King Cake

Disco Will Never Die

August 31, 2014

A few weeks ago I got a call from a beloved New Orleanian, Anais St. John, a seductive, talented Jazz vocalist whom I first heard singing at the Windsor Court bar (I remember a song about a dentist named Dr. Long John “drilling for cavities”). She was calling to tell me about a Donna Summer show she was doing during Labor Day Weekend in New Orleans. I wanted to ask “Donna who?” but didn’t dare. Don’t blame me. I was born in the late 70s and was raised in Europe. Coincidentally, when this call came in, I was in the car in Tennessee between Memphis and Nashville with a man from Kentucky driving, a man who loves Donna Summer and had just started playing a song of hers.

I took this as a sign from the universe that I needed to attend that show. So I spent last night at Allways Theatre in the lower Marigny watching Anais become Donna Summer. The first thing I realized is that while I didn’t know the name, I knew the music of the “Queen of disco.” The second thing I realized is that my husband knows all the words to every Donna Summer song. And the third thing I realized is that the evening was quintessentially New Orleans. This was not karaoke. I was listening to Donna Summer music played by a full band involving keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, saxophone, two vocalists, and two dancers. An analog version of electronic music performed in the digital age – performed perfectly.

Anais’ three costumes were perfectly disco. She started out in a long-sleeved gold lame deep v-neck dress and bright green eyeshadow. Switched to a sleevless black sequined dress cut even lower, and ended as to be expected in tight black pants and a sparkling gold top (an outfit that at least a few women in the crowd were wearing).

Anais was the perfect impersonation of Donna Summer, and described herself as having much in common with LaDonna Adrian Gaines: “We are both chocolate; both tall; we both have big hair. We both married white men, have a background in musical theater, and a flair for the dramatic.” Indeed!

It was an amazing evening. If I could, I would go back tonight. Summer’s songs are still playing in my head, reminding me of a few key life truths:

  • Sometimes, enough is enough is enough.
  • Love to love the one you love.
  • When all else fails, just dance the night away.
  • Don’t ever stop listening to the radio.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Bad girls are sometimes good girls.
  • Treat everyone with kindness because everyone is working hard for their money.
  • And disco will never die …

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Variations On The Greek Salad

July 20, 2014

Bourou (Photo by: Ada Polla) Bourou

A couple of years ago I wrote about the perfect Greek salad – having tasted at least one per day during my 10 days in Greece.

This year, after another 10 days in Greece, I have come to appreciate the finer differences in how each island, each village, even each Taverna (restaurant) makes it with their own twist.

Dynos in Kardiani (Photo by: Ada Polla) Dynos in Kardiani

While the core ingredients remain the same, namely tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, feta, olive oil, oregano and salt, the below variations will give you ideas about how to change it up if you feel the need to deviate from the classic.

Lefkes Taverna, Triandaros, Tinos.

They like to add green olives.

Bourou Taverna, Kionia Beach, Tinos

This is probably my favorite version, I had it four times while there. They add capers, olives (green and black), olive tapenade, and delicious, sweet seaweed. Also, their peppers are often orange instead of (and in addition to) green.

(Photo by: Ada Polla)

From the town (Tinos), Tinos

I can’t remember the name of this restaurant, but it is one of the best if you want to feel the energy of town. They add black olives, and delicious banana peppers.

Dynos Taverna, Kardiani, Tinos

I learned of the possibility of having the feta on the side from my Greek friend Marco (native of the village of Kardiani). For some reason he likes it better that way – as apparently is typical in this village.

Heraklion, Crete

Here, they call the “Greek salad” a “Cretan salad.” A couple things were different. First, the cucumbers are cut in round slices instead of quartered and the feta was cubed – not that it makes a taste difference, but it looks different. Also, for the first time I saw croutons in the salad. Hard, brown bread croutons made mushy by being soaked in olive oil. Delicious!

And now, to go try and replicate this in my own kitchecn …



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Tinos, It's Good For the Soul

July 14, 2014

After a week in Tinos, I feel like a new person. Someone healthier, more rested, calmer, someone with more breathing room. It may be all of the fresh Greek salads, and the swimming in the sea, but I think there is more to it… Tinos is good for my soul.

Time spent outside is good for the soul. Reading outside; eating outside; having cocktail hour outside. How can I implement this back in DC? More outdoor furniture; discipline to walk down three flights of stairs to the side yard for my morning coffee…

Time spent in the clear, cold, salty sea is good for the soul – and the body. Something about the cold invigorates me. At my favorite beach, I am often alone in the water, and that solitude among the waves is magical.

Time with the data on my phone turned off is good for the soul. I check emails when I choose to, not when I can or because I am addicted to the device; I must try this type of digital detox in DC, even if for just a couple of hours.

Simplicity is good for the soul. Simplicity such as a small house that has exactly everything you need in it, and not one thing more; 6 Tinos glasses, 6 and no more because you won’t ever need more; no TV, radio, internet, because the entertainment comes from books (and books there are…) and looking at the view from the terrace.

Doing things  “the old fashioned way” is good for the soul.  For example, drying clothes on a clothesline, rather than in a dryer, is somehow soothing, more environmentally friendly, and better for the clothes. And they end up smelling like sunshine.

Using “old” things is good for the soul. I love making coffee in the old-stlyle coffee maker that probably belonged to my grandmother; I love the old, somewhat ragged beach towels that have been here ever since I have been coming to Tinos, that still “work” perfectly. Somehow with age these belongings have taken on more meaning through history, I have grown attached to them. Who needs the latest and greatest all the time?

Eating local is good for the soul – and for the palate. For the soul, it reminds one of where everything comes from, and of the circle of life. A farmer plants a tomato plant. Tomatoes grow. Next door, a restaurant serves those tomatoes to happy American tourists. Such is the very simple circle of life.

Singing out loud is good for the soul – I have heard more men sing while working here than I ever have. It started with our cab driver from the Athens airport to the port. The radio station was on, Greek songs, of course, and twice during the 40-minute cab ride, he sang to those songs. Loudly and happily, no humming there. It was beautiful. It reminded me that the smallest things can change someone’s day, someone’s mood.

Church bells are good for the soul – no matter the church. The first time I hear them during this trip is at 8:45 pm Saturday evening on our terrace, for no apparent reason. Perhaps they are just there to remind us of the higher powers that watch over us.

Silence is good for the soul. This may be the most significant luxury of our time here. Sitting in our terrace, no matter the day of the week or the time of day, it is quiet enough to hear the wind rustle through the leaves; hear the birds chirp; hear nothing… It is so quiet that we all wonder at the lone car that drives on the single village road, once in a long while.

Tinos, it’s good for the soul.

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