Here, says Costas, bashing an almond with a rock, opening the shell, offering us the meat. It's sweet.
We're spending the morning with Costas and his neighbor Ela. Costas takes us out to the garden. He bends down, plucks some herbs, and holds them out. Smell, he says.
Ela's garden bursts with cucumbers, melons, corn, tomatoes, okra, and eggplant. And the trees! Quince, apricot, tangerine, olive. We walk to the rabbit hutch. Reaching in, Costas pulls out the biggest rabbit I've ever seen.
We're not there, of course, for the rabbit, or the almonds, or the herbs, or the garden. We're there to meet Ela.
Here she is, showing me how to make a classic yogurt dish from her native Albania. And here's Mariana, one of her seven-year-old twins. Mariana tries on five different dresses during our visit, showing off each one with a spectacular twirl.
I can't wait to tell you more about Ela and what I learn, if you don't mind waiting for the book.
You'll find out how to make this, too.
Why Ela? Why Costas? Why travel around the globe to meet these lovely people?
Costas is married to Aglaia Kremezi, a renowned Greek culinary expert, cooking teacher, and prolific cookbook author. Together, Aglaia and Costas run Kea Artisanal, a cooking school from their home on the island of Kea, an hour's ferry ride from Athens. I don't know them, they don't know me, but after a series of email exchanges and a referral from my new editor and a mutual friend, they welcome me into their world.
The next day, Aglaia cooks for us. Though her cooking school isn't in session when I visit, I can tell you this: If you dream of taking a cooking vacation to Greece, Kea Artisanal is where you must go.
Aglaia hands me a knife and a cutting board, and we chat as she directs me in the kitchen. We move through several recipes for her newest book, due out next year. A few hours later, she serves us a beautiful lunch on the sun-drenched patio.
While we eat, someone naps.
Julie and I spend our days learning. At night, we explore. Twice we eat dinner at Magazes, a restaurant by the port. When you go (please go), order the marinated anchovies, grilled Greek cheese and tomato, the octopus, the salads. Wine is something like 4 euros a carafe, so order that, too.
We wander all parts of the island, including the village of Ioulis, set high on a hill. There we see Greece's classic blue doorways and narrow stairs.
One night, as we walk back to our hotel, we pass a small building on our left. A community center, perhaps? Music spills out an open door. Inside, couples dance. Grandmothers with granddaughters, men with women, men with men, women with women, old with old, old with young. The beat picks up, slows, picks up again. Laughter rings.
Arms overhead, swaying and turning, they dance, moving to the beat on a warm summer night on the island of Kea.