I know it’s true. I’ve seen it work. The way to a man’s heart is visceral. Literally. As in food. Could the same be true if what we’ve lost and need to find is the way back to our own heart, a Heart of Greekness?
I think of the elements, and as orchestrator of such a meal I’d rely on a palette of contrasts, enough to mirror most Greek, and human, attributes. I’d cook to sate but not satiate, to comfort but not kill with complacency, to entice but not ensnare.
Daubing a little of this and a little of that, here’s what I think a meal flavored Greek would need:
I’d use citrus to excite, like the astringency of a good Greek argument. I’d sprinkle in crystal salt, the sea—nostalgia—solidified, so that it crackles then lingers on the tongue. I’d use a spoon to mine the dark minerals of Greek island honey from its unassuming tin, and stir its slim velvet spirals into sauces both sweet and savory. The cook knows how its mystery, like desire, will soften the resolve even of the most disciplined diner. I’d pluck oregano and with its sharp, staccato leaves, spike the gushing gold of Greek oil to temper its free flow, like logic does emotion, but just a bit. You have to where Greeks cook; we consume so much of it but are consumed by it, too.
In designing my meal for a Greek heart, tradition would guide but not hamper. For example, I’d likely subdue the buoyant flesh of a just-caught fish by flashing it on a smoky grill, a nod to nostalgia and logic and emotion, but then, I’d make it feisty with lemon, too. Carnivorous yearnings, the heroes’ feasts, remember, would be fired up but only enough to strengthen, not burden that heart.
Most of all, for my meal and this ode to a Greek heart, I’d marry my flavors slowly in a wide, well-seasoned pot, because patience renders harmony, and I’d turn off the heat just at that point when no liquid but unction was left, the way wise women once showed the younger ones when teaching them how to cook and live.