Mention the name “Wilson” to my son, James and my niece, Elizabeth, and I guarantee a couple of slow smiles will spread across their faces. We took both of them to Greece for the first time in 2002. Having Elizabeth with us meant James had company when he was dragged from museum to museum, (ya seen one 600 B.C. amphora, you’ve seen ’em all). And for us, the adults, it meant we were forced to work on our vocabulary. Traveling with a genius will do that. I bought them a soccer ball here, stateside, for them to bat around by the pool, in the sea or on the beach. And we named it “Wilson”. It was a huge hit. There was always a lively, bordering on violent, game of catch going on, usually in the water. Until the day James hurled the ball, not to, but at Elizabeth and, tiny thing that she was, instead of catching the ball, she dodged. Over the side of the pool it went, down, down, down the service drive, down, down, down, bouncing, rolling, bouncing outside the hillside hotel property until it was lost and we could see it no more. Gone. It landed somewhere in the field next to us. The private property field. The completely fenced in field. We trudged through the resort, dripping wet, to rescue Wilson. We had to. It was Wilson! At the front gate of the field, all three of us stood sizing up the situation. The wild grasses were WAY taller than they had looked, so far above at poolside. Then that all-American practically kicked in and I said, “How hard can it be? It’s a ball, for crying out loud. C’mon.” The driveway wasn’t paved and we had to lie down right on the dusty ground and shimmy under the bottom of the gate. The bottom of the rusty- corroded- tetanus covered- going to slice you to ribbons gate. Oh, Lord. The three of us wiggled under the rust covered gate without any bloodshed and started ever so gingerly walking. Carefully planting each foot, one in front of the other, it just got creepier and creepier. There were all kinds of weeds and grasses I had never seen. The grasses were tall and wild, rubbing up against our knees and higher. The children became more and more quiet as we progressed further into the field and further away from civilization. Well, it felt like that, anyway. And then, my personal tragedy hit. I heard a “pop” as I stepped down HARD on something. Something pod-like. Something big. Big and full. Something big and full EXPLODED, spewing wet, gooey stuff ALL over the tippy top of my inner thigh. Yeah. My inner thigh. Sweet Jesus, I wanted to scream. It was gooey. And I had children with me. How we did it I don’t know but that just spurred us into “find the damn ball, ’cause we’ve got to get out of here”. What a relief when Elizabeth’s voice rang out, “I found it! Here he is! He’s over here!” She grabbed that ball and we just hauled out of there. And you have never seen two children and one adult shimmy under a gate so fast. No bloodshed and back to the pool. Oh, happy day. In Greece, the following is the salad we eat at just about every lunch and dinner…day in, day out. It is the quintessential Greek salad. And never, ever with lettuce.
Greek salad - Horiatiki Salata
- 5 ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 bell pepper, seeded, ribs cut out, cut in 1″ pieces
- 1/2 red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 12 Kalamata or greek olives, or 3-4 per person
- good olive oil
- 5-7 oz. slice or wedge of Greek feta
- 1 tbls. dried Greek oregano, (if you can’t get Greek domestic Mexican oregano will do. But Greek is sweeter.)
- In a good-sized bowl, combine tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cucumber and olives.
- Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over salad and toss.
- Sprinkle all but a little oregano over salad, toss and top with feta.
- Drizzle a bit more olive oil over feta, sprinkle with remaining tsp. oregano and enjoy with warm bread