Because all experiences are valuable.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spanakopita and Kalamata

There are some things that just make me think of Greece instantly. You know that whole thing about how smell is the only sense not processed by the Thalamus- the "sensory switchboard" of the brain? Smell, if I recall correctly, goes right to the amygdala. You would think I would have just gone over that in Anatomy, but we talked about the cranial nerve that ennervates the olfactory sense, and the dendritic villae that pass through the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone...but we didn't actually discuss the amygdala. I think I remember that bit of knowledge from when Guy did this amazing pop-up book project for AP Psychology.

Anyway, the sense of smell has special access right into the memories. Which I didn't need to tell you, because even if you didn't know why, you knew that anyway. Everyone does. Just open a can of play-doh near them...

Tonight I made Reid dinner, and it was of a sort (I didn't really do any cooking, actually) that made Reid say all we needed to add was some wine and cheese and a couple of friends and we had a lovely party! So, in the vein of combining two topics, one is basically an ad for Target :-), and the other is a story from Greece.

I went shopping tonight at BJs Warehouse Club (I know, lol) and Target. I had gotten Havarti cheese and Stacy's Italian Herb Pita chips (new flavor!) at BJs. I had Red pepper hummus from Publix grocery, and at Target I got the grape tomatoes, the spanakopita and the chicken and kalamata olive pita triangles. They are in the freezer cases and are styled to be hors d'oeurves, but really they make a lovely dinner. The dinner was about 12.00, so easily less than a fast food dinner for two! Reid really enjoyed it. Now we are watching Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull on TV, which neither of us had ever seen. This plot is surprisingly reminiscent of the plot of the Phantom starring Billy Zane. Now it is just getting weird.

So, the smell of spanakopita (which is spinach and feta cheese in fillo dough) always brings back a memory from Delphi, Greece. One of my favorite places on the planet. The tour we were on included breakfast each morning at the hotels we stayed at. Athens was particularly delicious with a great many unusual choices, but things I grew to love quickly in Greece, like huge bowls of dried apricots in greek honey, and spinach everything!! Out in the country, and to the north of the country, the breakfasts were more spare, but still delicious. Everywhere there were always hard-boiled eggs. Which I adore, but am too lazy to make. Isn't  that pathetic? It may be that I used to always call my mother to remind me whether you put the eggs in the cold water and allow them to heat with the water, then plunge them in cold water as soon as they are cooked to stop the cooking inside so they don't turn green at the yolk. But I don't remember how long to cook them, and I can't ask her any longer...

The whole time we were there, the country (Socialist) was striking at random times, and there were major riots on Athens. Intrepid travelers, we journeyed on, largely not even inconvenienced. But in Delphi, the power "workers?" were on strike across the country. As it got dark, there was no dinner to be had, and shopkeepers were selling their wares to tourists by candlelight. It didn't deter us, either. But we were thrilled when the power was restored in time for the street side gyro grill to open. Mmmmmm. The next morning, I think we got to breakfast late, and they hadn't prepared much, thought the power was on. Somehow the kids didn't get anything to eat really. ( I was eating the boiled eggs and apricots again!). Let me digress to describe a family that we had been on the tour bus with  for days already. Father- about 50, as quiet and taciturn as you can imagine. Mom, about 32, pretty, but mousy in her cowed demeanor. Son, about age 4, bouncing around but very very well behaved and kept quiet by mom so as not to disturb dad, And, Grandma, about age 75, and silent as a sheet the whole way- not even a facial expression. Grandma and Dad spoke Greek to each other. It seemed to be a present for her, the trip I mean. So there we are at breakfast, a few minutes till the bus was to come for our exciting day at the actual Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and Jason says to the kids hey lets run to that bakery down the street and grab some food for you two. I said I wouldn't let the bus leave without them...

As it turned out the bus was late anyway. They came back with several hot, fresh pastries, and several crisp and ropy stuffed pretzel-like things full of spinach and feta. They literally were just out of the oven. We cut them into pieces, and still had a lot left after we each had some. The family was still in the dining room. I took the other pieces over and offered them to the family, because they hadn't eaten much, either. I was concerned they might be taken aback, I mean, they were sort of leftovers. The Grandma looked at me for a minute, and I showed her we had cut them first, not eaten off of them. Then she took them, and she smiled at me. The first facial expression I had really seen on her. They seemed to really enjoy them, they were so fresh. After that, the Dad smiled that day, and the little boy wasn't kept so silent, and Grandma talked more in English, and they "joined" the crowd a lot more as the tour progressed. It was truly magical. The power of shared food.

This holiday season, why not go get some food that brings a memory, or share some food that has a story. I can recommend Target's line of appetizers, and they are inexpensive, too. Make some new memories. I have some plans for a huuge batch of cookies I'm making this week....


  1. Aw yay! I am so excited for Greece! I want to go to Delphi and see Apollo's temple as well. I am really excited about all the food their. I am not a big fan of spinach but I love hummus and I am not afraid to try foods.
    And I loved boiled eggs... I think you cook them around 10 minutes? I have to make them again and I will let you know!

  2. I love this story. I'm working on a post about fondue, it brings back childhood memories. Greece is on my bucket list.

  3. Thanks, Ali, and "Mom", I hope you both get to Greece very soon. It is a very strange, unique and wonderful place. We walked all over Athens and never felt unsafe. They seem to keep their unrest largely to themselves. They still seem to value tourists and want people to come see what makes Greece so amazing for themselves. The people were delightful.