Matteo Serri for Essen A Taste Magazine©
Matteo Serriis the photographer of nostalgia, his portraits and landscapes seek for the expression of authencity in every corner, and the resulting feeling captures the warmth and the familiarity, the ghostly presences of those places.
This time we were these ghosts, images of many guests and dinners that were held in the gallery owner’s house, after he moved on an island of the Cyclades.
This Greek island is an unquestionable muse, it enjoys the privileges the sun and the sea, the tradition and the cuisine of its people, who are mostly farmers and shepherds.
German gallery owner, Pascal – this how we are going to name the main character of our photos and interview – has been living on this island for some years, obviously with many trips on the continent and in his city.
He doesn’t want to reveal his name, explaining us that “I am a hardcore privatist (as in anarchist, communist, capitalist, ageist..) I appreciate my privacy and insist on it”.
Pascal’s interest in food started in Berlin, where he started – along with other chef friends – a real food night where people who love cuisine could meet and share words, conviviality and food.
He carries on this cooking tradition on the island and for many people he became famous because of his special dish “keftedakia”, Greek meatballs. Here the meat comes from a local farm, he grows the vegetables in his own garden and the wine comes from his wife’s family vineyards just north of Athens.
He also turned part of his home, one of the most beautiful ones on the island, into an art gallery and culinary meeting place for travelers and friends.
Pascal prepared for us one of the best moscow mule we’ve ever tasted, keftedakia and pasta with garden spices.
Did you ever imagine yourself living on a small Greek island tending to a garden, and 14 cats? I’m asking because it’s a dream for many people to move away from the city to a warm sunny place.
It all started in the early nineties when I went to a small Greek island for the first time.
I was so incredibly struck by the nature, by the unspeakable beauty of the Aegean sea and the simple life. Ok, it was at the end of September and not much was going on there but a naive thought occurred to me and never quite disappeared for the next decade; that if worse comes to worse I will move to one of these paradisiacal islands and become a fisherman.
Well, now 20 years later, I find myself on one of these islands. I’m not a fisherman but I tend to a vegetable garden and have an old house to work on for half of the year. Things have surely changed since twenty years ago but simple life can still be found in rare spots, fishermen are not so admirable anymore since in the summer they wont sell fish to me at a payable price and in the winter they come banging at the door too early in the morning….
Do you ever miss the city life? What about it?
I really don’t remember a period during which I felt I was missing the noise, the buzz and temptations of the big city. It’s always for unpleasant reasons that I go back, mostly tax declarations, renting out the apartment and similar crap (things, endeavours). But of course with it comes the joy of speaking my own language with my dear friends, eating the good old dishes, spending one or two crazy nights, getting some cold and snow. Enjoying the good stuff… Art of course as well (and being able to ignore the bullshit (the cons) in it)
In all though, I guess I have had enough of most of the things a big city can provide. I grew up in the countryside and it calls back on me.
What do you miss about your old life and your city?
The joy of speaking my own language with my dear friends, eat the good old dishes, spending one or two crazy nights ( a pola ), getting some cold and snow. Enjoying the good stuff….. Art of course as well (being able to ignore the bullshit in it)
I guess I have had enough of most of the things a big city can provide. I grew up in the countryside and it calls back on me.
And Greek country life?
I enjoy growing vegetables and teaching the cats not to take a crap (destroy) in the garden.
I enjoy harvesting my vegetables from early on in the summer, going to my kitchen and cooking with all the good stuff, like meat from the neighbour’s cattle, local pork and then sharing it with friends. It is also great to have some good art in the house, that gives me a lot. Getting up with the sun in the morning, hopping on a tractor for the grape harvest in the Autumn and a bit later in the year shaking the olive trees just like I did it as a boy in grandpa’s garden to get these big juicy plums …
It’s all challenging and rewarding at the same time, just the perfect ingredients and recipes my life needs.
Your true pleasures of life
Langada, Amorgos. The Sea is ladi, Meltemi over, flowers in all colours, no noises except from the birds and the laptop .
Here the recipes:
Meatballs with a choice of the day veggies from the organic garden under the Greek sun
500 g minced meat from veal
1 big red or better yellow onion
old white bread without the crust soaked in milk (water is fine too)
Fine olive oil
4 biggish tomatoes
4 green peppers
1 small chilly
2 small onions
olive oil (the best you have)
fresh garden mint
HOW TO DO
Heat water to boil in a pot. Put the tomatoes for a short moment into the boiling water. This will make it easy to remove the skin from the fruit. Cut the tomatoes in small pieces. Cut the peppers in four parts, remove the stem and the seeds.
Heat olive oil in a pot, add one or two crushed garlic gloves for a few minutes (don’t burn the garlic, it gets bitter).
Then add the peppers and the tomatoes, the chilly and the whole onions. Put just enough salt. Let it simmer until the peppers are soft. That will take about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the fire and add some mint leaves.
In the meantime mix the minced meat with the now softened bread after you have squeezed the milk/water out. Add salt (not too much since the capers I use are salty), pepper, thyme flowers and chopped capers (lets say about 20). Add the onions which are chopped in small pieces and browned in olive oil before.
Mix well and form smallish meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a splash of olive oil in a pan. Depending on the size of the meatball it will take about 3-5 minutes on each side.
Put the meatballs on a plate, pour the tomato/pepper mix over it and add feta cubes and sprinkle them with fresh marjoram and olive oil.
500g pasta of your choice (spaghetti, linguine or similar)
250g minced veal
4 biggish fresh peeled tomatoes
1 glove garlic
salt, pepper or chilly
HOW TO DO
Heat olive oil in a skillet, add chopped onion and sliced garlic, let it melt. remove from the skillet and put aside. Fry the minced meat in a splash of olive oil for a few minutes stir well until it starts browning. Add salt and pepper or chilly, add the onions/garlic, the chopped tomatoes and a branch of rosemary. Don’t use sugar to soften the acid if your tomatoes are sweet and fruity! It will get too sweet and you might only use it as a dessert… If you like, add a little olive oil and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime you have cooked the pasta al dente. Mix the pasta with the sauce in a large bowl and add fresh basil leaves.
2 big juicy cucumbers (about 700g each): it will give you about 0.7 litres of juice
Vodka of your choice(in brand and quantity)
HOW TO DO
Peel the cucumbers, cut in small pieces and put it in a blender.
Pour the juice in a jar and let it sit for a while. Take the foam off and pour the juice through a sieve. Add a splash of lemon juice.
Mix in a shaker with ice cubes, 2 parts of the juice and 1 part Vodka (or less if you have to be social after your drink).
Pour the cocktail in a nice glass and garnish with some fresh mint leaves.
It is a very refreshing sunset drink if ice cold !