Looking at this the other day, I realised its been nearly THREE YEARS since my last post!
Why so long?
I've moved from the house I used to live in following the death of my Dear Old Sweet Old Greek Landlady. Anna Eftymiou could hardly speak a word of English, but when her temper went (which was frequently) she quickly became fluent in Anglo Saxon. She also smoked Dunhill cigarettes, despite having severe asthma. Many were the times I would hear her hacking away, followed by the sound of her electric asthma pump firing into action. And, once she'd got a good blast from that, she'd be back on the fags again.
One of her many eccentricities was to respond to smell made by my cooking with garlic (which is a virtual daily occurrence for me) by running round the house claiming their was a gas leak. Apparently, she also hated the tasted of the stuff.
Meals were not included in the rent, but despite this, she had the disconcerting knack of presenting me with huge plates of food at precisely the wrong time. And she would never take no for an answer. Now I rarely eat out, for the simple reason of a, cost and b, the fact that - and I can say this without any arrogance - I can produce a much better vegetarian meal than most (meat) trained chefs can.
One notable exception was the bar at the bottom of my street. They offered a Sunday Lunch for £9.00 with a nut roast and about ten different types of veg - which was nice. And after washing that lot down with a couple of large glasses of their rather decent house red, I waddled home with nothing else on my mind than a decent afternoon nap.
But as I opened the front door, there she stood at the top of the stairs, a large pot held menacingly in her nicotine stained hands. 'Vegetarian!' she screamed. 'Well, actually Anna' I started, but realised resistance was futile. I trooped up the stairs and took a large bowl from the side. Now, Anna was to cooking what Gordon Ramsey is to personal charm.
It think her signature dish must have been developed by the head chef in a concentration camp. It comprised of whole potatoes (mercifully peeled), large carrot chunks and cabbage leaves boiled to within an inch of their lives in water and olive oil.
I would have liked to have said something nice about it, but even I was incapable of lying to that extent. But what she lacked in culinary skills she made up for in the generosity of her portions. Once, in order to get her to give a small amount, I went to the trouble of learning the Greek word for stop - but to no avail. Like a small waterwheel, her ladle circled up from her pan and down into my bowl again and again
Fortunately, I managed to persuade her that I would take this back to my room and eat it. And having got it there, I made plans for its disposal. The solid bits were scooped into one Tupperware box and the liquid into another. Then, after my nap, I discreetly ran down to our kitchen and threw the lot away, ensuring I returned her bowl, washed and clean together with my thanks.
Eventually the Dunhills got her, assisted by her poor English skills and a failure to recognise the need to stick to a course of medication. I remember one afternoon, coming home to find she had spent the last hour struggling to make the 10 foot walk from her bedroom to her bathroom. I suggested calling a doctor, but she was having none of it. Eventually, I put my foot down and said its either the doctor or an ambulance.
Estranged from her family, we here tenants were her only visitors and I would like to think she died realising that for all her faults, we rather liked her. After she went, there was a prolonged legal battle over the house that her brother won. And so, I had to move from a house that was old, crumbling, bitterly cold and filthy in most places, except of course, for my room and the tenant's kitchen which I always kept spotless. The 1930's electrical systems were so bad that one day an engineer threatened to cut us all off. I too, used to imagine that I would return from work one day to find the house a charred shell.
These days its owned by a trendy North London family who have renovated it, including giving it the kind of kitchen that a food blogger like me can only dream of. I now live down the road in a much more modern housing association shared flat. I still pass the house and still look back fondly on the best place I have ever lived in in my life.