Gastronomy and Goals
Magiritsa – a traditional Easter dish of soup made from sheep’s offal. That was the first choice on a compulsory holiday menu at Sirens restaurant in Vathi on Saturday night. It tastes approximately 1000 times better than it sounds. We arrived to find most of the tables taken with smartly dressed locals celebrating the Orthodox religious weekend. In addition, a long table was set for a family gathering and it wasn’t until much later that birthday cake arrived and a traditional ballad rendered by all the guests and staff, following which even we were presented with slices of their lovely dessert. Before that we had enjoyed chicken baked with bacon and cheese, pork tenderloin in a mustard sauce and veal steak. The never ending supply of local wine accompanies our feast as we watch the world go by. We walk back to The Perantzada just as midnight arrives and the town explodes to hundreds of firecrackers that reverberate around the surrounding hills for a good hour. We sit by the pool and look over the harbour lights as we chat, drink ouzo and FaceTime JB’s girlfriend Abi in her hotel room in Cambodia (how mad is that?). Sirens has been our number one favourite eating place in town for 9 years now – and we have seen it change hands in recent years after the former family (who became good friends) suffered a series of setbacks and tragedies that are best left unreported. It is sad to have lost contact with the previous owners and, at the same time, a delight to see that the new proprietor (yet another Nikos) has significantly upgraded the interior of this beautiful and unique property. The food and drink this week seem to have surpassed previous years – maybe something to do with arriving much earlier in the year. Meat, fish, vegetables and fruit have been stunning at every stop and the wine plentiful, cheap and hallucinogenic. A little bit of me will be glad to get back home and back onto Paleo, much reduced alcohol intake and exercise. The much greater part of me will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, back on the plane on Tuesday. No disrespect to my family, friends, business partners and lovely clients but I don’t think I’ve ever not wanted to come back so much. I’ve always had a dream to live and work in a sub-tropical climate for large parts of the year. I managed it twice a decade ago – after spending some time in Gulf Coast Florida, followed by a spell in the Italian Lakes – but a few ladders on the board of life were replaced by snakes and we arrived back in the UK around 2004. Since then I’ve been almost too busy to think about the dream – but my impending 60th birthday (September), combined with the sunshine and good living out here are fermenting a very unsettled state of mind. Don’t panic – there will be no Bilbo Baggins vanishing act on the 9th September (having said that, what has he got in his pockets?) but my visionary self is dreaming again in the quiet moments between meals. I love “writing” – either blogging about my life, my observations or thoughts on business and dentistry. There is no novel in me struggling to break free – but the kind of work done by the Seth Godin’s and Timothy Ferris’s of this world inspire me. Even back in the early 90’s, when the kids were small, I scribbled my long term goals on bits of paper, including a home in the sun and early mornings of writing, afternoons at rest, early evenings of exercise and nights of al fresco dining with friends and family. This week in Ithaki has reinforced my commitment to make that happen in the next 5 years, the sooner the better. I want to divide my time between the UK, the rest of the world and Greece, whilst continuing to do the work I love so much. Plans are being hatched this Greek Easter and having Alun Williams (a second year architect) as a companion on our trip has been very informative. A small house on the hill overlooking the harbour at Vathi – plenty of air con and wifi and I’ll be set. Yesterday afternoon we caught a taxi up to Hani – a restaurant high in the mountains overlooking both Ithaki and Kefalonia and invested over 4 hours in a slow, early evening feast of spit roast lamb and kid with huge plates of roasted vegetables, saganaki and salad. The home-made wine was predictably thermonuclear, leading to our earliest night of the week. Today – last day – we are back on the boat within the next 2 hours and intend to return to Rementzo for lunch of beer and calamari whilst I continue to visualise a bigger future.