Koula Prineas watched over four pots and pans, their contents simmering away energetically. She counted them worriedly with her bright blue eyes. Beans, greens, artichokes and garlic sauce. In the oven a rabbit browned; on the wood stove in the courtyard her husband Nikos fried dozens of little fish; a huge salad and a platter of cold cooked vegetables already filled the table set for four. She asked me if I thought it would be enough. As long as she wasn't expecting all the monks in Greece I thought it would probably feed us. I asked which of the island's monasteries she had invited.
"Nikos' nephew little Petros is coming for lunch," she said. I asked my Aunt to continue with the guest list.
"Just little Petros. He doesn't have a family." She stirred the skorthalia into a thick, almost exclusively garlic paste, which would complement the frying fish.
"All this food for the three of us and Nikos' nephew?"
"Don't forget Sophia," said Koula. Hearing her name mentioned, Koula's bedridden sister-in-law's deafness went into temporary remission and she coughed and called from her cosy sofa in front of the television in the living room. Koula's eyes looked up to a seemingly merciless God over the top of her black-rimmed glasses, which were smudged from continuous nervous correction. I went out to the old woman to take her order.
"I don't think that wife of my little brother Nikos has fed me in a week, Dimitri-mou," she whispered loudly to me, nodding her feeble head towards the kitchen. I said that today being a holy day, Auntie Koula was bound to relent and start giving her food again tomorrow, or on Tuesday at the latest. She licked her parched lips with her dry tongue and asked me what was cooking.
I listed the menu and her eyes grew wide and puffy, like those of the frying fish in the courtyard.
"All that food? First she starves me, then she tries to stuff me to death!" The old woman crossed herself, then murmured a prayer which effectively hid her drooling. I told her that her nephew was coming to lunch. She nodded slowly, now understanding the extensive menu.
"Petros from Potamos - a pig if there ever was one," she said sourly. Apparently she felt Petros' presence jeopardised her chances of being fed at all.
"Is he fat?" I asked.
"Khondros?!" she stammered.
"Fat?! If you set a wick alight on him it would burn for months! At Easter the monasteries hire a tractor to ferry him up the mountains to the service. He almost overturned the ferry to Neapolis last year when he boarded it. Fat? No, Petros isn't fat. He's just a human jellyfish."
When I returned to the kitchen Nikos was holding a platter full of dozens of crisp fried red mullet. He asked me what Sofia was going on about.
"She's afraid that Petros is going to eat all the food, the table, the cat, and then each of us."
"As long as he starts with her I don't care," said Koula, opening her eyes wide to clear the sticky garlic fumes from them. Nikos looked seriously at the crisp silver fish, then pushed half of them onto another plate and hid them in the cupboard.
Yanni Sklavos | Koula Entertains | Photo Gallery
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