Thursday, September 6: I make a stop at yet another lovely outdoor cafe called Mama Thira Taverna, about midway between Fira and Firostefani. I’m enticed by the cool display out front and by more promising views of the caldera and the sea.
I order sardines with caper leaves, and as I wait, I sit and enjoy the view. The waiter, a Greek-Australian, is quite friendly. I’m a little confused because he looks Greek, but perfect English comes out of his mouth. He tells me he went to high school in Greece but was brought up in Australia, so he speaks both Greek and English fluently. He also tells me he lives and works in Santorini for 6 months and then in Athens for 6 months. His room here, a small room he shares with someone else, is “adequate,” but he is now quite homesick for his nice home with rooftop terrace in Athens.
I am so used to having lunch or dinner in utter silence, so it’s nice to have a little conversation with a local. I am feeling on the outside of things in Santorini because it seems to be such a “couples-only” place. I imagine I would also feel this way in Italy, which I imagine to be the epitome of romance. I have avoided traveling to Italy in my single state because I’m afraid I would feel sad there, watching everyone else in love and me not having anyone. I keep waiting until I have a romantic interest to go there; I hate to think I may never go! I guess if I get to be 80 years old, and I still haven’t found anyone, I will go. Maybe I won’t care I’m alone because I’ll be too old!
Anyway, I eat all my sardines, which I thoroughly enjoy. It’s weird; I’ve only ever had sardines out of a can, and these are quite different. After I’m done, the handsome waiter comes to pick up my plate. He says, “You didn’t like the caper leaves?” I say, “What? These? I’m supposed to eat these?” (They just look like decorative leaves to me!) He says, “You should try them.”
I do. They are cool, refreshing, like the slight breeze dancing over this brilliant village on the edge of the aquamarine sea. Why is it that certain things stand out like an oasis in a parched desert? These caper leaves have the flavor of capers themselves, but with an intriguing twist. Every bite is enticing and delectable. They are like cool mint in my mouth, so fresh! How, I think, how can I be so excited about a leaf? Is it just the setting, the breeze, the sun glimmering on the sea below?
There are certain tastes that will always be intertwined with experiences in my life. Dill in Cappadocia, Turkey; gelato in Provence; green onions and Asian sauces in Vietnam… the list goes on. These caper leaves are one of those things. I’ve never had them before and my introduction to them here in Santorini will always be memorable. I imagine anytime I have them again, I will be transported back to a lazy afternoon at Mama Thira Taverna. Fira. Santorini. Greece.
Oh happy day!