Not Even Chickens

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,
and olives.

 “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
chickens. “

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….”



8 thoughts on “Not Even Chickens

  1. “No wonder you don’t sing or dance or recite poetry very often.” 🙂 Sounds a lot like my late grandma. She used to give me hard time about America.
    Thank you for some Sunday laughs!!
    I was talking to my dad yesterday about his trip to Cyprus, and his main memory was when he walked to take a swim in the sea at 5 am every morning the locals were out in the fields already intensely weeding before the heat hits in. With the chickens. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • there are four young hens living on the property as we speak. According to the young lady from whom we bought them from, they should start laying in a month. We will see 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been meaning to reach out to you and lamely letting my busy life get in the way. I recently read a book I think you might enjoy… Natural Born Heroes. Think about tractor low gear and Crete in WWII, some interesting science, and food. No chickens. But the tractor low gear diet does help if you eat eggs. Interest piqued?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You tell the best stories. And you find the best stories to share too. Isn’t it amazing what others define as wealth? I’m with the old Greek man, I’d rather have tangible things than money. Too bad money has replaced the old way of wealth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved this one. I could never be so direct or bluntly disapproving but sometimes I feel exactly the same disgust… I can’t keep from smiling thinking of him shaking his head, “not even chickens…”

    Liked by 1 person

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