The Drama Chef

Prose – Travel – Recipes

Tag: summer

Spinalonga

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“The good old times, they say. When people were dinning under candle light, marrying once for ever after, had no mobile phones or computers. The good old times, when they had no antibiotics, vaccines, access to education, information. But I guess that’s not such a romantic thought now, is it?” he said, looking at Spinalonga approaching us, as the small ship was happily sailing, full of tourists. The tiny island floated on the zephyr sea of Crete. Small houses in the colour of sand, surrounded by a high wall. A fortress on the highest point, some pine trees too, breaking the monotony of the golden colour of dust. It looked like an abandoned resort, charming, quiet, exclusive. Difficult to grasp that it used to be the exile island of the damned.

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Peach Lavender Vlaai

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I am walking at a narrow plastered alley, on a cold Monday morning. The air is crisp and the skies are pale blue. I have half an hour until my meeting, so I choose to wander around aimlessly, looking at doorsteps, windows and rooftops. A small bakery looks really busy, people going in and out, holding big bags. I stop at their window. Piles of cookies, bread of all sorts, cakes and croissants and mini pizzas. But most of all, pies! Fruit and cream and custard pies of all sizes and decorations. Small explanatory signs in Dutch: Vlaai.

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Rijstevlaai, Kruimelvlaai, Kersenvlaai. Vlaai, vlaai, vlaai. What is this???

I go in the bakery. I come out holding a box with 3 different Vlaai pieces. I sit on a bench at the church park nearby. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in my life: The Dutch Vlaai!

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Balos of Crete

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“Watch out!” The warning came too late. I was already sliding down the hill, the sharp small rocks cutting in my flesh, desperately trying to hold on to the small plants on the sides of the path. Looking like a bug that flipped by accident and was sliding on its back, helpless. After 5 meters or so, I finally stopped, my white shorts all red from the dust, my skin scratched and sore, my hands bleeding. “I told you not to wear flip-flops” was all she said, passing beside me, not offering a helping hand or a word of compassion. Ahhhhh, mother!

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At the very west point of Crete, on the very last day of our vacation. Balos. A magical natural reserve, leading to a beautiful lagoon.

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Summer of expats

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The moment I enter the plane, I feel free. It’s like the heavy burden of all the winters of my life is lifted from my shoulders. The gray clouds that darken my head evaporate, the fog that covers my emotions disappears, my dormant blood starts pumping in my veins again. My skin becomes crisp and joyful, my eyes regain their sparkle, my voice gets louder, my hands move in big rounds again while I speak. Motion and life return to me, the civilised neutral mask I wear at work, while going to take the train or doing the grocery shopping, breaks into a million dark pieces and falls on the floor like dust. I’m me again, as I left me back home last summer, I am picking it up from there, as if another year hasn’t passed, as if it was just a gray, brief moment that is gone forever.

Summer people. Sand. Wind. Sea. Blue. The waves and the salt, the dry yellow crisp grass, the smell of pine trees in the sun, music floating in the air. Barefoot again. On the burning sand, on the grass, on the hot concrete, on the wet stones. Sun cream. Ice cubes in café-frapé. Beer bottles with slices of lemon stuck up their necks. Octopus. Burned shoulders shinning on white hard hotel sheets. Flip-flops that will barely survive this summer and will blister your toes. Small boats flying over blue, blue waves. Blue. Again and again and again. The first day I go swimming after a whole long year, I run and jump in the sea, I kiss the water, I drink a bit too. It burns my throat, my eyes tear, I am home, I am home.

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Swimming in Bern

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I come out of the train in Bern, the warm air hits my face. People run around me holding groceries and suitcases, pushing kid’s strollers or eating a sandwich on the way to their train. It’s been unaturally warm in Switzerland on the last days of August; most people look fed up with the heat. I love it.

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Erica’s Lemon Pancakes

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part I is here: Erica’s Strawberry-Vanilla Jam

She was working as a translator. Grew up in France, then moved to Spain, then Germany, now Scotland. Never met her father, her mother here and there, they don’t talk anymore. Her teeth didn’t show when she smiled. She had 7 beauty spots on her right shoulder and 3 on her left palm. She hated dogs and loved lemon pancakes.

She talked to me. She really talked to me like if I was an adult, for the first time in my life. She gave me books and CDs, she chose the movies we watched. I was holding her hand in the dark, she was grabbing my ass in the elevator. It was too good to last.

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Fake Paella Mixta

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She knew it. A real paella is cooked on fire, in the special pan, with bomba rice, with fish and shrimp that was fished early the same morning, with ripe tomatoes cut straight from the garden. Served by the sea. She knew the real paella, she had eaten the real paella. Yes, by the sea, the salt still on her skin after swimming, the sun shining hard on a cloudless sky whose light made her eyes tear. The sea she was dreaming of in the long, gray, rainy days of northern summers, that were summers only in name. At their best, they were more of a Mediterranean spring: it was glorious, but it wasn’t summer!

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