Monday, 20 June 2011

Fish for Dinner

Sostis had said that he pulled in his net about 8.30 every night. With it still light we watched him motor over to our yacht. He had come to pick up Yanni (my husband was named in honour) to help pull in the net.  The rest of us watched them set off to a spot about 200 metres away.  Next thing they were pulling up the net already. The galley was in readiness,  that is, all as per instruction from Sostis - pan with olive oil, flour to dust the fish and lemon cut - to squeeze over the cooked fish.
The drill was that the fisherboat pulled up alongside and a bucket was handed up from the galley to receive any catch.  Aha - the bucket went up and we couldn't keep up with so many fish! Sostis standing in his boat untangled the fish from the net and they just just kept coming.
Small fish called marida and are cooked whole like sardines. I could only cook about 3 or 4 in each pan load so we worked in shifts and kept going til we must have a hundred fish.  Oh and I had cooked some pasta and cheese remembering that fishing trips do not always result in a sufficiently main course meal!  The pasta superfluous, we had several bowls of delicious lightly-crispy marida, cut slices of lemon, crusty bread and of course, wine. 
With all six of us on deck now it was great fun with so much to eat.  Sostis was very companionable, his tall stories about being chased by 'mahphia' and bad women from earlier in the day now subdued he just laughed about everything.  Kostas really enjoyed the wine and it was the most food I ever saw him eat.
The night sky softened and darkened and then brightened with the stars above us.  There was nothing to disturb our first night out in the Aegean.
We said our goodbyes and watched Sostis putter off in his skiff and waited until he arrived at his landing and through the darkness all waved again.  Going down to our cabins while Kostas turned to his usual nightly attention of securing the moorings and checking the boat we marvelled at this found stranger who had been part of our day with his island, his stories.... and then he provided dinner as well.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Sostis the Fisherman

Last year I travelled to Greece with my husband, daughter and son-in-law and I expected to find a beautiful country full of ancient history and I did discover more beauty and more history than I ever imagined. But it was also the amazing people that we met with their stories and their love of food and life that I brought home.

On our first day sailing from Santorini our skipper Kostas steered us in the direction of another smaller volcanic island where we could moor for the night. There was a little bay where earlier we had seen an old man tending his goats on the island. After some waving and calling out hello the man did then get in his orange painted skiff and putter over to see us.  I expected a weathered old hermit but here he is - ageless, tanned, healthy, welcoming smiles wrinkling his face. He tells us that he will have fish tonight to bring to us.  "Efkaristo"! A bottle from our wine stash is grabbed and handed to Sostis as a show of thanks. On invitation we then board his orange painted skiff and motor over all together to Sostis' Island.  Sostis lives on his island, leaving behind his 'trouble with women - she tried to kill me' and lives now contendedly alone with his goats and chickens.
As we approach the tiny brick house he grins. I think that for a hermit Sostis actually loves company.  His command of English was gained while he worked and travelled as a sailor in the merchant navy many years ago. He now enjoys a simple life growing vegetables at the top of the volcano and casting his nets every night for small fish. ( I was told on more than one occasion that the tastiest sweetest fish are found in the Aegean because the rocks there harbour the best food for the fish.) Sostis milks his goats and makes fetta deliciously packed in olive oil in glazed terracotta pots kept in the cool at the back of his one room house.
Sostis's hospitality that afternoon of our visit extended to typically dryish but sweet tomatoes and cucumbers round and pale green that he sliced up with a very sharp knife and handed us along with chunks of his fetta in olive oil. Finally we were encouraged to try a liquor which was sweet and thick, slightly Marsala like. Here was a man who loved to talk and his stories were among many we were going to encounter from wonderful people we were to meet on our most wonderful adventure. I hope you enjoy my first Blog of many more to come!