We’ve been cooking in a lot in Greece. We don’t have much reason to eat out. Our apartment has a gorgeous terrace with views that beat anything available in town. We like variety and there are only a handful of restaurants within walking distance. Moreover, I like to cook (and the family swears they like my cooking) and our kitchen gives us the flexibility to churn out anything from Thai to Middle Eastern.
Despite our active kitchen, we haven’t cooked any Greek food. The souvlaki at Zaxos, the local spot in town, is tender and perfectly salty. The fish and seafood at the seaside restaurant where we celebrated Ava’s birthday yesterday is always fresh. However, the one thing that we haven’t been satisfied with is restaurant moussaka. Moussaka is supposed to be a quintessential Greek dish of layered meat, eggplant and béchamel sauce. We figured that any restaurant worth their name would know how to make a mean moussaka. It turns out that Greeks know this is not true. Moussaka recipes are family heirlooms and each house prides itself on doing it the right way. Therefore, most Greeks wouldn’t even think of ordering Moussaka when they go out. I suppose it’s like chicken curry for Indians.
Just when I thought our choices were to either master our own Moussaka or go without, we scored Moussaka from a Greek grandmother. The owner of our rental apartment is a free-spirited and generous host. She wanted us so have a real Greek meal and arranged for her mother to make us the dish. What homemade moussaka lacks in looks is more than made up for in smell and taste.
Grandma’s moussaka tasted nothing like the luke warm and dense dish we got at the local taverna. Our dinner tonight was a combination of perfectly seasoned meat, silky eggplant and a creamy sauce, with the flavors of each layer evident in the next.
We really don’t get many opportunities on our journey to have homemade local food. There is something special about food made in small batches, especially with a family recipe. You can almost taste the care. Now we know not to order moussaka in Greece. We also have a new mission to find loving grandmothers wherever we go.