At the moment I've been relaxing in Naxos from anything schedule related for the last two days. Hard to believe I will be leaving for Paris in eleven days. Where has the time gone? That is the question at the moment. The second question to come up is what did I learn about cooking Greek food? The answer follows. Before we get into the main course (sorry, had to slip that in there) of my narrative I have to let you know that the only things that got steamy in this portion of the trip were items that ended up in a pan, oven, dish, or mug. No dot dot dot moments. Only laughs and fun cooking!
After leaving the sailing boat adventure I took a taxi from the boat to Odyssey Activity Center for cooking lessons. I was greeted by Katerina's wonderful hospitality and her trusty sidekick Liko (Liko is a poodle, and her name translates to wolf). Then it was time to be introduced to my American cooking mates for the class; Barry and Bunny. Barry and Bunny are a special sort that words can't exactly describe. You have to experience them to understand. They both added to the fun experience.
Katerina's approach to cooking Greek food is filled with history, sites, fun and plenty of entertainment. What I walked away with when it comes to cooking Greek food is there are two very important ingredients - love and sharing. You have to love what you are cooking and have a group of people to share it with. When word gets out that Katerina is teaching another cooking class plenty of people show up to sample on a daily basis. For good reason too! After the two main ingredients are identified the following become secondary elements of Greek cooking - wine, olive oil, garlic, feta, fresh veggies, and fresh herbs from the garden. The third element needed is a comical Greek cooking instructor named Katerina to help you pull it all together. Katerina comes equipped with quick wit, charming explanations, all the Greek history lessons you can imagine, speaks three languages - Greek, English, and Dutch (her husband is Dutch), can whip up a full course meal with minimal ingredients, and has a contagious laugh. Perfect for anyone's first attempt at cooking all things Greek.
Cooking lessons were always started off with a glass of wine and a small history lesson about Greek food. Our first night we made Lamb Kleftiko (of course this dish name comes with a Greek story and literally translates to stolen lamb), eggplant with special tomato sauce and feta cheese baked, tzatziki (a garlic & yogurt dip for bread) as a starter, eggplant and walnut dip, breaded zucchini patties with lemon sauce, and good wine. The meat was so full of flavor and tender. You can use the kleftiko style of cooking with any type of meat and the result will be the same. We did this on my last night in Poros with a pork shoulder. Amazing!
The next day we learned more about the Greek style of eating. Apparently the way the Greek Orthodox church has influenced the food choices is there are 175 days of vegan eating. Half a year is spent in a vegan lifestyle. We did a vegan/vegetarian style meal for day two. Fresh made noodles with herbs, stuffed zucchini and eggplant, beet roots with garlic, stuff zucchini flowers, Spanakopita (spinach pie), and homemade Baklava. Again, another amazing food night! This was also a night we learned how to do traditional Greek dancing. Now that was fun!
We ended up taking the third day off from cooking because we went to the island Hydra for a walking/history/food tour of the island. This was also the day that Katerina's cooking school and the Greek Sailing company (company I had my sailing adventure with) was visited by Dutch journalists. We spent a half day sailing to Hydra. Andres recognized me from the sailing tour the previous week and let me take the helm for a good portion of the journey. Still absolutely love to sail! We also did a walking tour of Poros too.
Day four and five were a whirlwind of cooking. We cooked two different styles of Dalmates (stuff grape leaves) - vegetarian and meat, octopus in two styles - grilled and tomato sauce with clove, sardines, more Greek desserts, stuffed tomatoes with rice, stuffed green peppers with rice, fried cheese, and countless other Greek dishes I can't seem to remember the names of. Of course all of it is served with incredible Greek wines or Ouzo. The sixth night was a Greek Mezze (appetizer style of eating). We tried many different ways of making sauces, dips, meats, cheeses, and veggies in small portions. This is a fun way to serve foods.
When you ask Katerina to describe Greek cooking her only response is, "Simple and Special." She is right. All the dishes are simple to make and can be easily modified into vegetarian cooking.
One question you may be asking is how did I make it through this week of cooking and still fit into my pants? The answer: lots of exercise! Every morning I went for a walk with Katerina and Liko followed by an afternoon swim. Some days were spent walking into town for something to do, or I rented a pedal bike to bike around the entire island. Luckily everything still fit when I left Poros.
After all this bonding and fun Katerina asked if I wanted to stay a couple of extra days in Poros. I jumped at the chance to do so. My last day on the island was spent cooking with a young German couple. It was a feast for eight people that night. Another couple that joined us for dinner that night were the owners of Greek Sailing - Andres and his wife Anouck. The conversation was incredible! Andres was trying to find a way for me to hire on with Greek Sailing. His wife Anouck was promising to find me a Greek boyfriend so I could learn how to speak Greek faster. Katerina told me I could stay at her hotel while I worked things out. This of course was all discussed over plenty of wine, ouzo and beer. Oh yes, and the game Kniffle (German version of Yatzee).
There is so much more to the Greek cooking lessons and time on Poros. I have to stop here with the story because I'll end up writing too much and put you all to sleep! Know this is only the reader's digest version. There were a lot of funny stories that did happen in this leg of the journey.
Leaving Poros has been the hardest part of my Greece journey so far. In a short period of time I felt like I was home. The hospitality extended by Katerina has me looking into ways I can come back to Greece for more. Since she lives in Holland for the winter with her husband and daughter she invited me to visit her before I leave Europe. Now I'm trying to work it into my schedule! Hopefully I can make it happen before I leave.
The friendships I've made so far on this trip have opened the doors for a lot of future traveling opportunities. Tomorrow I leave Naxos for Santorini; my last leg of the Greece journey. Wonder what 10 days of doing art in Santorini will bring? Stay tuned to find out!
If you would like more information on how you can sign up for cooking classes with Katerina in Poros, Greece visit either one of these websites: Greek Island Activities orOdyssey Apartments. Tell Katerina that Creative Sprite (aka Nicole) sent you. She will make sure to give you a big hug upon arrival!