November 25, 2007

Eating in the Peloponnesos

Getting to Tolo

Peloponnesos is separated by a narrow isthmus from mainland Greece. On one side is the Ionian Sea; on the other, the Aegean. It is known as "Greece for the Greeks" and is not a popular destination for Americans, although it is the richest in history. There are lots of English and Germans though, who keep to themselves in their stiff, regimented tour groups.

Corinthia and six other prefectures make up the area, each with its own coastline. Messinia is home to the city of Kalamata and its famous olives. You can also visit the site of the Guns of Navarone battle that liberated Greece from the Turks in the town of Pylos. There is Laconia, the furthest south, with its Spartan history. The peninsula of Mani, in Laconia, is the only area of Greece that has never been conquered. The people there claim to be the direct descendents of the Spartans, and by all accounts they are the most gracious of an already gracious country. The most popular spot among visitors to Peloponnesos is Elia, where the Olympics were born in 776 BC. The other three Prefectures are Argolis, Arcadia and Achaia, each seeped in the history of ancient battles of man and gods.

It was my sister's first time in Greece. We went in May—perfect weather...and quiet.

The flight was cramped. We left JFK at 9:30 pm and arrived in Rome the next day at 11:30 in the morning. As we were settling in at our gate it was announced that the plane was delayed because of a strike at the Athens airport. We were on our way again by 4. My sister Em was holding up fairly well, yet as usual her sense of adventure was nowhere near as adaptable as mine, and could easily wane with more delays. We landed in Athens at 7 that evening. One lone official waved us indifferently through the door marked "Nothing to Declare." Em finally got the whole dollar to euro thing when she changed our money; despite haggling the fee down, we ended up with a third less then our 22 hundred bucks! Shocked with it all she put it away and would count and recalculate it three times a day for the rest of the trip. The girls in the booth got a big kick out of us: elegant Em going over and over the setup in her professional customer mode, and me starting in on my Greek right off the bat, "Pu eena tow leoforea na Peloponnesos," (Where is the bus to Peloponnesos, slightly mangled) and, "O Elatha!" (Oh Greece!) in exalted tones— most of my Greek was learned by being married for 11 years to the big malaka. My ex is from Athens, so the first Greek I learned was in the swearing vein. I know how to say "fuck me early in the morning or fuck me where I live," and various scatological allusions, all perfectly pronounced. My all time favorite is "arheethia Pappoose," i.e., "grandfathers' balls." Just think how evocative that is: gnarly old saggy scrotums! Of course I would not be using this kind of language on my vacation, it's very rude and I don't need the practice.

By the time we sped out on the brand-new-highway that stretched all the way from the brand-new-airport (around 7 pm Greek time), the sun was going down over the hills. We sat in tired silence as the miles went by and gazed at the rocky terrain with sparse olive trees that was being rapidly replaced with urban sprawl. Though virtually all of the apartments and homes have balconies and terraces, many people don't like Athens; it's huge and smoggy. It's a mad and confusing snarl downtown but the suburbs are gorgeous. We just sat and looked as it all flashed by. We were into the outskirts proper when the sun lightened the dark grey clouds from underneath and turned rays of the deep twilight a molten orange gold that bathed the buildings and warmed the eyes. I kept busy trying to read the signs.

We arrived at the dirty sprawling bus station to Nafplio just in time. The last bus was leaving in 20 minutes, at 9 PM! I almost wept with relief! We sat on the bench in front of the bus waiting for the doors to open. The station was not a good place to start a first-time visit; it was grimy and old. There were scrawny strays about scratching at fleas and little hungry looking gypsy kids trying to sell their small offerings. One boy put a scrap of paper on everyone's knee. It said that the kid's mom had died and he was hungry. The girl next to me gave him a coin and wouldn't take the package of tissues he had for her, so I did the same.

There was nothing to see of the land in the dark during the three hour journey to Nafplio. Em perked up a bit when we finally arrived at the winding paved streets of Nafplio and we caught glimpses of the stately, elegant buildings near the port. We got down from the bus and walked across the street to the taxi to take us on the last leg of our journey, 8 km to Tolo. The ride went by in a burst of speed and we trundled down the main street of Tolo looking for Hotel Romvi in the dead of night. The driver assured us it was just down an alley that he couldn't take the car down; we got out and set up our suitcases and rolled them down the little street to the sea. I had no clue which way to turn to find our hotel so I rolled on and headed for the waterfront. Em was deadly quiet behind me, I knew she was close to the end. As we slogged on I looked to the left where two men were having a late night snack on the terrace of a house. I left my bag and walked over to them. I said good evening and where was hotel Romvi? The younger one pointed down the beach to my left and the older one called me sweet girl and begged me to join them. I looked at the tomatoes and bread, the olives, wine and fish and was tempted, but Em was still out there fuming away.

So we set out on to the pebbly beach dragging our bags, I leading, Em trailing behind. There were lights about 100 meters to the left so I headed for them. As I came panting up to the lovely stone and wooden terrace I knew it wasn't Romvi but I didn't care. I hauled my heavy little burden behind me and burst up the steps into the drinks area where there were a few people sitting in front of a big beautiful bar, behind which I spied an adorable Greek bartender boy. A man rose up from the table and asked me if he could help me. I asked him if it was the hotel Romvi. By this time Em was up the stairs too and said: "I don't give a shit, we're staying here tonight!!" The man turned out to be the hotel owner, Kostas. He went behind the desk with Em to make the arrangements. We had come to Hotel Aris and stayed there the whole time we were in Tolo. I sat on a stool at the bar and stated my deep need for a glass of Krassi. The darling behind the bar, Bobis, asked me in Greek if I wanted white or red. Em glowered at me to come up but I wasn't going to budge until I'd had my reward. Bobis dashed around the bar to take all the bags up to our room that Kostas assured us was on the sea side.

When I finished my wine I slowly headed up the marble steps to room 302. Em was sound asleep and had already spread a good deal of her stuff about the typical Greek hotel room. There were the shuttered doors to the balcony directly in front of Em's bed. I quietly opened them and slipped out. The sea was right at my feet and unless you stood up at the railing and looked down, it seemed you were floating in the water. I left the glass doors behind the shutters open and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore lulled me to sleep.

Queen of Yogurt

Em got up before me and I heard her moving about. The light was peeping early morning blue around the shutters. Em went over to them and opened them wide. I heard her exclaim; "OH…..MY….GOD!!" and I knew she was hooked.

