Island of secrets. (Extract from chapter 2) Greek Salad.

Angie hauled her suitcase up a steep backstreet. The four-by-three white painted room contained a new pine bed, a wardrobe, and a tiny modern bathroom that had surely been tiled by a blind man. Finding only one small towel, a coat hanger, and no soap, she locked the door and went in search of a store. On her return, Angie’s stomach rumbled and Manoli’s kafenion seemed the easy option.

‘Welcome back, lady. The room is good, yes? What you want?’ Manoli peered at her supermarket bag. ‘What you buy?’

‘Nothing exciting, Manoli, but I’m hungry now, is there a menu?’

‘Why you want menu? Tell me what you like, I am menu.’

‘Mousaka? Lamb chops? Sardines?’

‘Ah, all finished, we have pizza, any sort of pizza except four seasons, because we only have three,’ Manoli said.

Angie couldn’t figure out that little gem. ‘What about Greek salad?’

‘But of course, Greek salad. This is Greece. Always we have the Greek salad! I don’t have to say, because I make the best Greek salad in Crete. Everybody knows it.’

Angie laughed. ‘And a glass of dry red, please.’

While he busied himself preparing her food, night fell. She studied the locals and realised she didn’t look out of place at all. With her olive skin, brown eyes, and long dark hair, she could easily be mistaken for a Cretan woman. She had just arrived, yet already the wish to belong stirred inside her.

Bathed in harsh light from the electrified tree, Angie’s thoughts went to village of Amiras and her grandparents. Once again, she wondered if she was doing the correct thing. If only she had better understood Manoli’s phone call. Still, her mother’s parents and family were her family too, she had a right to meet them, to know them. Yet, despite her internal pep-talk, a niggling spark of anguish flickered in the back of her mind. 

Greek Salad Serves 4-6

3 large ripe tomatoes

1 firm cucumber

1 large onion

1 green pepper (optional)

1 handful of salad greens (lettuce, dandelion leaves,

or, in winter, a couple of crisp white cabbage leaves)

1 cup of black olives

1 small slab of feta cheese

FOR THE DRESSING

½ cup of good quality olive oil

¼ cup of wine vinegar

1 heaped teaspoon of chopped oregano

Salt

Place the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake thoroughly. Leave to stand at room temperature while preparing the salad.

 

Cut the salad greens into ribbons and throw into the bottom of a large serving bowl. Cut the onion into large chunks and drop into a bowl of cold water for one minute. Dry the onion with paper towels and drop into the salad bowl. Cut the cucumber, tomatoes and pepper into large chunks and add to the salad bowl. Place the slab of feta cheese on top of the salad, sprinkle with olives and a pinch of oregano.

 

Traditionally, the salad is dressed and mixed at the table. Serve the dressing separately and when ready to eat, pour the dressing over the salad, break the feta into large chunks, and toss well.

 

Always serve with crusty fresh bread to mop up the delicious juices at the bottom of the bowl.

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