Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The greatest compliment

No Good Boyo’s meandering tale of social acceptance amongst çay-drinking Turkish tokers brings to mind the greatest compliment I have ever been paid in my life.

It occurred on the island of Crete, in a tiny family-run Taverna geographically but not philosophically close to the grim disco strip of Malia. Its keeper spoke fine eccentric English and he used it to complain in a lengthy but convivial sort of way about my compatriots and their behaviour on holiday. “Why you need get so drunk?” he asked as he brought out our bottle of enjoyably vile retsina. “Why you want get nakt? Why you want take clothes off in street and get nakt?”

I couldn’t honestly answer, and nor could Mrs B. We were both fully clothed and had no intention of getting ‘nakt’ in his street. While our starters were preparing he pulled up a chair to continue the theme. “Why you want shout? I not come to your house and SHOOOOOOUT in your street. Why you want do that?” He cupped his hands in front of his mouth and demonstrated, literally, the business of “SHOOOOOOUTing”.

I couldn’t help but agree with his gist, though I did make the observation that his own compatriots were more than happy to take money from mine in return for drunk-making liquors. He conceded the point with good grace.

I ordered up the special, which the Taverna-keeper - who had, I now noticed, extremely oily hair - kindly translated to me as “Chicken chops.” It was a platter of chicken thighs, wings and things cooked in some sort of oregano seasoning and was sublimely delicious. I have a weakness for chicken things anyway and attacked the plate with carnivorous greed, using fingers and teeth to pick off every last morsel til there was nothing but a heap of gleaming, decimated bones. The keeper took our plates back into the kitchen and then a few minutes later hurried back to deliver it, the greatest compliment I have ever been paid in my life:

“Sir! My wife, the cook… she ask me to tell you… She say, You really know how to eat chicken!”


worm said...

brilliant! and indicative of our strange relationship with food in this country - in other places like greece they revere the ingredients, are respectful of the animal that died to make their meal, and enjoy food as a priviledge and a pleasure.

We British seem mostly happy to stuff our faces with crap as long as it fills us up and have turned meat into an abstract concept.

Where this leaves me with my love of greasy donor kebabs, I have no idea

Brit said...

Although what's really strange is the way the British middle-class has suddenly come to fetishise food and ingredients in the last 15 years.

worm said...

well Its arguable that in places like Italy, they fetishise the food itself, and revel in quality for the sheer enjoyment of it(slightly romanticised view I know) whereas our food fetishisation is a darwinian display of superiority

malty said...

Has anyone an answer to the croissant crumb problem?

The Old Batsman said...

'Enjoyably vile' is the greatest compliment you can pay retsina, too...

No Good Boyo said...

A fine tale, and I know what the cook means. Someone who eats with Geschmack is a delight to behold. Crete is my favourite holiday destination, in particular the villages around Gavalohori. Waking up to goats and the amplified cry of fishmongers - it's what Wales will one day be.

Merry Christmas, mun.