He wrote, “The scent of fresh herbs and garlic tickled our noses as we entered George and Lara’s villa on the quiet uncluttered beach near Polis, Cyprus. Earlier, when he invited us to dinner, George mentioned they had gathered some “weeds” to eat. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. The kitchen resembled a greenhouse overflowing with a lush garden of fresh wild greens, herbs, vegetables and fungi.
George and his wife Lara, restaurateurs in nearby Paphos, only serve what George describes as real Cypriot cuisine: uncultivated plants gathered from the verdant countryside and seasonal produce along with natural handmade cheeses, breads and quality fish and meats. The types of dishes you would find in a Cypriot village home. “No chips or taramosalata at our taverna,” George mused.
We had bumped into George and Lara several times at our hotel and now here we were: friends and dinner guests. They were on holiday too. Taking a break from waking when the cock crows to hunt and gather for the restaurant.
Coals to Newcastle?
It was probably coals to Newcastle, but we presented our hosts with a couple of bottles of wine from the Vouni Panayia Vineyards in the foothills of Cyprus’ Trodos Mountains. Earlier in the day, we had hiked among the vines planted in the crushed milky white stone and sampled the smooth water-like Alina white. We were anxious for more.
“Thank you,” George said with a devilish grin and handed me a corkscrew.
Small dishes sprouted like mushrooms on the table: Olives marinated in oil and coriander, fresh tomato and celery, slices of bread topped with sesame seeds.
This style of eating is called ‘meze’. It is the traditional method of eating in Cyprus. Small portions of numerous assorted cold and hot dishes are cooked and served based on what is fresh and available that day.
” These are called baby sparrows,” George said, holding a dark green plant. “That’s what the Greek means. In English you call it bladder campion. Sometimes customers get a frightened look on their face because of the name. They think they are eating baby birds.” I understood the name when he stripped the leaves off. They resembled tiny feathers. He then fried them in a skillet with eggs, creating an omelet of sorts….”