I jumped up and together we stood engrossed in the panorama. There were small, colorful fishing boats bobbing gently on the glassy azure sea. On the left the shore curved around, lined with hotels and tavernas. The sun was well up and shone on the water to sparkly blue intensity. The sky went on forever meeting the sea on the horizon that was displayed behind the dreamy green mountains of the mainland along the south. There was a little island directly in front of our balcony, with a small church perched on the crown of its one steep hill. And to our left was the curve of the small bay with another, larger island off of that. It was everything and more than I had hoped for, and Em was delirious with the view.

The breakfast spread was pretty standard from what I'd experienced-there were hard boiled eggs, some kind of sandwich ham and processed cheese slices in the warming pans. Fresh sliced bakery bread sat near the rolling toaster machine with heaps of jelly packages and butter next to it. Fresh coffee was served in a pot on the table and there was a big juice machine dispensing ice-cold orange juice. But then I saw a huge glass bowl of pure creamy yogurt. It looked closer to soft, smooth cream cheese, a dense satin white. On one side were two big bowls of cereal flakes, flat and crunchy, to spoon on top. One was plain and the other had chocolate swirls. On the other side of the Queen of Yogurt bowl were large thick green glass jars with big cork tops that held preserves with a middle jar of deep amber honey. There were apricot, cherry, orange, and peach preserves, all made locally. I scooped some yogurt into a small glass bowl, put a couple of spoonfuls of the swirled flakes on top and dolloped on a sweet spoonful of the jewel umber apricot spread. I grabbed an egg, figured out how to toast a piece of bread, and carried my first meal in Greece out to my captivated sibling on the veranda. When I took a bite of the yogurt— I who do not care for the American stuff - it was like being born again. It was so creamy and fresh. A spoonful of rich freshness that wasn't like cream, or sour cream, or any yogurt I've ever tasted. To say it had a delicate hint of dairy is as close as I can come. With the toasty flakes, the rich, sweet apricot and yogurt floating in my mouth, I reconnected with all that is food in Greece. Em and I expounded on this morning delight for a good while in an indolent leisurely pace, basking in sun and gazing at all the brilliant blue from behind our sunglasses.

Bobis was there at the bar, handsome and flirtatious and ready to come flying over it for our every whim. He spoke English, as most everyone does in Greece to one degree or another, quite well. He'd been out all night at the bars with his friends and didn't look any the worse for it. Like I said, he's young. I ordered my first Frappe from him.

Frappe is another, mostly, only-to-be-found-in-Greece treasure. I order mine gliko me gala (sweet with milk). It can be not sweet with no milk, but I think for the full effect it needs both. It's made by putting a spoonful of Nescafe in a tall narrow glass, adding sugar and a small bit of water, just enough to make a thick muddy mixture. Then it's whirled with a milkshake type blender blade to very dense satiny foam, turning a deep mahogany brown with three times the volume. Ice cubes are added, a little more water and canned milk. Served with a straw it's pure sweet coffee magic, lighter then a milkshake but just as creamy rich.

Later that morning we stopped at a little chachka stand to look at postcards. I loved the ones of bewhiskered weather-beaten village widows, or the grinning wrinkled fishermen with their two tobacco stained teeth poking out. Some pictures were randy. Perfect, glistening female behinds stuck up in the sand or a Greek god in a wet thong that perfectly silhouetted his prodigious presentation. Em wanted to get one of two stubby Greek statues dueling it out with their giant johnsons. Then she found the ice cream shop right up the street from the hotel. Its location was exactly noted and we tasted the mango and mint. The mango tasted like mangos–perfectly– in cream and the mint was true to the herb in ice cold delicious sweetness.

Salad Afternoon

In the afternoon we headed for the beach and turned almost immediately to settle on a lovely wooden terraced taverna, up a few steps from the sand. It had big shaded tables on two different levels– all the tables with a splendid view of the sea. The afternoon was notable for its delicious salads, and because we received undivided attention from the tickled-with-my-Greek proprietor. I ordered a Greek salad and an Octopus salad while we looked at our other choices. The wine I ordered from then on was whatever the house wine was; half a small carafe of chilled white served with a tiny little juice glass. It was never more than 3 euros. It was a perfect amount for the day and I love local Greek wine. It's light and sunny and not too sweet. I don't like Retsina, it tastes of tar, and anyway it's more expensive then what they have locally.

The salads arrived: Country Greek Salad is always made of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green peppers, olives and a chunk of feta on top. Olive oil and vinegar are served on the side while there is already oil bathing the vegetables in the bowl. A little vinegar is all that's needed but you don't want to get any on the feta. What makes it so special a dish in Greece are the tomatoes. They are ripe from a local garden and any other tomato you've tasted will fall away in your mind to insipience. Red as a fire engine and firmly succulent it becomes clear why they are in the fruit family. You can eat them like apples. Em went into raptures over them and the Octopus Salad we had along side. The dish is comprised of sections of arms cut into rounds with the thin lower arms left in bite size lengths. I've read that to acquire the butter soft tenderness the Octopus is beaten against the pier one hundred times. I didn't read if they were already dead; I certainly hope so. The end result is grilled, cooled and dressed in olive oil, lemon and vinegar with a little fresh oregano. The meat tastes of the sea and is never tough! I had to claim my half rapidly or Em would have devoured it in seconds flat.

We sat with cool breeze washing over us in the brilliant sunshine and talked of Greece. Em was ecstatic that we had just begun our sojourn and already things were just about perfect. We both ordered a shrimp dish that was good, but wouldn't do so again on the trip as it was expensive. Most fish is unless you go for the seafood like a native and I was planning that for later.

The shrimp came whole, fat and nestled in a satiny thick tomato sauce redolent with garlic, lemon and oregano; olive oil made it all glisten. Mine had feta cheese for even more richness. We used our fingers to catch them up and open them to suck out the sweet meat and soaked up the sauce with fresh baked bread. I started to get that warm feeling of satisfaction from the wine and the food while the magic of the light, the view and having my sister there with me imbued the moments with bliss.


It was close to eight when we woke up from a nap and headed to the bar, a bit late for the norm. The light was doing its twilight thing and my memories of other Greek twilights charged awake as I took in the moment. I recalled why it was my favorite time of day. The sun was down and the light was a muted grey-blue which exactly reflected the color of the sea. The sea was as calm as a mirror, so calm and so exactly the color of the evening you could not tell where it ended and met the horizon. It was just one big muted staggering blue essence that nurtured the yellow lights coming on along the bay and turned the mountains to indistinct outlines. Everything just kind of blued out, lasting through all the transitions of shades from light steel blue to, finally, deep indigo.

