I have a friend whose signature dish is greek potatoes….essentially oven roasted potatoes seasoned with olive oil, salt, garlic and oregano with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right at the end for that gastronomic magic that occurs by doing so. This week’s CSA gave us oregano and garlic scapes…I fantasized all week about indulging this carbohydrate nirvana on the weekend. Then my mother called, informed me that my grandmother would be in town, and implied that I should make dinner….I’d be sharing greek potatoes with everyone.
We received some chard as well, so I made some horta for us to munch on while I cooked. Horta, a favorite dish from my time in Crete, is essentially lightly boiled greens with salt and lemon juice. It’s probably supposed to be a digestif (to borrow from cocktail vernacular), but it feels to me a great way to prime and cleanse the body for eating…sort of kombucha-esque.
On to the potatoes…..I parboiled them first, for about ten minutes….
Then placed them in the oven with the chopped scapes, oregano, olive oil and salt at 450, until they were tender.
And when they emerge, crispy, carmelized little wonders, the lemon goes on.
The obligatory kebabs and labneh (I threw in horiatiki for good measure) accompanied the potatoes…the sort of food we eat with grandma. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of my grandfather this week, and realized I don’t have any memories of him that include food other than labneh, kibbe, grape leaves and kebabs. Funny, these things that you don’t realize until years later.
Sitting with my grandmother outside and talking before dinner was sobering. I haven’t seen her in a few years, and she is aging. Which I suppose is inevitable, but is an insidious thing, easily forgotten in the futility of every day life. She tires easily these days. At one point my mom yelled out from the house “Mom, do you want to take a little nap?” My grandmother leaned toward me, grabbed my arm and yelled to my mother “No! I won’t nap while my Manda is here!” It struck me, this kind of love. I realized that I have only understood this sort of longing with certain lovers….not wanting to sleep for fear of missing a moment with them. This is how my grandmother was talking about me. I was transported back to memories of my situ (this grandmother’s mother) calling us “lover” as children….something that was completely normal to me until I grew up, told a few people, and realized not every situ uses semi-erotic language in reference to her offspring. It as well prompted me to think of the stories of great mystics who describe intimacy with the divine as consummation. And mostly, it made me realize that grandchildren may be to grandparents what lovers are to one another. And in that moment, where I might have been tempted to get up, check the potatoes, taste the labneh for spices for the hundreth time, I chose to remain seated, and tried to be as with her as I could possibly be. And then, in Arab woman fashion, we began making jokes about our noses and our breasts, and laughed wildly together.