“Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one’s own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live. There is in men, as Peter Quennell said, “a centrifugal tendency.” In our wanderlust, we are lovers looking for consummation.” Anatole Broyard (1910–1990)
Truer words have never been spoken.
I am suffering from severe bouts of wanderlust. I need to travel. I need to get away and be somewhere else, see somewhere else and learn something else. Some other culture. Some other language. Some other cuisine.
I love to travel. I often wonder if it’s because I moved so much as a little kid and a young adult. First, since my father was in the military, and second, since I lived in so many different apartments my first few years in NYC. I have lived in every borough except the Bronx and Staten Island and on every side of town, Upper East Side, Midtown, Lower East, Upper West Side, etc. You get the picture.I have moved around a lot. (Although I have lived in the NYC metro area longer than any other place I have ever lived.)
NY is my home, my home base. But out there, out there lays Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Athens, Sydney,Casablanca, and hundreds of other places that I need want to visit.
It’s gotten much worse after seeing Eat, Pray, Love and Revolutionary Road. Each main character desperate to go somewhere else. Be somewhere else and be someone else, or rather, be a much truer version of themselves. Each feeling trapped and hopeless, and desperate to change their situation. It’s hard and exhausting trying to be “in the box” of your current life sometimes. The politics of suburbia (and the endless gossiping!), the schools, playgroups, book clubs, PTAs, carpools, religious organizations. Sometimes it’s just all too much. All that mold fitting. You just want to be yourself for a while.
Its that terrible feeling of being trapped, and unable to breathe that sometimes precipitates an outburst of wanderlust. And it is insatiable unless you actually go somewhere, immerse yourself in a world not your own for a little while. And unlike the movie characters, (or maybe not!) return to home base, return home. Refreshed and vibrant. As though you are another crayon color. A Burnt Sienna rather than just plain old Orange.
To travel and experience the world gives you a new vision on life. Sometimes it makes you humble, especially when you travel to countries where people are far less fortunate. Sometimes it makes you angry and more aware of the war against the human spirit in countries where people are much more repressed and suffer abuse at the hands of their oppressors. Sometimes it can be sad, it is true. But most of the time, it’s the most glorious thing you can do for your soul. To find peace and calm in another culture. To find pure happiness and joy in one that appreciates siestas, and leisurely, lingering meals. One that enjoys archeology, art and history and one that values enjoying the simple things in life. Escaping the hustle and bustle and the oneupmanship that is prevalent in our society and just getting back to basics. Good wine, good food and good company.
And that is what I need right now. The peace and calm. The enjoying of the simple things in life. And to be a much more, truer version of myself.
So I began my quest for the perfect destination. Someplace that I could immerse myself in just those things and I believe I have found that place. Off the coast of Greece, on a small island in the Cyclades there is a hands on cooking program where, for five days, I can learn about the Mediterranean way of eating, entertaining, and living. I can hike, explore ancient sites and wander the beaches. But mostly, and more importantly, I can cook.
I have made my deposit, and G-d willing, I will be there in the late Spring of 2011.
In the meantime, to tide me over and to help build up my excitement (could I possilby contain more?) , I have been spending time in Astoria, Queens. It is the epicenter of NYC’s largest Greek population. I have bought phyllo and triopitas, spanikopita and dolmades. I have wandered Titan Foods, the best Greek grocer in the borough and tasted many varieties of Feta and olives. I have enjoyed talking with their cheese mongers, their cashiers (great restaurant recommendations!) and their bakery staff about all of their delicacies. I have taken the free Greek newspapers from outside the store in an attempt to learn some Greek. (May have to resort to Rosetta Stone!)
I have oogled the honey drenched, crunchy Cretan diples and the syrupy Baklava at Artopolis. I have sat, with sticky fingers, and eaten way too many soropiastas.
I have eaten a massive meal at Zenon Taverna, a cozy, kid friendly, family owned restaurant serving delicious Greek and Cypriot cuisine. The decor is charming with its mismatched Corelle plates, and earthenware jugs. There are large paintings of scenery on the walls luring you into them with their bold colors and the tables adorned in traditional blue and white.
You can order from three different meze meals for a mere $19.95 per person and taste over 16 items! Or, depending on which day you dine, you can feast from the daily specials. Start your experience with the sauteed Arnisia Keftedakia (Lamb Meatballs) and be sure to save some pita slices to sop up the velvety, savory sauce. Enjoy a cup of the Avgolemono – Egglemon soup, a Chicken and Rice Soup with a robust lemon flavor. Or try the Kria Pikilia (Cold Antipasto) and dive straight into the Taramosalada, the mashed potatoes with red caviar, extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice . For your entree, the sliced tender roasted leg of lamb spiced with fresh garlic, black pepper and oregano melts like butter in your mouth. Or indulge in the Kotopoulo Fileto Yemisto, chicken cutlets stuffed with spinach and feta and blanketed in mozzarella cheese. Each dish is served with large peppery, roasted lemon potatoes. The meal would be complete right there, but save room! The warm, silky Galaktopoureko, with its custard cream wrapped in fillo dough is divine!
I have even ventured into smaller Greek delis just to look at the Greek touristy paraphernalia. It has been quite pleasurable experiening this different world, right here in New York, and it is doing its job to beckon me to the yonder land.