Bobis explained as he poured my wine that he was a "toy-boy." I asked him if he didn't mean "boy-toy?" He said it didn't really make any difference; he was a boy that we could play with! And we met Eleni, the daughter of Yannis the other brother owner. She was 18, pert and saucy and very Greek. Em fell in love with her.

We also had to meet Aris. He waitered in the dining room and on sight of us immediately decided that we'd never be able to resist him. He oiled over to introduce himself and started right off way to close. He was one of those men who will never have the least concept of how odious they are. I have to give him credit for trying; and he did the entire time we stayed. We came up with Aris-dodging-maneuvers but he usually snuck up and caught us unaware.

Cristos, the very short wiry chef came out and begged to cook something for us, like an eager whippet. He told us that he used to bartend at the hotel way before Bobis and before he became the head chef. He mimed how he used to do a striptease on the bar wearing three or four g-strings so he could whip them off without ever having to show his magnificent utensil.

I asked him if he had Marithakia-little tiny fish served whole, no more than half a finger-length long and half a finger wide. They are lightly covered in flour and pepper, sautéed in olive oil then served piping hot and crispy with lots of lemon. He scampered off to return ten minutes later with the perfect rendition. They are so wee that you don't notice the bones or fins or scales, it's just a fresh crunchy small taste of the sea, tangy from the lemon drenching. Em was thrilled and munched most of them up in a flash, adding to her consumption speed record. I was able to grab a few at the borders of the mound.

Slovaki in Pita

We headed up to the street intending to have ice cream and a walk. We strolled passed the Gyro stand that also made Slovaki in Pita. A funny kind of regimentation exists in food establishments in Greece. When you have a fish restaurant that's all there is, fish! Tavernas are for more serious eating; you can tell by the straight backed no nonsense chairs. You get grilled meats and traditional meals within and you can get Slovaki on a skewer but never in Pita. Where the chairs are plush and comfy you will find a Kafeteria that serves ice cream treats, Frappe and Espresso, Pizza and Toast (Toast is a grilled cheese sandwich with or without ham). Then you find the Slovaki places that are for some reason up on the streets and rarely down on the beaches.

Em and I sat at a little table out on the stone walkway and ordered one Slovaki in Pita just to try. Lo and behold Aris oozed up and planted himself, panting with amour, into the chair next to Em. We gave each other our "OK then…" look and picked up the pace. Slovaki in Pita is a fast food in Greece. Unlike the same dish in the states, Slovaki in Pita in its home country is way more fresh, spiced just right, and succulent. The pork or chicken chunks are grilled to tender perfection from a lemon and olive oil marinade. They come wrapped sizzling in a piece of grill toasted, fragrant, thick Pita. They grill it with a little olive oil brushed on. There are those heavenly tomatoes and snap fresh sweet onion slices inside. The Tzaziki, a creamy dill yogurt sauce pungent with garlic, is slathered on and a few crispy French fries finish it up. After her first try it was a daily request from Em to find the "Slovakian in Pita", like we were looking for grilled peasants...

Our second morning in Tolo we sat on the sun drenched veranda, content after having answered the siren call of yogurt and enjoying a Frappe that Bobis whipped up for us; sweet like we were, he said. He obligingly put on some music I carried around in my daughters grungy pink Scooby-doo CD carrier. We spent the morning bobbing on the terrace to Carlinos Brown, Cesario Evora, Bombay Beats, Aretha and James Brown.

We set out to visit Nafplio for lunch having already decided upon "Slovakian in pita." We made a scheduled primp stop in the room, dodged Aris by going straight out the front door, and sailed forth to a warm fragrant day. The weather in Tolo in May is perfect if you don't care about swimming and even still, when we'd taken off our shoes and tested, toe deep, the temperature of the water the very first morning, it was warm enough if swimming was your major thing. I'm fascinated with the quality and clarity of the water in Greece. In the Pacific and the Caribbean–places I had called home for a while–there is very clear beautiful water but nothing like the clarity of the Greek sea: it's like there is no difference from the clear air and the clear water. On a hot day in Greece there is nothing more supremely refreshing then slipping into the cool salt-satin arms of the crystal clear sea.

Going up and along the coast on the bus to Nafplio provided us with spectacular views of the rocky or white sands of the shore with green pines climbing the hills and Bougainvillea climbing the houses and churches. We got off right where we had arrived the first night. There was a gorgeous little park with winding stone shaded streets and alluring shop windows to look at, which we hadn't seen in the dark, as we headed down to the street running along the waterfront.

Our quest for Slovaki in Pita began in earnest as we walked along the waterfront with all its lovely restaurants. It was here that the "rule of the Greek eateries" really kicked in. The best seats at the port were, of course, the Kafeterias. Slightly further off the port were the Tavernas that had Slovaki but only on a platter. We were pointed towards the center and to the corner Gyro stands but we wanted the view so we ended up in a Taverna. I directed Em towards the Mussaka and Pasticcio on the menu that are so country traditional. They are not my usual picks but Em and I decided we should give them a go so she'd know what I was talking about when I cook one of them at home then give her the recipe so she can lose it.

The dishes were fine when they came and very rich. Mussaka, the most well known, is layered eggplant, thick ground lamb in a cinnamon tomato sauce then béchamel that is golden brown on top and creamy the rest of the way through. Pasticcio has the same meat filling, or it can be made from ground beef, tube pasta, and béchamel with salty tangy Kefaloteri cheese melted and bubbling on top. Both of them had a deep sheen of olive oil and were delicious. We couldn't finish either one of the squares we were served. They weren't all that big, just very rich and filling.

A little car with a loud speaker traversed the harbor road and the lady inside yelled out the directions for where to go to be one with the People for the coming labor strike on Wednesday. There were wandering gaggles of cheeky Greek girls, chattering and giggling to each other as they passed with midriffs exposed and drastically highlighted hair. Lean craggy men drifted by, tossing their worry beads and eyeing all things female, while earnest looking hiker types went about with long athletic strides, their huge backpacks making me exhausted.

Back in Tolo we decided to go to Hotel Romvi for dinner since it was a nice spot on the beach. But it was down to the bar first, of course, for some chatting, cocktails and sunset gazing-it was at the lighter pinkish silver time with lots of shades to go. Bobis went into high prankster gear and indulged all our picture taking demands, happy that we had to take shots of him with us too. He'd come up close and wrap a strong young arm around our waists and say sexy funny things. He also let us in on the content of the muttered conversations he held head down over his cell behind the bar. At that point in time he had 3 girls he was juggling by text message, email, and phone. It could get very confusing he confessed.

