During the late afternoon on our last day in Chania, I walked with three friends across town along the cobbled roads in search of a vegetarian restaurant whose existence was rumored near our hotel. I loved Greek salad and spanakopita, but after nine days in the country I was beginning to realize that their menus reflected the fact that not many Greeks were familiar with vegetarianism. Walking along the harbor, we turned onto the street adjacent to our hotel, greeted by a cheerful yellow and red sign that read “To Stachi: Bio Slow Food.”
The small restaurant was across from a section of the Cretan harbor on an empty street, with red checkered tablecloths spread outside. Inside, a smiling man with a white, bushy beard greeted us in Greek. He brought us outside and set our table, but there were no menus in his hands. “Let me bring you some fresh bread from the oven, and tell you what I have prepared today,” he said. “You can come inside and see the dishes in my kitchen, too.” Four young American girls in Greece, we were astonished at his warmth. Beaming, we followed him into his small kitchen, where he described in broken English the Cretan vegan dishes he had prepared for the day. Upon seeing our surprise, he brought samples of each dish to our table and waited for us to decide upon a few.
When he took our order of giant beans, gluten-free pasta, lemon rice, and a zucchini dish, he stopped and asked, like many, what brought us to Crete. Vacation? No, we explained, we were history students on a study trip. “Ah, good,” he said. “I bring this food to you to show you what I make in my home. This is how we live–monuments are important, but there is more to Crete than just the monuments.” When a breeze started to blow, he brought us soup to warm us. Moved by this man’s simple kindness, we nodded and enjoyed the best meal of the entire trip. The food was made of love. When we invited him to dine with us, he laughed and declined, explaining that he himself had two daughters and he knew that they liked to be alone with their girlfriends. His attitude towards us was paternal and warm. It was Shira’s birthday, so he brought us out two desserts. One was a sweet raisin bread sans animal products or sugar, and the other was a custard-like cake with softened orange peels.
“This is my son,” he said, introducing the softspoken young man who had been serving us. “He tasted no animal, no bird, no meat…” Noting his pride in his nonviolent lifestyle, I asked him what sparked him to become vegetarian. The question is one that I often struggle to answer, but in his broken English this restaurant owner produced a response more eloquent than I have ever been able to. “Everyone has different reasons,” he explained, “for health, for animals, for the earth. But I believe all these reasons. When you go to an animal to cause it pain and hear an animal cry, you would never want to hurt it again.” He talked for a long time, gently and eloquently about his choices as a good Christian and as a member of the earth to lead a nonviolent life. I was touched almost to the point of tears. We all shook his hand and signed his guestbook, filled with tens of languages and many good wishes, and walked back to our hotel where we would sleep for the last night in Chania.
(To Stachi- first view)
(In the kitchen)