Another hot day in the city. This time, with a twist though. Strong gusts of wind stirred the summer heat from time to time. There is something odd about the wind. It can be really annoying, taking your thoughts with it and sending them in every unexpected direction. It can drive you crazy, making you feel dizzy and lightheaded. BUT, it can also bring myriads of wonderful things. The smell of the sea, for example.
The wonderful, salty smell which instantly evokes memories… and stories! J. had told me about his summers spent in Preveza and I never fail to ask for more. In one of them, his grandpa would take him to the beach in his funny looking contraption he called a motorbike. J. sat comfortably in a cart attached to the bike, his face facing upwards, watching the sky and the tree canopies pass by before his eyes. Then, they would reach the shore and descend a steep cliff, J. clinging onto his grandpa, like a little koala bear while grandpa climbed down a rope (his own invention, of course). He took me to that beach J. It was all crystal clear to me.
A magical place… When the sun and the sea drained them both physically, but filling them with loads of spiritual energy, they would make their way back to the beach house. Exhausted and starving… Grandma would be at full alert to fill their empty stomachs, as grandmas do. And J.’s absolute favourite was her Strapatsada! The ultimate summer food, to put it in J.’s words! Today was the day for me to finally taste this simple but such an exotic dish and boy, was it ever tasty!
I watched him carefully choose 8 ripe tomatoes. “The numbers are really important for this dish”, J. said seriously, almost as if it was a sacred thing. I smiled, enjoying the dedication and reverence he shows every time he starts tinkering around the kitchen. Then, he took out two bell peppers (a green and a yellow one) from the fridge and placed all on our wooden chopping board. Music was already playing in the background and this time, too, J. selected the perfect musical accompaniment – Omara Portuondo. He also took out some feta cheese, 2 eggs, salt and pepper and set all on the kitchen counter.
The tomatoes were peeled and cut into large chunks and then put into blender to be mixed into a thick juice. Into the pan it went and started to simmer at a low fire. Next, the peppers were diced and joined the simmering tomato. Feta cheese was broken by J’s hand and added to the rest. After adding some olive oil and stirring the mixture, J. slightly beat the 2 eggs and poured them into the pan. Last were the salt and pepper. Two more minutes and strapatsada was removed from the fire.
In the meantime, I took the initiative to prepare some bread, which J. said was an indispensable part of this dish. I found some old brown bread in the fridge, and sliced 7 even pieces. I carefully placed them onto the baking sheet and drizzled them with some olive oil before grilling the bread in the oven. Once it darkened to a nice bronzy colour, I took the sheet out and then J. grated some garlic on each slice. By this time, the kitchen smelled of summer. The summers of Preveza, the summer of J’s childhood, the summer of my meeting the magic…