Eleni was there playing a game with dice and a box with numbered wooden slats on one end that she flipped down as she tossed the dice. I found out later that the game had been invented by Kostas. The slats were numbered from 1 to 9 and were all in the up position on the wire strung through them and attached to the sides of the box at the beginning of the game. One person rolls the dice and can flip down one or two slats to add up to the number rolled. The object is to get all the slats down before you roll a number that adds up to more or less of the remaining slats. The number that is left at this point is your score and the next person takes their turn. The lowest score wins of course. Every so often you could roll the dice and all the slats would end slapped down with the ultimate score of zero. It's quick and addictive as I found out later but then we just enjoyed Eleni's patter and made her take pictures with us. Cristos whipped out of the kitchen with a small plate of Fasolia Gigantes that I had asked for to present to Em. Fasolia Gigantes means big beans and these beans weren't but they looked delish anyway. They were. Em, who loves beans, was again thrilled and delighted by this next new dish and though the pleasure rapidly disappeared into her gullet I was able to indulge a bit as well. It's a simple dish where white beans, they should be really big white beans, are baked with fresh crushed tomatoes, onion, parsley, olive oil and maybe a bit of tomato paste. The sauce is rendered to a thin, light red consistency that is still rich with olive oil and uncomplicated fresh flavor. The beans are done to tender but not mushy perfection. They are served at room temperature or slightly warm and the best thing to eat with them is a nice hunk of Feta if you can scoop up a small bit with a spoonful of the beans.

We set off into the gathering blue and down the short stretch of shore to the open taverna of the Hotel Romvi. Right in front was a little jetty with a small fishing boat it's only occupant. It had the usual bright blue cabin and the high white sides but it was like a toy. The postcard ready fisherman, with his wild long hair and beard and his foul weather headgear loomed above the little cabin. The only other occupant, and taking up the rest of the space, was a large, bounding, young Labrador-in-the-mix-somewhere, dog.

As we sat down to face the last glimmers of the twilight and ordered we watched the self-consciously-quaint-fisher-fellow and his dog. The dog was nothing if not an enthusiastic representative of his kind and paid absolutely no attention to his owner who was sternly telling him to come back from his furiously barking foray on the beach. After a lot of running around, the doggy grin of the animal only getting wider and wider, he was firmly tied by his exhausted and not-in-top-picturesque-form-anymore owner, to a large chunk of cement. It looked to weigh close to forty pounds. As we dug in I looked up a moment later to see the dog tear-ass down the pier effortlessly dragging the block at top speed and grinning wildly. He and the Wellington shod fisherman, hat askew, huffed around the bend and out of sight. Em and I continued our meal while the light faded to black on the vaudeville show below the terrace.

Our last day, on the way to an internet café, we finally found our Slovaki in Pita place. It was on the street, of course, but you could see the turquoise sparkle of the sea out the back of it where there were tables on a Bougainvillea strewn terrace. We headed there for lunch and I decided it was time to sample some Taramusalata. Em was not enthusiastic when I told her that it was a fish-roe dip but I had noticed that the place was all family run which meant there was an older Greek woman doing the cooking somewhere. We ordered a Slovaki in Pita each, Em's' was chicken and mine pork and I ordered the Taramusalata with a side of grilled Pita. When it came it was a much deeper pink then I was used to and not pale and fluffy either. It was heaven!! So fresh it had no fishy taste to it and spread on a hot wedge of Pita with a slice of juicy tomato on top it disappeared into Em at an astonishing rate. She was still able to rave about it around mouthfuls though. When I asked the lady serving us, in between running after her 3 year old twins, who had made it, she said her mother. The mother came out and bowed slightly as Em and I waxed ecstatic. I asked her how she made the dish and she verified what I had told Em; fish roe, lemon, onion and olive oil. Many times white bread soaked in milk then squeezed is added and that is where the fluffy-ness comes in. It was the best Taramusalata I had ever had, no joke, and we tried it again a couple of times in other places and didn't get even close.

Soutzoukakia and Maritha

We had decided to eat at the Hotel on our last evening there, and hope some action presented itself around the bar later. Kostas had our table set up right next to the bar and with the best view of the beach. As we sat with Bobis and had a pre dinner cocktail (Em actually ordered a screwdriver!!) we could see Aris lurking in lascivious anticipation of being our waiter. We thwarted him anew by deciding to just eat at the bar. Cristos came himself to suggest we have the Soutzoukakia (meatballs) in an Ouzo tomato sauce. We ordered more Marithakia as well. I'm sure they didn't know that I knew the difference between Maritha and Marithakia because when they came this time they were more the size of sardines, still delicious but the bones were discernable and Em didn't like this aspect. But that is what Maritha is and I love it…and this time got to eat most of it myself! The meatballs were served with those fabulous fresh cut fries, puffy, golden, and crisp. Em made up for lost time by handily devouring the delicious rich and savory meatballs declaring them another winner while I munched on my fish heads.

© 2005 Bridget Seay. All rights reserved.

February 20, 2006

Book Review: George the Housewife… By George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter

Published in 1964 it’s not a book you will find on the shelves of any of the uber bookstores out there. I did go to this very cool used and out of print books website and found lots! I recommend getting a copy; it makes the very best reading in the loo library.

It is in my possession, along with another title by George; Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices that is part of my inheritance from my dad. These books and others–mostly science for the lay person-with his white Kitchen Aid mixer, an old Boy Scout compass, the map he made of the Battle of Chickamauga, his prize pastry spatula and a beautiful old scientific ruler for doing cosines and stuff in a leather case comprise my share of the treasures from his life. In the madness that was my apartment when I was painting I found the books in one of the piles on my floor. I sat on said floor and just howled with laughter as I read them.

The author has many titles under his belt which include Bull Cook II, How To Make The Finest Wines at Home in Old Glass or Plastic Bottles and Jugs for as Little as 10¢ a Gallon, a couple on fishing, one on hunting in Africa, one on loading rifles, pistols and shotguns and one called The History and Secrets of Professional Candy Making.

George ends the introduction of George the Housewife with a poke at so called food writers and claims; “I am a man who has cooked, kept house and brought up children, not a fly-by-night socialite and bridge player or navy or army officer’s club housewife, or of a plain self-styled authority. I write only about things that I really know about.”

