly people, just sitting, talking, watching the day and enjoying life.

The last time I was there was in Thassos in 1995 with my daughter Ros. She was only 13 then and could not remember any earlier trips, so she wanted to go to Greece just with me. I hired a scooter and we went all over the island like a couple of kids, playing silly games in the sea, having dinner every evening. As we left on the ferry, there were dolphins sporting themselves in the bay. The unbelievably blue Aegean.

Now Ros is 34, with baby sons Sam and Jack of her own. Alex my younger son was 38 yesterday, the Ides of March, sharing his birthday with little Sam. The coincidence helps me remember both. It doesn't seem at all likely, any of it.



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