Elaine's Patsa

PatsaWe decide to eat in Metropolis. Elaine had heard that Tiris' restaurant has patsa which is a soup made of the intestines of a pig or a sheep or whatever unlucky animal happens to be around. Elaine loves it but says it's important that it is prepared in a very clean place. If it's not as clean as a hospital that's where you might end up. I suppose you could compare it to those Japanese scorpion fish that if not cleaned perfectly are deadly poisonous and if a customer dies, the cook is expected to commit hari-kari. I've had a few experiences with patsa, all of them I was too drunk to know right from wrong. It's considered working-class food and there are two, well known patsa restaurants in the meat market in Athens. For a time they were the only establishments permitted to be open after two in the morning. When the clubs and bars would close, people would flock to the patsa places to continue the evening. Bejeweled women in tight dresses and pretty boys from the discos sat next to butchers whose aprons were splattered with blood. For awhile patsa was hip as all the young aristocrats from Kolonaki stood in line for a seat so they could eat what we used to call "shit-soup," which is what it tasted and smelled like to us. In fact, if it was not made carefully that's what it was. Before long Patsadidikos popped up everywhere. There were even signs a restaurant could buy that said "WE SERVE PATSA." If placed in the window the restaurant could stay open all night. I thought of opening one in Kolonaki and a few in Mykonos. How far would the trendy status-seeking young Greek yuppies go? If eating shit became fashionable would they do it?

So tonight's dinner plans hinge upon the availability of Elaine's patsa. There is a rumor going around Paralia that it's going fast and there are only two orders left, so Elaine, with the help of Anastasia's mother, phones Tiri's and reserves a bowl for herself. It is imperative that we leave soon or the horrible soup risked evaporation, or should they take it off the stove, congealment, turning it into a sticky fat paste that no self-respecting patsa lover would dare to eat.

Elaine and Andrea stand up to leave the bar, for their appointment with the tripe. "You have to come with us because neither of us have the strength to push Amarandi's stroller up the hill." They tell me. I start to get up but realize that the thought of a steaming bowl of intestines would be inspiration enough to get all three of them up to the top and not enough to get me out of my chair. I order another ouzo for myself and a gin for Kosta Monemos and we work on our plan to flood the American market with Kefalohori carob pods.

After awhile I suggest we start towards Metropolis. My brother James is rebellious. "We'll go when we are ready. I don't see why we should hurry and let Elaine's obsession with Patsa influence our eating schedule." He says. He's right in a way and I continue talking to some Montreal Kalohoritisa girls who were thinking of moving to Greece forever. But my heart isn't into the conversation. All I can think about is the trouble I will be in when I arrive an hour late for dinner. I try again, this time targeting Mitch whose willpower is weakening with every setback to his plan to leave Kalohori. He is now a shell of himself and is easily convinced to begin the journey to Metropolis. James and Joan look uncertainly at each other and fall into step. The rebellion is over.

When we get to Metropolis we are met at the top of the hill by Andrea. They have a table at Tiris but have yet to be served. The place is a madhouse and half the people there are watching the Greece-Australia game and could give a crap about patsa. We decide to eat at Boney Maroney's, partly because I feel guilty about our last meal there when I had run from the restaurant after Andrea's sneak attack. I feel I owe it to Lula to eat there at least once this summer. Surprisingly there is no argument from Andrea with the only stipulation being that I take Amarandi with me, which I do. It's a good thing too because for the forty-five minutes it takes to order and eat she is our only entertainment. I look around and the place is filled with large parties of Greek-Canadians waiting for their meat and potatoes, and drinking Pepsi, each one with a bowl of patsa! I can't believe it. Elaine is suffering across the road, in the crowded sweltering hellhole, fighting for the dregs, while here the patsa is flowing freely.

"God bless your hands, Lula!" they toast the creator of the magical soup that is filling them with joy. I realize that just as Sunday was Revithia day in Sifnos and everyone ceremoniously ate the delicious chickpea stew, in Kalohori, Saturday is the traditional patsa night. Afterwards, drunk and full of the fortifying innards soup they will go to the disco and dance til five in the morning, continuing to toast Lula with glasses of whisky at $75 a bottle, mixed with Coca-Cola.

I explain what is happening for the benefit of Mitch, James and Joan but when Lula eventually comes to take our order not one of us has been inspired enough by my talk about patsa to order it. She shakes her head sadly and returns to the kitchen. Amarandi is screaming for her mother so I walk across the street to deliver her. To my surprise they are eating with Panayotis the kefalo fisherman and Maria, my secret lover. What a shame I've already ordered my dinner. This would have been fun. Even her husband is there, engrossed in the game. How much does he know? I can go back and listen to James' tales of his exciting journey through the Morea, or I can play double-agent until I get drunk and careless, blowing the whole affair sky high. It's a tough choice but when I realize the entire conversation is Elaine raving about her patsa and telling stories of other memorable bowls, there is no point in hanging around. I return to Lula's to find that Mitch had ordered a beer and James and Joan are drinking water. I leave them for five minutes and they fall apart. I flag down a waiter and order some retsina. Mitch orders kalamaraki which comes fried to the consistency of pork rinds. I have a mini-kokoretsi which is a dry alternative to patsa. James and Joan daringly order souvlaki and a Greek salad. If it hadn't been for the basketball game it would have been the most boring meal of the summer. I make up my mind that never again will I eat without Elaine and Andrea. I've grown use to the high level of entertainment our arguing provides. I'm hooked, like a junkie. From wondering how I would survive a month in Kalohori with Elaine, I wonder if I can survive without her. Even the thought of Jack and Sue's return offers little consolation. Sure for the first few days we will laugh at all the funny things Elaine said. All the stupid arguments we had. But when the stories run out, then what? Maybe we'll end up like Mitch and I, talking baseball over a late-night beer at the bar while Sue and Andrea trade recipes. Amarandi will watch the arrival of each dolphin, wishing for her yaya's return. It makes me sad just to think about it. I make up my mind not to bicker and argue with Andrea anymore. I want to save my best for this last week with Elaine.

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Athens Survival Guide

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