From there and the exact next page, the book begins a collection of titled paragraphs. All of them are helpful tips or recipes with many useful and hilarious insights. You can get an idea just by some of the headings:

How To Set A Table On A Boat
Watch Your Man In California
Household Salt Is Dangerous And Should Be Handled With Care
Sweet Corn On The Cob Highly Critical As To Age
How To Wipe A Baby’s Posterior
Clean Your Closets When You Are In An Ugly, Angry Mood
Always Dampen the Dustpan
United States “OK” Sign Made With The Fingers Of Your Hand Can Get You In Trouble In Mexico And Central And South America
The Wooden Mop Board Is Obsolete
The Dial Telephone Is a Poor Substitute For A Girl
Be Careful To Avoid Touching Synthetic Clothing With A Gasoline Lantern

There are so many more. My all time favorite is the authors’ solution to getting the last of the ketchup out of the bottle. Of course pictures tell a thousand words so his solution is a full page picture of an upside down ketchup bottle!

There are lots of delightful pictures. Here is another showing the solution to that age old issue; answering the phone when you’ve been baking:

But the piece-de-resistance is entitled, Don’t Let Your Children Grab Your Husband By The Legs, whereby George defies the reader to not splash urine on their trousers, in the general crotch area, while standing up to pee. He declares this the worst place for children to bury their faces, even though it is a wonderful thing to have the kids run and grab the husband in loving greeting. European men do not face this denial; they pee sitting down.

The book has restaurant reviews of old New York establishments and the author is none too impressed by any of them. It’s fascinating to read the menus and the prices of such aged and obsolete relics that include; La Fonda del Sol, Luchow’s, Le Pavilion, The Coach House and some that are still standing; the ’21’ Club, Lindy’s and The Oyster Bar. His brief summary of the ‘21’ club notes that; ‘New Yorkers like to go to the “21” Club, have a drink and wave at people giving the impression that they are spending the day there’ while in his description of the place includes; ‘The hunt room has a caribou and buffalo head that could stand some going over’.

All the recipes in the book have history included. Fried Chicken Sorel is the story of Agnes Sorel from Touraine France in 1422. She died young but before that she made her own clothes. Her one breast exposed style was all the rage in Europe and George writes; “You must admit that this did make a woman look honestly feminine and had its good point. At least you knew what a woman had in regards to breastworks and could avoid such treacherous things as sponge rubber falsies”. Still to come is the picture of a statue of a woman from Elizabethan times with both breasts exposed. In the caption he states “In those days, if you did not have breasts worth showing, you were really in trouble. A flat chested pendulant breasted woman just did not have a chance in life”. The actual chicken recipe begins 2 pages later over a picture of Lucrezia Borgia with one tit hanging out. He says, “As you can well see, this style did nothing for Lucrezia as she had nothing special to show”. Sorel Chicken turns out to be fried chicken with yellow food dye. One wonders where Agnes found such an item in the Middle Ages!

The author provides SCIENTIFIC PROVEN RULES THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IN BUYING DRESSES AND COATS then goes into a long few pages as to how the theory of evolution is pure bunk and I quote; “Evolutionists propound unproven theories in most cases for publicity and to impress school or institutions into increasing their salaries. A little serious church going occasionally would do them a great deal of good. The have made a good living on Barnum’s famous words, “There’s a sucker born everyday” ”. Boy! The Intelligent Design guys could really use ol’ George right about now!

Thank goodness his religiosity does not extend to a prohibition on alcohol consumption. There are wine making recipes galore; Rhubarb Wine, Gooseberry Wine, Dandelion Wine, Elderberry, Chokecherry and Currant wine. He provides us with moonshine recipes as well: Parsnip Moonshine, Herter’s Jungle Juice, a family treasure made from potatoes, raisins, wheat and 4 pounds of brown sugar, and something called Mangold or German Mangel Wurzel root, using a 5 pound mangold that he claims is about a medium sized root. What’s a mangold I wonder?

February 12, 2006

Cornbread and the Latex Festival:

My daughter was knocking around last weekend with, as usual, nothing to do. She recently had the latest serious tiff with her two friends living in our building. It must have been, maybe, tiff #22 at least. They happened on a regular bases and I can’t think of a full week that they could ever get through without one.

As she sat sprawled across the kitchen table and whined about her state of boredom, I threw out that she should think of something creative to do and stop getting on my last nerve. Eventually she wandered away then came bounding back about an hour later, bursting with plans. Plans for a festival the next day at 2 o’clock, my presence and her brother’s was mandatory. I acknowledged that this was a very creative thing to do and asked her what kind of festival she would be throwing. She obviously hadn’t thought that far ahead. She looked around the kitchen and triumphantly declared that it was a Latex Festival.
Ok then…..!
I’m in the process of painting the apartment and have cans of latex paint in a jumble on the kitchen floor. The place is a resounding mess. At least the paint cans inspired my daughter….
I decided to reward her creativity with cornbread. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make, at least the recipe I came up with from years ago for situations just like now: no time to spare in the midst of a project:

Get a box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and an 8.5 oz. can of Creamed Corn. You can find both in any market be it super or the corner store.
Dump the mix in a bowl; add the creamed corn and one egg.
Mix it up to moisten the dry ingredients. You don’t need much more then that.
Bake in a 400 degree oven until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
The package says it will make 12 muffins but I don’t buy it. I think it could make 6 of a good size. I just use a buttered loaf pan and check it after 20 minutes or so.
A slice with butter and strawberry preserves slathered on is a snack that is hard to beat.

The day of the festival dawned to the smell of paint fumes and apartment chaos. I continued painting. By this time, two weeks into the job, I was numb. The idea of a certain Greek blue for the window frames, the door frames and the base boards that I envisioned for the place, while I sat at the kitchen table, had turned into a huge pain in the ass. I dreamed blue at night. Try getting straight lines of dark blue against white walls that have been painted so many times the junction at the trim looks like pie crust! The building was new in 1931 so you can imagine some of the issues. I call my apartment Sag Harbor: It ‘harbors’ the kids and I while all the floors ‘sag’ in the middle.
My son has to be pried awake at exactly five minuets to two. On the weekends I rarely see him conscious until three or four in the afternoon, but this was a special occasion. He waited, blurry eyed, with me at the bedroom door. As per instructions I knocked and when my daughter asked for the password from the other side I replied–no surprise here…–‘Latex’.

We crammed into the jumble of a room, with all the furniture scrunched into the middle and a narrow passage way around the heap. It too was strewn with obstacles in the way of paint splattered news paper piles, a huge mound of laundry on the radiator that shed its contents on the floor, rolled up area rugs and stacks of books.

