Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Flash Memory: Om nom nom

So, I'm over at Slate, reading one of the page-whoring "You're Doing It Wrong" articles (a guilty pleasure of mine). This one's about pork tenderloin, and in one of the responses to a comment about "How can you eat cut-up animal carcasses?" is the response, "I tried to eat one that wasn't cut up, and it wasn't easy." And that sprung a memory out of the depths:

I was 15, and had talked my mother into lied shamelessly to my parents to get them to let me go to Greece with a friend. From Rome, where we were living in the early '70s, this was approximately like going to Nashville from NYC in terms of distance and difficulty. But I didn't want to just go to Greece, oh no. I wanted to go to Mykonos, where my sister had taken my brother and me the year before. But this time I wanted to go by myself, no 12-year-old brother in tow, and hang out doing what I wanted to do. Which I had no idea what that was, but it wasn't being on the most crowded beach, watching my sister and her boyfriend argue, go get high/drunk, come back and argue some more, lather, rinse, repeat. So I bitched and moaned and made a complete ass out of myself a good argument about why I should be allowed.... Eventually they gave in, and off I went.

The whole story would basically frighten the crap out of any reasonable person, let alone a parent, and for the most part I kept my worst stupidities from my parents (like sleeping under a bench in the port of Piraeus so that I wouldn't miss the boat in the morning, with no-one keeping watch), but eventually I arrived in Mykonos, quickly made friends with a dozen Berkeley grads on break, and settled into one of the best times of my life. (I did make SOME attempt to keep my folks informed of where I was and that I was OK; I wasn't a complete jerk, just 15 and incredibly self-centered.)

Anyway, after about a week on the main beaches, we decided to move to a more remote area, mostly to get away from the incredible tourist crowds that plague the islands. And so we found a beach around the side of the island, and hung out together, singing at night to the same 15-20 songs, which were all we knew on the guitar, cooking and swimming and just, you'll have to excuse the expression but it really does capture it for me, grooving.

Eventually, we got hungry for something more substantial than the vegetables we were buying from the local farmers, and headed into town for dinner and retsina. None of us had much money, so we looked around until we found a taverna with reasonable prices, and the 12 of us settled down with a couple of bottles of resin wine and some appetizers, and considered the menu. To our side, a spit turned, the lamb on it roasting gently and the smell of the dripping fat and the herbs just captivated us (we had been vegetarians by necessity, not commitment.) As we started to order, it became clear that we were all going to order lamb, and finally the proprietor asked us it we just wanted the whole thing? He'd make us a deal. Oh, yes, please kind sir, you don't have to offer twice...

He covered the table with butcher's paper, and he and a helper lifted the lamb from the fire, and slid the entire carcass off the spit, onto the table. A sound of orgasmic moaning came from 12 throats, and 24 hands began to slice small pieces off the edges of the meat, a process that rapidly became 24 hands tearing chunks of cooked flesh from a rapidly decreasing carcass. I have no idea what we looked like (starving wolves?), but we didn't care. The owner kept our glasses full of wine and water, and handed out paper towels and we ate, and ate, and ate.

Eventually the frenzy died down, and after some final picking at what was by now the skeleton of a lamb, we paid up and staggered off into the night.


  1. although i'm not a vegetarian, i generally prefer my meat processed beyond all recognition. i suppose if i were hungry enough, it wouldn't get in the way. what an incredible adventure.... seems as though the craziest stuff we do can end up in the top of our memory banks!

  2. Great story! I can almost taste the lamb.

  3. David, Sorry about the delay! Thanks for your comment. When I think back to that time, I can smell the smoke and scent of roasting meat...

  4. Great story. There is something about a community feeding on a spit-roasted whole animal. Primal, real.