2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

On the Island of Plenty There Is Bacon and Marmalade

On the Island of Plenty There Is Bacon and Marmalade

Pancakes and Yogurt in Santorini

Before I got to Santorini, I spent a day in Athens. Stories of debt, corruption and depression were still ringing in my ears. Desperate restaurant owners assailed passersby with compliments, coupons and catcalls. Shopkeepers shouted out deals with a mix of distress and fatigue. Panic swirled around the ancient streets like a phantom.

But in Santorini, forty minutes away by plane, it was often remarked that the place was “too touristy” or “way too crowded.” Gazing out at the ancient cliffs and the cerulean sea, throngs of backpack-ed and Birkenstock-ed tourists at your back, you feel both incredibly close and impossibly far from civilization. Despite the obnoxiousness of selfie sticks and packed local buses, local proprietors welcome the bustle as a necessary irritation.

Evgenia was the manager of a small hotel and the single mother of a 7-year-old son. She welcomed each guest like family, carried brutally heavy suitcases up narrow staircases, and sailed down Santorini’s dirt roads like she owned them, guests in tow. No request was too difficult to accommodate.

Evgenia prepared and delivered breakfast to each guest. Tiny bowls of marmalade, honey, and berry jams were arranged on trays, along with baskets full of freshly made buns and croissants. Evgenia drizzled pancakes with hazelnut spread while hearty slices of bacon crackled on the stovetop and stuffed massive omelets with fresh mushrooms. Greek yogurt was adorned with a dollop of honey.

I recalled that in Athens, I had watched a 46-year-old taxi driver wipe tears from his eyes as he explained the desolation of his personal finances. Another driver spent a few excruciating moments overselling a tour package he put together, then wagged his finger at police cars and shook his head at the government’s lack of accountability. One driver told me that if he lived in Santorini, everything would be fine.

One morning, during breakfast, Evgenia put on Doris Day’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” She glided around the kitchen with Alexandra, a Romanian maid who had been waiting twenty years for a Greek passport. My mother and I sang along; four women bonded by a sun-soaked sky and a nostalgic melody. And we ate. Every morsel eagerly smoothed over jagged edges, every swig of mint iced tea was an ode to the foolishness of luxury. Everything was a solution to a problem that didn’t even get a chance to exist—like a mess dutifully swept under a rug, or a monster crammed into a child’s closet.

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