Its all Greek to me
My Southern grandmother taught me to always bring something for your hostess when attending a dinner. Here in Greece there is a similar tradition, that one should bring something sweet for the hostess. So when I was invited to a barbecue this past weekend, I began planning what I would bring. Certainly I could pick something at a bakery. Here the Greek bakeries make your mouth water, the extravagance of the little cakes and the delicacy of the baklava lining the shelves. But I wanted to bring something homemade. This proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. I headed to the supermarket around the corner. I had a couple ideas in mind, but wanted to browse around, see what fruit was available for a possible pie. The shelves of this village store were lined with products all in Greek. The accompanying pictures were of no help. I didnt know if I was holding a bag of sugar or flour. And if it was flour was it all-purpose, or self-rising, or the not so useful corn meal? All ideas of an extravagant dessert deserted me right there in the middle of the aisle. Spotting chocolate chips in a clear bag, I opted for the simple and very American chocolate chip cookie. With the assistance of a semi-English speaking clerk I gathered the ingredients up, but what about vanilla extract? I couldnt describe it to her. I could only repeat, Vanilla, vanilla.
She nodded and said Yes, yes handing me a bag of white capsules.
Vanilla? I asked again.
At twenty cents it was worth the risk. I gathered everything up and headed home, where I began opening every box and bag, sticking my fingers in and tasting and smelling. The vanilla was indeed vanilla in a powder form. But my soft brown sugar was coarse brown cane sugar. No matter. Most of the fun in baking is the experimenting and guessing, the adjusting. With no measuring spoons or cups and a Celsius degree oven I began my adventure of a familiar recipe in a foreign kitchen. When I finished I packed them all up and headed to the barbecue.
The barbecue itself was amazing, with the most delicious lamb chops in an Argentinean sauce. When wed all finished, and it was time for dessert I tensed up. Everything had been so good, and now my hostess was bringing out my cookies with ice cream. The soft chewy chocolate chip cookies I had envisioned had really yielded achingly paper thin crunchy disasters. This did not matter though. Because no one there knew what I had intended to make and so they ate the cookies with joy as though they were supposed to be that way. And the pudgy Greek ladies at the end of the table, they devoured half the box with high compliments. The cookies were a smashing success.