When I think of feta cheese, I think of you. You used to bring feta cheese sandwiches to school in an old Killinchy Gold ice-cream box.
It’s your 30th birthday today. That means we’ve known each other for more than half our lives! I’m so glad you asked me to wag school with you that day and go up to the shops to smoke cigs, even though I didn’t smoke and I was so proud when you finally managed to give up, especially since the reason was “because you didn’t want to end up one of those haggy old smoker grannies.”
Haven’t we done a lot of good eatin’ together? Bananas dipped in yoghurt when we were supposed to be going to the gym, chewy bagels when I visited you working part-time at Wofem Bagels during your year of culinary school. When we were depressed, pasta doused in butter and blanketed with cheese with glasses of vodka for dinner, in bed, and in the morning, we’d yell “cup of TEAAAA!” The winner was she who could hold out the longest and was rewarded with the tea, in bed, while the other got cold feet making it and that was all before we even knew how to cook, before we really knew how to eat.
We drank teeth-achingly sweet Vietnamese coffee and offered our mystery-meat noodles to the betel-nut chewing granny – whose red teeth filled us with horror until we realised it wasn’t blood – in the train bunk below us in Vietnam. For portable snacks we replaced sure-to-melt-in-the-tropical-heat chocolate with sesame and peanut brittle which, in hindsight, has cost me a fortune in fillings, dammit.
In Japan, we had to try and back out gracefully when we neglected to tell our host we were vegetarian (I cringe to recall our youthful thoughtlessness) and she served us beef.
In Melbourne we ate yoghurt as thick as custard and murmured “custy” to ourselves under our gluggy breath and saw some breakdancers dancing in the middle of the week.
Much later in London, you welcomed me with a roast lamb at Easter and we ate English bangers on Sausage Sundays while you risked the ire of your flatmates by letting me stay for weeks on end.
Remember your African birthday when we all lined up on the bank of a waterfall opposite where you were sitting watching us, and we all leapt in, one by one, shouting “Happy Birthday Anna”? We ate Moroccan omelette and tagine later, rolling bits of bread up in our fingers to mop up the sauce.
During Thailympics day, we raced the crab walk and you won, we did sumo and I won, then we fortified ourselves post-race with mounds of somtum and fried chicken. We used the Seven Eleven as our fridge in the muggy tropical heat and visited dozens of times a day.
Then there was Austrian Christmas when you flew all the way across the world to relieve my homesickness and you made sticky buns for breakfast on the morning of my birthday. You introduced me to cucumbery Hendricks gin: it’s my favourite now.
You’re the best person to have around on a birthday bar none; you do the countdown beforehand, make a fuss on the day and organise everyone else so they’ll make a fuss too. You remind me every hour that “It’s your birthday!”
We’ve never been to Greece together but I hope we go someday, there’s lots of cheese, just like you like. Here’s the salad we’ll eat for lunch.
Happy Birthday Anna, it’s your birthday! Here’s to another 60 years of good eatin’.
Love Sasa xox
I know people, a bit of a self-indulgent post today but if you made it this far – tell me about your best friend.
F. and I had this salad nearly every day on our Greek holiday. While I have often made a version of this at home with everything – including the cheese – diced, the dried oregano that gets sprinkled over the cheese and the way the cheese is served as a block seems to be the most common way to serve it in Greece. This should serve 2, with bread, as a light lunch or 4 as a side salad.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper in a grinder
100 grams feta cheese
Half a cucumber, diced
1/2 small red onion, sliced paper thin
4 tomatoes, diced
8 Kalamata olives
Put the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a jar and shake to make a dressing. Toss the cucumber, tomato, olives and onion in the dressing. Top with the feta cheese, sprinkle the cheese with dried oregano and serve with bread.