The first game was called ‘Just Shoot Me’. Artie instructed us to back up while she crouched behind her bed. We moved back a far as we were able, about four and a half inches. We had each been given a small bag of old crayons. As Artemis held up her various Bratz dolls and naked Barbies her brother and I took crayon shots at them. The winner got an old lipstick A had snitched from my make-up bag.
The next, and the winner Hector and I both agreed, was ‘Hit the Samurai’. Artemis went by the window, with a lampshade on her head and my maroon kimono on, she dodged our wax missiles with a plastic sword.

There was ‘Take a Guess’ and ‘Pick a Bag’ and ‘Futurama’ to play as our fun time at the festival continued. H managed to do most of his game strategy while sprawled on my bed and since most all the prizes were pilfered jewelry and makeup items he passed them all to me and clutched the one prize he liked. He won it at the ‘Pick a Bag’ booth. It was a small lavender pig. The game was a synch: All you had to do was pick one of the black plastic grocery bags that were bunched on the pillows. Find a crayon and you got zilch, anything else was a prize to keep and when Booder found the card he got the pig.

In ‘Take a Guess’ Hector had to lift himself up on one elbow to see the items placed on the dresser that was now crammed up against the bed. We could look at the various items there and after we closed our eyes Artie took something away, we had to identify it by its absence. This took another eight minutes to play. By the end I had won back my entire make up bag, and then it was on to ‘Futurama’.

Artemis, now garbed in her fortune telling getup , gave us a bag with scrapes of paper that we picked one at a time. She would use her powers to tell us what our futures held. Mostly she guessed wrong. My two favorites were “You will marry a bad wife” and “You will live in a junkyard”.

We closed the festival (it lasted close to thirty eight minutes), with a Scavenger Hunt. I won this hands down. Even amidst all the mess I could find the many items Artie had stashed almost in plain sight. Hector never had a chance–he who stands at the open refrigerator door for many minutes staring into its interior looking for the milk that is entirely in front of his face! We all received a reward for this event; I got the gold, Boo the silver and Artie the copper of the key chains she had me pay for at the 99cent store.

We all claimed the affair a huge success and maneuvered our way into the kitchen for some warm cornbread and jam. Next years’ festival is already in the works and she’s going to add a food stand that I’m slated to stock.

August 22, 2005

Recipe: Caesar Salad

I’m going to have Caesar salad with the leftover grilled salmon from the night before:

First are the croûtons that are easy to make and I keep them simple. Take some French bread, stale-ish or not (I’ve done it with fresh), and cut it into cubes, not so huge. The best bread I’ve probably ever found was Semolina. What a bread! Fragrant and fresh from Cangianos ovens–my local Italian shop–and positively succulent! It’s richer then regular Italian and slightly denser. It is the palest yellow, moist on the inside and thickly crunchy on the outside. I like it with sesame seeds. AND it made good croûtons! I just cube some; toss it with some good olive oil, a couple of teaspoons worth for a half a loaf, then onto a cookie sheet. I bake at around 325 or so, and watch them, till they are nice and golden brown. Done! Finally I had found the PERFECT Caesar salad dressing recipe and had been making it for the last month or so. It was just right. I’d found it in the free newspaper, AM New York, that I got everyday outside of Penn station. It was from the “21” Club, and I changed it around a little:

1 tsp garlic, minced
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp Dijon
¼ cup of fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire
1 cup virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tsp Tabasco
Kosher salt to taste (I always taste before adding salt as the anchovies are salty. And the cheese too)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 heads Romaine into 1 inch pieces (I always tear mine and only use one head of lettuce saving the leftover dressing for later.))
1 cup of croutons

Mash the garlic in a wooden blow (I used the bowl I had gotten from my parents when we lived in Micronesia, it was out of palm, worn and beautiful, and I sometimes thought of Chuuk when I used it)Add the egg yolks, the mustard, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Whisk well and slowly add the oil, whisking as you go (It’s easy to see the oil when and when it is not incorporated–it’s not an emulsion if you can see ribbons of oil). Add the anchovies and the Tabasco and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan and pour into a cruet. Add a cup of croûtons to the bowl and a cup of the dressing and mix to coat (I had found this an important step as the croûtons got all nice and soaked but still crunchy.) Then add the lettuce, toss and shave some fresh cheese over.It’s delicious and fast to whip up, just the right blend of lemon, garlic, and the rich taste of the anchovies and cheese.

The night before I had grilled two nice fat salmon steaks on my George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine!! I had won this grill at the annual holiday party I had whooped and hollered when I got it, being slightly, or more, sloshed and proclaimed to all that I had never won anything before (true). Then I got very uncomfortable at the prospect of lugging the thing home, on the train, with my feet in my fabulous reddish high heeled boots that hurt like hell! Plus I had started to flash like mad; the booze did NOT help those! By the end I had some water, fanned myself madly for a bit with a limp napkin then got up and, indeed, lugged the grill and myself home, wincing for the those last 2 blocks from the train on 4th Avenue–wincing and swearing in Greek. But it had been worth it, the grill was really cool and worked fast. The salmon I had gotten from the little Korean fish market right off the train on 4th. It was cheap and the fish fresh. I got the salmon steaks, over a pound, for 6 bucks!

I whisked up the marinade of olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary, lemon juice and garlic and brushed it on the fish, popped in on my prize and grilled for about 5- 6 minutes. It was medium rare and delish-nutrish– topped with some capers of course!

