Bread and wine above and San Marcos below
Struck by the words of Psalm 5 in the Daily Office, "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation," I sipped my cappacino and set forth my hopes for the day. In the quiet corner of the boarding area of the Venice airpot, I gave thanks for my wonderful sojourn in Italy and looked forward to meeting my sister, Joanie, in Athens. We planned to travel together to Paros for the last of my cooking adventures.
The stay in Venice had given me several great memoires and insights. I was elated to finally see this infamous city and enjoyed being windblown as I stood in the back of the water taxi on my way down the Grand Canal, dodging slower water buses and emerging gondolas as they came from small channels just waiting to be explored. Venice is nothing short of romantic. Dueling little orchestras playing danceable oldies on the huge San Marcos Plaza, lovers cuddled together for private gondola rides, quiet canal-side eateries everywhere you turn.
Sitting alone at one such place I was aware that I longed for a dinner companion. (companion from com=with; and pan=bread, thus someone to break bread with). The first cooking schools featured preparing meals to eat together. Loads of fun exploring new tastes and textures, then talking about them together. The school in Florence was much more about professional preparation of food for guests and not so much about sharing the good food together. Eating there was more of a stand up affair in the kitchen before rushing off to something else. Then several days eating alone. So I found myself on more than one occasion in Venice mentally fast forwarding to being with Joanie and to making plans for my return home.
The bascilica of San Marcos is an amazing edifice, an imposing building the dominates the busy plaze that must be the size of several football fields, filled with music, crowds, hawkers of souvenirs and children feeding and chasing pigeons and the occasional out-of-place gull. The inside tour of the church is not to be missed. Even in the dim lighting, the gold mosaics of holy events and people take your breath away. Unfortunately, the mosaics are only lighted on Sunday and Sunday the place had been closed for a private event. So I contented myself with the view at hand. Seeing the plaza below from my perch on the outdoor gallery gave me a new perspective on the bells which are struck by ancient robots, on the size and busyness of the plaza , on the layout of the Grand Canal. And yet for all these good things, I was ready to move on to the next thing.
The flights to Rome and Athens were right on time and then things began to go awry. The afternoon flight to Paros had been cancelled. Apparently Joanie had received word in the States and made connections for an earlier flight. But there I was stuck in Athens and the alternative ferry was not running due to high seas.
Frustrated, teary, tired and aggravated, I struggled to keep my composure and go with the flow. Hadn't I begun with the idea that travel is an adventure? Stilll, having to go to 4 different places and get 3 different forms to locate my luggage and then taking 45 minutes on a bus trip to the hotel was not anywhere in the plans I had prayed in the morning.
It's amazing how a shower, lunch on a balcony overlooking the sea, an email from Joanie and a call to Paros began to let my perspective change. I really had no control over these events and I might as well quit pouting and find something good here. The sunset was every bit as golden as the Greek travel brochures promised; the cocktail with a friendly French couple on holiday was relaxing, despite the challenge of their limited English and my even more limited French; and the buffet of Greek delectables was comfort food of a whole new kind.
But perhaps the best was running into the executive chef in the hallway after dinner. When I complimented him on the wonderful menu, he stopped his errand and just stood to visit for a time. He spoke of his joy and the hard work in this vocation, of his love of Mediteranean cuisine, how God had blessed this area with oranges--round like the world; with olives and grapes in abundance; the sight and smell of the best vegetables. He wondered how with all these beautiful things that Jews, Christians and Muslims could fight. Why not just eat?
When I asked how he began to cook, he blamed it all on his grandmother. Despite protests of the family, she insisted that they all go to Church every Sunday. Afterward the whole family gathered at her home for dinner for what she pointed out was their second union with God: first at church, then with family. He had spent his lifetime trying to re-create for others the ambience and the delectable flavors and aromas of his grandma's kitchen.
And maybe that is what I most needed to hear/learn. That this whole cooking adventure is based on my deep longing that people everywhere would all have time to enjoy union with God and with one another with bread to break, wine to pour and an abundance of food to be shared; that we all may taste and see that the Lord is good, even when our best laid plans are put on hold for a time. God willing I'll be in Paros in time today to enjoy lunch with Joanie and to see the sights of another wonderful part of this world.