Aegina Home & Living - Living in Aegina

 

 

 


LIVING IN AEGINA

What is it REALLY like to live in Aegina?

 

A TASTE OF AEGINA

My first poignant memory of Aegina is the day I went fishing with my father-in-law during the spring of 1982.
I had travelled alone from London especially to meet my husband’s parents and since I didn’t speak any Greek and they didn’t speak English, I expected it to be a linguistically challenging experience; but non-verbal communication has advantages as it doesn’t allow opportunities for dispute and clarification requires too much effort so we spent two glorious weeks together locked in smiling nods and comfortable silence, occasionally taking out a dictionary to explain an issue but after a while, that became boring and so we abandoned it.

My father-in-law Dimitri, personified a fishing boat. Possibly one of the tallest men on the island, he wore his height reluctantly, stooping to diminish it and he was flat, almost hollow around his abdominal area. He possessed the largest hands I’ve ever seen which hung clumsily like huge paddles from his long, oar-like arms. When he walked, he lumbered, as if the ground was unfamiliar, for he was an aquatic creature inhabiting a terrestrial niche. But beneath his flat, grey, felt cap, embedded in his weathered and contoured face were the most beautiful aquamarine jewels of the palest blue and when he smiled, his face lit up like a light bulb and those eyes glistened and radiated the kindest and wisest of souls.

He was proud yet nervous to be taking his young daughter-in-law on a fishing trip and had to explain my caucasian, red-haired presence to numerous friends and fellow fishermen; most of whom laughed heartily or nodded their heads in disbelief at the thought of an English girl actually wanting to go fishing with her father-in-law.

When I was safely ensconced inside the tired, turquoise boat, its paint peeled and abused by sun-exposure, Dimitri expertly pushed it away from the green, slimy curtain adorning the harbour wall and the engine noisily popped us away from the hubbub of early morning Aegina, cleaving its way through the blue silk of the Saronic Gulf towards my father-in-law’s intended fishing space and once we reached our intended destination, he dropped anchor.
Fortunately, we were line fishing, which involved using a simple hand-reel around which was wound metres and metres of fishing wire but at the end, towards the tear-shaped weight, there were a series of lethally sharp hooks which were to brutally ensnare our prey and slinging these hooks required a certain graceful skill of the arm, rather like throwing a boomerang.
Waiting for the fish to bite the bait was a truly soporific experience. The sun had started to exert its oppressive heat and the sea rhythmically slapped and sucked the boat, rocking us gently like babies in a pram but on feeling a sharp tug, the wire almost cutting my palm, I was sharply awoken from my stupor and Dimitri loudly excited, urgently hauled in the fishing line and  skilfully extracted each of the silver, writhing victims and tossed them into a bucket where they ended their lives in anoxic resignation. I guiltily watched this process and understood that what separates men and women into hunters and gatherers is the chemistry of hormones; my oestrogen levels prevented me from feeling excited about the kill and I gladly handed my line to Dimitri, busying myself instead with unfolding our picnic, taking care to avert my eyes from the graveyard in the plastic bucket.
My mother-in-law had packed us a flask of ice-cold orange juice and some home-made tiropitta, triangular parcels of filo-pastry enveloping the softest fetta cheese.
When we bit into the tiropitta, the cheese, which had warmed in the sun, invaded our mouths like a welcome virus and the juice was a vital tonic against the relentless heat.
Satisfied that he’d caught enough lunch, Dimitri sat hunched in the boat, lost in the pleasure of our refreshments when he suddenly caught sight of a large flash of silver which arched in the air and lunged back into the sea. It was then that we exchanged our only word –‘dolphin’ and we mutually marvelled at its splendour.

Back at the harbour, we surrendered to our heat-exhaustion and eagerly imbibed yet another long, cool orange juice. Dimitri clinked my glass and wished me good health and I held the glass to my face, a soothing ice-pack. When our taxi arrived to take us home, we heavily sank into the warm, worn seats which smelt of old leather and tobacco .

My mother-in-law, a short, heavy-breasted lady with sharp, intelligent eyes is possibly one of the most admirable women I’ve ever met. She has an enormous capacity to love and accept any person, despite glaring flaws and her home is an un-pretentious  sanctuary of security.
During our absence, she had shelled vast quantities of fresh garden peas which she then tipped into an enormous pan of water, along with quantities of deep red tomato puree, several pearls of garlic and the ubiquitous addition of locally produced, golden olive oil. These ingredients were left to simmer contentedly together until they formed a harmonious combination of the most delicious flavours typified by the Mediterranean diet.
The fish were promptly hijacked by my mother-in-law who, with the expertise of a surgeon, deftly gutted and doused them in astringent lemon juice before tossing them into flour and then onto the glowing  coal.
Lunch was to be eaten outside under the coolness of the pergola where the breeze brought an aroma of sea-salt, charcoal, fragrant lemons and piquant oregano.
Disassociated from the previous life of the fish, on my plate they took on the form of a fabulous culinary creation, disguised by slices of lemon, the sheen of olive oil and a liberal sprinkling of oregano, freshly picked from the garden. The peas, beads of soft sage green, luxuriating in their thick red sauce had the texture of a fine, viscous satin which complimented the salty bitterness of the fish and this fine feast was washed down with icy, home-produced retsina which caused a momentary shot of pain in the head before sliding down to warm our limbs.
Sleep followed on easily after lunch, during which I yielded to the waves of relaxation induced by the perfection of such a rich but simple life.

Alison Lorentzos

copyright 2007

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