August 20, 2005

The Family Store

I hit the place once a week at least. It's on third ave between Ovington and 69th street in Bayridge. I go for the homemade yogurt that is almost as good as the yogurt I've had in Greece. It's rich and fresh. I like to strain mine through cheese cloth until it gets thick and creamy-at least I do when I can find cheesecloth, it doesn't work so hot with paper towels.The first thing to maneuver around in the entrance is Oscar the enormous orange tabby cat who spreads himself on the little ramp leading in and won't move. I have to challenge him with the wheels of my red wired cart; nudge, nudge until his foot moves a half an inch so I can squeeze by.The store is crowded and the aisles cramped around all the wonderful treasures on display. There is a middle island with huge glass jars full of an assortment of regular nuts and grains as well as more exotic offerings. There are tiny dried strawberries, red like blood clots, and spicy candied pecans that are perfect for a green salad. Peeled pistachios, jumbo cashews and Chinese or Spanish pine nuts are there with figs, dried currents and cranberries along with dried peaches, mango and my favorite, dried cantaloupe, the color of orange sherbet. There are shelled pumpkin and squash seeds and even a big jar of roasted corn nuts. Plethora abounds and is displayed in the spice containers behind the counter too. There you have unsweetened shredded coconut, curry powder, turmeric, fenugreek, black caraway seeds and dried herbs with a jar of Frankincense and a jar of dried lemons, blackened and shriveled. There is even dried eggplant; little slices tied up in bundles. Around the edges and on the shelves are cans and jars of all things Middle Eastern and barrels on the floor hold flours, beans, and grains.The glass display in the rear holds the fresh made offerings from the kitchen in the back while a long counter of olive bins sits in front and below where you can scoop up Kalamatas, with or without pits, oil cured black Moroccan olives and Alonso olives from Chile or green, black and brown Lebanese olives. On the right in front of the spice shelves is the register on a wooden counter that also holds treats hot from the kitchen and alluring sweet things. Up on the wall behind the register are family photos-going back 25 years since the place opened with lots of babies on display. My favorite is the one of a ten day old holding his little head up. Honest! When I first started coming to the store a few years ago Sam's mother, Minerva, assured me of the facts: ten days old, her grandson, and his neck was strong enough to lift his wobbling new born head! It floors me every time I see it.The shop is redolent with the scent of all the savory goodies it's crammed with: a salty nutty flavor along with spicy accents and roasted meats taint the air with delicious aromas.The last time I went in I was only going to get some small things-one has the tendency to spend too much there on all the temptations and you should never go on an empty stomach, forget it! I came in and Sam, the son and the one who has taken over running the place, had just finished a standing pork rib roast and set it on the back counter in all it's oozing-with-rich-juices glory. The smell was heaven and I noticed the deep rich brown of the crust that glistened and promised a bite of crispy delight. I was NOT going to get any even though it pulled me to it the whole time I made my other purchases: the yogurt and-I fought a quick battle with myself that was lost before it even started- I got a big wedge of Kanafee: Middle Eastern cheesecake like no cheesecake you've ever tasted. The crust is made from semolina flour and actually encases the entire cake which is very large (the size of a large pizza). It's sweetened with honey and is light and crumbly in the mouth. The filling is a subtle, mellow rich blend of ricotta, cream and homemade curd that is not very sweet but utterly satisfying. Heated a bit and dribbled with honey it takes all my will power not to consume the huge hunk I end up getting in one sitting. Sam's father told me once that the pie won first place for cheesecake in a cooking show at the Javits Center.Sam was clever as usual and insisted that I take a small taste of the pork roast, "just to try". I bought close to a pound after the first bite. Sam does all the specials and this was one of his best out of so many bests. He'd marinated it with cream sherry, garlic, onion and olive oil. I took it home and indulged in it all by itself, on a plate with the deep brown au jus Sam had included dripping off the sides. Each bite was a burst of tender perfect meat, crusty crackling skin and seasonings that enhanced the pork to sweet and savory glory.The family is from a small enclave called Tarsheeha that borders Syria and Lebanon in Palestine. Sam has been cooking since he was five and has run the shop since his parents retired from the business. He is sunny, friendly and knows how to treat and entice his customers. He told me some of his customers eat all their meals from him and swear by the healing power of his food - their doctors are mystified by their good health.Apparently there is a national Crab Cake Eaters Club that tours the country and stopped by The Family Store on the reputation of Sam's Crab Cakes. They voted his the best in the country and after one bite of the things, with his homemade jalapeno tarter sauce, it's no surprise why. They have very little in the way of filler and it only acts to bind up the bounty of fat sweet crab chunks that are sauted to form a very thin, very crispy coating of savory caramelized flavor. The recipe is a secret and is used to make shrimp cakes as well. You will find whole fat shrimp in mouthfuls of these gems. Both go exactly right with his basic tarter sauce made from jals, pickles, capers, mayo, sour cream, lemon and Dijon.The other area of irresistible temptation is on the counter by the register and next to the Kanafee. There is always a silver bowl of freshly made falafel to take home or wrapped up in pita with all the fixings by the kitchen, homemade hot sauce and tahini a must. Then there are the Kibbee Balls: appetizer size fritters of chopped lamb, pine nuts and onions in a shell of cracked wheat, ground lamb and egg. The other kind of Kibbee Balls offered are vegetarian and are a meld of pumpkin, spinach, onion, chick peas and walnuts. Then there are little meat and cheese pies, and Aj-eh; flat egg fritters of zucchini, onion, parsley and mint.Going in each week for my yogurt is all I can afford because I never come out with anything less then a bit of everything! I spend the rest of the week indulging until it's time for more yogurt and then the battle begins anew. The one in which I'm always happy to be the vanquished: to the loser the spoils!
THE FAMILY STORE: 6905 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY
(718) 748-0207

