July 1, 2020
I’ve been speaking with a friend on Sifnos this morning. “How is it there these days?” I asked. It’s early days in the reopening of the country to tourism and I’ve naturally been wondering.
“Quiet, relaxing,” was his answer. “Hardly any non-Greeks about.”
So the guy I wrote about in the excerpt below from my book, I guess, is not there now. Pity. Normally I take pains not to make fun of other people, and at this terrible time in world history that seems more important to me now than ever. But this man, well …
Besides, on a hot summer’s day when I’d love to be on my beloved island and can’t, how achingly delicious is it to think about Sifnian ice cream?
From Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales:
The shops in Kamares serve some of the most heavenly gelato on earth. We’ve earned it, Jim and I decide after our walk up to Agios Symeon high above the village, and we’re strolling along the main street and savouring our treats when a man asks, “Is that homemade?”
“It is,” Jim replies.
We’ve both been watching this man for a bit. He’s hard to miss. Not because he’s lumbering along under a huge backpack, clearly a departing passenger bound for the ferry. Nor because he’s hindered further by what seems a gimpy knee. It’s because he’s been walking in the middle of the road, all over it actually, and has no idea that there’s a growing stream of cars, people and trucks backed up behind him on this narrow thoroughfare and that he’s forced them to stop now while he ogles our ice creams.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
Yes, we’re sure. This gelato is definitely homemade. We show him the café where we bought it. They have plenty more, we tell him. Tiramisu, one of Jim’s favourites and his choice today. Black chocolate. Something called banoffee. Strawberry sorbetto. Many more.
“They say that, you know,” the man says, “but they just take powder and mix it up.”
They? Who is it he thinks would cut corners like that? No Sifnian of my acquaintance. Certainly not the man who sold us these, who once insisted on calling the friend who makes his apple sorbetto to be 100% certain it was dairy-free.
“Nope,” I say, “this one is homemade,” and I add as punctuation a vigorous lick of my mango sorbet.
“They have Ben and Jerry’s in Apollonia, you know.”
Oh, good grief. I don’t come to Greece to eat American ice cream, I’m about to say but Jim jumps in first.
“Yes, I know,” he says. “That’s why I bought this.” Lick.
“Uh … okay, then.” The man hesitates a moment, then shuffles off boatward.
How long he’s been on the island, I have no idea. But if he’s leaving without noticing that kindness is a way of life here, still fears that Sifnians are out to rip him off, not long enough.
Perhaps next time, he’ll give it more time, will open his heart farther. A gelato after he steps off the boat will be a good place to start.