The desire to have our own laying hens around here (again) resurfaced recently. What stirred the pot was seeing this years potatoes in bloom.
My favorite meal this time of year is farm fresh eggs, new potatoes steamed with onions, (and green beans when they are ready) smothered in butter…especially when the potatoes are so fresh, their skins literally slide off when you scrub them.
This desire to have our own chickens reminded me of another Robert Fulghum story… from the book What On Earth Have I Done?
With all the recent seaside development, it is easy to
forget that Crete and Cretans are fundamentally about the mountains –
the steep places, the high and isolated villages that breed independent,
self-sufficient people who have always been a rule unto themselves.
They still are. The Mountain Cretans say they fear nothing and nobody,
and would look at God, Himself, with hat on and eyes open. Thus they
look upon strangers with interest, not suspicion.
One afternoon I parked my car and walked a narrow road that
connects several small villages along a high mountain ridge. A voice
called out from the porch of a whitewashed house:
“Ehla, ehlah, kahtheeseh!” (Come come, sit!) An old man beckoned to me, pointing to the chair beside him.
I went. I sat. On a small table were almonds, raisins, olives, and a bottle of tsikoudia (tsee-koo-di-ah) the Cretan
equivalent of white-lightning or grappa- the proffered sign of
hospitality and welcome to a Cretan home. He was expecting company -and
anybody would do.
“tho-kee-maseh” (Drink this, eat this!) he said, handing me
a glass of tsikoudia and filling a small plate with almonds, raisins,
“Lee-pon. Germanos?” (Well, then, are you German?)
I was touched to know that the hospitality came first,
even though I might be German- from a country that had brutalized Crete
in WW II.
“Oshee, Americanos.” (No, American.)
“Americanos! Americanos! He shouted into the house, and a younger man appeared. They spoke high-gear Greek with a Cretan
accent. The look on my face tells them I cannot follow, so the younger
man says in fine English, “My father is excited to meet you. He has
never met an American. He hears that in America they have everything.
He would like to ask you some questions.”
With his son translating, the examination began. “How old was I? “
“How many children? “
“How much money do I make?”
Very Cretan inquiries. Then a harder question that led to even tougher scrutiny:
“How often do you dance and sing and recite poetry?”
“Not very often.”
The old man looked at me with narrowed eyes.
“How many sheep and goats do you have?”
The old man looked puzzled.
“How many olive trees do you have and how much oil put away?”
The old man frowned.
” How many vines do you have and how much wine put away?”
The old man was nonplussed. He raised his eyebrows.
“Do you have any chickens?”
The old man looked mildly outraged and fell into high-gear Greek again with his son. The son was apologetic.
“Pardon me, but my father says that it is a lie that Americans have everything. You have no sheep, no goats, no trees, no oil, no vines, no wine, not even
He asks,” What kind of life is that? He says, “No wonder you
don’t sing or dance or recite poetry very often.” He is dismayed.”
The old man peered at me with pity bordering on contempt.
Shaking his head in disgust, he mumbles in English, as he
rose and limped out into his garden, dismissing me from his mind:
“Nothing. Not even chickens….”