August 15, 2005

Lunch at Areo

Despite the heat from the blazing streets and scarce shade I walked the 12 or so blocks to Areo on the corner of 85th st. and Third Avenue in Bayridge. I had decided that today was the day for Black Pasta with Sausage and Calamari.Once inside the airy cool restaurant that has two large, high-ceilinged rooms and a huge granite topped wooden bar that takes up a third of the front room, I was presented with a glass of ice water that the best of waiters seemed to almost have ready for me as I came in glowing with heat from the street. That's Mo for you; the waiter with perfect timing and a gracious, knowledgeable demeanor. Just like that I had a plate of Zucchini Sticks, thin lightly coated and fried to goldenness, two small pieces of Bruschetta and a small dish with paper thin Salami, assorted olives, a small mound of Ricotta seasoned with a little lemon and pepper, and a couple of small hard wedges of Provolone.I ordered the Black Linguini with Calamari and Sausage, then sat back to nibble, sip and anticipate its arrival. The Bruschetta had the usual ripe red and juicy tomatoes to form the sweet background for lots of garlic, a little bit of onion, and Italian Parsley. Bits of chopped olives added just the right touch to the traditional ingredients while the grilled bread it all sat on got slowly saturated and softened with each bite. I covered the Zucchini Sticks with lots of fresh lemon and picked up two or three at a time, tilted my head back and dropped them hot, mellow and crispy into my mouth. I spread a bit of the Ricotta on bread from the basket, topped it with Salami, a slice of Provolone and enjoyed the mix of textures and flavors; from the creamy bland Ricotta to the sharp Provolone to the salty bite of Salami.Areo has been going strong and delicious for seventeen years. I consider it the best Italian restaurant in NYC. It might be way out here in Bayridge but it has welcomed the likes of Hillary, Mick, Patti La Belle, LL Cool Jay, and Fat Joe. A few members of the cast of the Sopranos make it in regularly, while there is a decided and titillating sense of the real Goombas who also frequent the place.Roger and his cousin Reno own the restaurant, as well as Donald Sachs in the Winter Garden and Saracen in the Hamptons. Like all good eateries, you can judge part of its success by the length of time the staff has worked there. This is very true at Areo where the all male staff, the bartenders, the chef and busboys, are seasoned hands - the pasta chef preparing my Linguini had been working for the family for 20 years - and they add a significant ingredient to the smooth, pleasurable experience of the place.The best time to go for me is a Friday or Saturday night where I always sit at the bar so I can hang out with Rosie-the only female there and an absolute stitch. She is the small, long-curly-haired pistol-of-a-bartender behind the immense bar and orders all the men around to her whim. They love her sassy ways and her skill. Her Espresso Martinis go down sweet and smooth. The combination of Espresso, vanilla vodka, and Crème de Cacao ice cold and straight up is a coffee lover's dream that mellows you out and perks you up at the same time. Her Mojitos are also sublime but as any bartender will verify, a real pain in the ass to make. All that mint muddling you know...the crowd gets thick with various shades of Brooklynites; lawyers, detectives, rich kids from the gorgeous homes on Shore Road, Russian, Italian, Jewish and Greek families that converse in their own languages or with strong Brooklyn accents: "Nyet, Nyet, whaddya tawkin about!" Lots of parties take place from bachelorettes to graduations and kids are tolerated to roam around and visit. I have more fun just sitting there watching it all unfold while Rose waxes hilarious and everything hums with that unique restaurant rhythm danced out by the graceful waiters swinging by laden with all the delicious offerings.My pasta arrived and for a moment I just looked at it. The black strands of Linguine steamed fragrantly in the deep red of the sauce that was chunky with savory pieces of Italian sausage. White rings of Calamari contrasted in stark white against the dark richness. I took a deep breath over the bowl and inhaled a scent that reminded me of a fresh morning tide pool where the black curly seaweed that clings to the rocks and mussels glistens with seawater and smells of the ocean. Accompanying this note was the rest of the orchestra of aromas; garlic, sausage, Marinara, and the Parmesan and pepper I had the busboy liberally grind over the top.It was too hot and I waited in mouthwatering impatience to take my fist bite. When I could stand it no longer I wrapped the ebony strings around my fork, soaked it in sauce, speared a ring of squid and bit down to dusky rich heaven. The pasta had a brilliant dark bite from the depths that bound the tender mild Calamari and the spicy tomato and sausage in a background of succulent richness. Like a fine steak, almost earthy and just as robust.Black Linguine is made from the ink of squids that is squeezed out and used instead of water to form the dough. They use only the best imported product at Areo and Mo tells me they make it many different ways on request but the dish I was enjoying is the one on the menu and this was the first time I tried it. It surpassed my every expectation and certainly I've been spoiled for any other pasta dish for awhile. I sat for a good while and indulged in this new found treat almost moaning at times with pleasure.
The more I savored it the more savory it got and I couldn't satiate my taste buds or stop the yen for all that tomato red, spicy sausage, mellow sweet Calamari flavor cuddling around the ink black strands; dark, delicious and swimming in their own small sea of complimentary textures and taste. I ate every last string and when the busboy came to clear off the rest of the dish that I was just to full to honor by finishing I couldn't bear to even let that bit go so I had him wrap it up.I headed home by way of a car service too satisfied and stuffed to suffer the hot walk home and had a nice long nap, where I dreamed of a bright sea and the succulent tender tastes from her dark depths.

AREO: 8424 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY
(718) 238-0079

August 14, 2005

Happy Blog Birth or I Wanna be a Wet Nurse!

As I birth my blog today, this newborn baby blog, and send it out to the world I thought it would be cunning to speak of the most basic of all victuals: Breast Milk!
It was my sister who expressed the desire to become a wet nurse as the ideal job. Her primary objective was to maintain her cleavage- The landscape of my sisters chest is home to a pair of very small protuberates. Not mounds, not hills and never mountains! Not much of an incline at all really, so when she became pregnant and exploded into an A cup she was thrilled and delighted. This size was not hers to keep though and so the idea of mammary maintenance via wet nursing was pondered there for a while....
Both of us, and my sister-in-law, were world class nursers and would often expound on the nature of this essential, nurturing act. We breast fed our babies for 20 months or so and would have kept it up a while longer if the children had not all weaned them selves-even as we hopefully offered a tit here and there. After 2 years though it's time to call it quits! The sight of a large three year old imbibing at his mothers chest, while standing, is off putting to say the least.
Breast milk, while starting out as a thin watery insipid brew, will with time transform into a thick creamy intoxicating baby feast. I swear my son would get drunk on it. At 14 months and plenty of time for a let down of refined and rich sustenance to form, he'd suck away until his little jaw would slowly stop working then he'd just lull there in a stupor with his mouth full of boob. Finally he'd let it loose with a slight sucking pop and lay there in my arms, eyes glazed, for all the world like a drunken lord and grin up at me in blurry love.
It's not a simple thing nursing or is it something that comes naturally for all of us. I never went to any birthing classes but I read a fair amount and never ran across any accounts of the difficulties for many new mothers. My son would not take the tit for three months and if it wasn't for the nurse in the hospital where he was born he might never have been breast fed: "Child you take this here rubber thing and stick it onto your nipple there so that sweet boy can get his mommies blessing! He gonna get the idea down the line, don you be worryin 'bout that!" So I kept it up and one day that I'll never forget he latched on like a pro and I threw that rubber nipple extender away with relief.
My daughter was as different as it can get: A few hours old and she suckled away like the only wee wrinkled piglet. The other anticipation I had of her being the same as her brother was one I hoped for but, again, it was not the same at all: When my son would nurse he would look up at me and raise up his little hand to gently stroke and pat my chest. He'd look at me with contentment and bliss while he touched my chin with his warm soft fingers. I looked forward with pleasure to the time when she was as old as my son had been with his sweet demonstratives. Well she looked up at me alright but with a devilish gleam in her green eyes and, while giving me a cheesy grin around my nipple in her mouth, she would raise her little fist and give me a quick sock! She was highly amused by this and for awhile there I had a line of small bruises running along my bosom.
As for the well documented benefits of breast milk over formula all I can say is my children had very few baby maladies, they never sucked their thumbs and never felt the need for pacifiers or bottles.
Of course, some where along the way, you taste it. It's sweet but warm and I wouldn't want to have a glass of it with my chocolate cake. It's pretty obvious though, babies know a good thing when they slurp it.