ro bert  

CHICKENZ goats, greek lamb and other vegetarian animals  

home from home
wherever I eat my wine !
these drawings were executed along with live models
best viewed through retsina !
swallow firmly ,
and then go to stories and lies
not easily beaten for taste

I'm not too sure where my passion for Greece started. I first visited there in 1984, during a year long back-packing trip , when , as a 22 year old , I did the usual europe route, and ended up on Santorini, via Corfu, Athens,Poros, Hydra, Ios, and Crete. Santorini, or Thira, is a staggeringly beautiful island, with the most breathtaking sunsets over a volcanic crater. I stayed for 3 months, working, partying, drinking and playing. A few years later I flew to Europe again, and this time made my way straight to Santorini. Stuff the rest, I'd done the galleries, I was 25 and I wanted to party! Again I stayed for 3 wild months before heading off for Turkey. I loved the time I spent in greece, but it was more the good times and friends I remembered, more than the place itself. But the seed was planted, and later , as my outlook on life gradually changed , I have found myself becoming more and more interested in the simple way of life of many of the greek people, and the wonderful way they celebrate life and the land they love. I've also become an enthusiastic cook, and I love the robust and aromatic style of greek cooking. Being my family's cook also causes some problems. "Oh no, dad, not moussaka again! " is a phrase heard far too often, as I place my 2 1/2 hours worth of culinary creation in front of my girls, aged 4 & 6. My wonderful, well travelled, well educated wife fares no better... "Please Robert, NO olive oil, NO lemons and NO GARLIC tonight!" NO GARLIC? One might as well ask for a cup of tea without water! Unfortunately, 6 years of boarding school have reduced her taste-buds to the level of liver & mash, as long as there's not too much gravy, and hold the onions. A familiar sight after a typical meal are uneaten wedges of golden pan-fried aubergine, discreetly lodged under knives and forks. Greek style cooking is about excess, a splash of oil, a bottle of wine here, and a head of garlic there, none of this 3mm of ginger, or a pinch of herbs... rather a handful of herbs. There can be no better aroma then that of a pot of heavilly flavoured chicken or lamb slow roasting in an oven, filling the house with that herby, heady fragrance. One of my favourate dishes at the moment is a simple chicken and potatoe bake, cooked in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, origanum, and covered with white wine and water, and baked in a hot oven. Eaten with a salad and good bread to mop up the gravy... yum! Having not travelled to Greece in 12 years, I've had to make do with little glimpses now and then of threads of greek life, like the Maynardville carnival, which happens once a year in Cape Town, around Easter. I remember 2 years ago, wandering around with my family, feeling slightly bored with the stalls and beer tents, when I picked up that familiar smell ...greek LAMB ahead! With quickening steps, dragging the family behind, I found the source.. the greek tent. There in front were 4 lambs slowly turning on the spit, while the men, who looked like they had been plucked from a taverna on the Plaka, and dumped in Wynberg, joked amongst themselves in greek, sipping ouzos, basting the lambs, and fingering worry beads. Overweight ladies sat at tables,eating baklava and reminiscing. On a small stage, young greek girls danced traditional dances for the young boys, to the sounds of bazoukis. What an evening it was, drinking retsina, and absorbing the wonderful culture that is so strong, thousnds of miles from their home. So, of course, when the carnival happened again last year, the first place I made a dash for was the same tent, but what a dissapointment. Instead of the greek men, there stood a bunch of 'manne' in khakis, discussing the selection of the tight 5 in the bok pack, and when I asked the very nice tannie behind the bar for a retsina, she innocently asked, "a wat-se-goed?' I only hope the greeks can rise up and claim back their tent next year. There are plenty of other small reminders of Greece to be found, wonderful restaurants like Maria's in town, Kosmos in Sea Point, and Lemonia in Hout Bay, although none of them will ask you to.."come look een thee keetchin! " Also, Mediterranean Delicasies in Montague Gardens have a wonderful selection of Dolmades, feta, tzatziki and pickled calamari, amongst others. Imported Greek coffee is available at Giovannis, and after searching through various junk shops, I finally found a 'Briki' , or coffee pot, with the thin neck and wide base,(originally designed to cook on the hot sand),small enough for the ritual brewing of one cup of pure coffee heaven. I've also located a source, after many, many phone calls, for the nectar of the god's, or retsina. I first discovered retsina on Corfu.As I entered my dormitory at the youth hostel, I noticed a plastic bottle filled with liquid in the corner . After sniffing it, I thoght it must be floor polish , and was amazed to see an Aussie walk in, also give it a sniff, then proceed to take a good gulp of it. He eventually persuaded me to try it, and after a hesitent sip, I decided it WAS floor polish! Later on we polished off that bottle , and another one over dinner, and my love for retsina was born. It is an aquired taste,but if you have enjoyed it in greece, nothing captures the essence of the place quite like it, ice-chilled on a hot summer day. The internet is another source of pleasure, whether flipping through a photo gallery, taking a virtual tour of the islands, or reading travel essays, as with all subjects, there's a huge amount of info to get into. I'm busy planning a visit to greece next year. Just a short trip of about 2 weeks to the mainland and a small island or two, far away from the tourists, and the tourist season. I don't want to dance till 5 to Madonna on Mykonos ,or party till I drop with the Swedes on Ios, or even que with the masses to see the temples in Athens. I want to sit at a small taverna, drink ouzo and play backgammon with the locals, and eat good food in places that havn't heard of waitRONS or macdonalds , and hopefully find a festival where fires are lit, fresh bread is spiked with fresher herbs, and the villagers gather at the square to feast, and find secluded beaches to relax on,...and drink LOTS of retsina., In the meantime I'm very content to sit outside in the wonderful cape sunshine, under my grapevine entwined pergola, paging through 'the most beautiful villages in greece ', as the smell of lamb on the coals wafts over, and every now and then, glance at the bright blue paint drying on my door.