June 24, 2011, Oia, Santorini, Greece: In each place I’ve lived over the years, I’ve come to appreciate certain elements of that place that make me feel comfortable and safe. That seems pretty normal; No matter how much we thrive on the unfamiliar, we want and need these feelings of comfort and safety to make a neighborhood, a town, or a city feel like home. Food is a surefire way to make that happen.
On Santorini, my comfort food is feta cheese. Sitting here, eating feta for breakfast, feta for lunch, and feta for dinner, life feels good. Life feels uncomplicated. I feel like I could eat feta all day. And so I do.
For breakfast, I eat feta alongside a square of spinach pie, a handful of olives, some cherry tomatoes, perhaps some Greek yogurt with honey and almonds. For lunch, I eat it with cucumbers too, as well as more olives, tomatoes, bread and olive oil. For dinner, I work to incorporate feta into my pasta. Eating feta makes me feel right at home.
Not that I eat feta more than occasionally back in Washington, DC. It’s just that food that is fresh and reliable and comforting reminds me of the joys of a family meal. It brings to mind large dinner tables full of family at which we settle in, talk about our days. Food like feta helps ground us in a sense of place. In Oia, food like feta helps give us a clearer picture of what’s it’s really like to live there even when we don’t.
There’s an old woman who does live here, however, who we’ve seen every night as we walk along the lowlit path through town. Every night we’ve been here, this old Greek woman has sat down with company at her table outside her house in the early evening and stayed put for hours on end. We’ve see them gathered over their drinks at the end of our afternoon stroll. They are still sitting there at that plastic table, eating nothing fancy, when we come back out later for dinner. And they are still sitting there together long after the sun has set and the moon has risen, as we return home after dinner, heading for sleep.
That old Greek family sitting around their table under the stars reminds me of feta.