Before I lived in Greece, I was trim, sprightly. I could look down, see my feet. My belly was flat. When I breathed in, I could feel my navel flapping on my backbone. If I showered, I would need to keep moving to get wet. Those were the days.
Debbie, my Greek mother-in-law, began my transition. She would cook huge amounts of scrumptious food, glistening stuffed tomatoes covered in golden olive oil straight from the wood oven. Giant tiropitas with rich creamy feta cheese and crispy golden filo pastry, Greek salads served in washing up bowls with litres of oil, slabs of feta and oregano sprinkled over the top. A shoal of char-grilled red mullet followed this, calamari fried to perfection with a few buckets of fried potatoes.
She would watch me with a concerned look as I ate.
“You are not hungry?” She would ask after my third loaded plate. “Eat something, you have eaten nothing,” she would complain as she loaded up another plate and put it in front of me.
I would feel my belt tightening. Sweat would appear on my top lip as I tried to please her and eat all offered. But I could never win. Debbie would always walk away, sadly shaking her head, disappointed that “I had eaten nothing”. Then return with a large cream cake with strawberries on top, a giant tray of baklava and a bucket of yogurt covered with a kilo of honey to “help me digest”
By the time we arrived in our village home, I knew it was impossible to satisfy a Greek mother. I could have eaten the five offered plates, the entire baklava, consumed the table, legs and all. She would still walk away, sadly claiming I had eaten nothing.
My waistline had increased so much, I gave up wearing trousers in favour of elasticised joggers. This was because every time I wore trousers, they had shrunk a little more and the belt needed a new hole. I was finding my shower needed more water, and every time I got into the bath, I would flood the floor with the resulting tidal wave.
A Greek taverna would be different. I could just order what I wanted to eat. The problem was, another Greek mother ran and owned our local taverna. We would go for lunch. She would pile food onto the table without ordering. Lunch would turn into dinner as the Greek mother would sit watching me with a disappointed look as I munched my way through the offerings in a vain hope I wouldn’t offend her. But it always ended with the immortal phrase used by all Greek mothers:
“Why you have eaten nothing? You don’t like my food?”