This was no ordinary priest. Not one whose voice resonated in incense filled churches. Not one to confess to. Not one to ask to marry, baptise, nor bury you.
Tou Papa, The Priest’s Place, is the other side of Tripolis. My father had spoken of him with reverence as with all priests, and with some eagerness for us to meet him. We set off in the car from Kakouri and drove through Tripolis after 20 minutes of straight road and passed many churches. Then the same road exited Tripolis after the three squares and we continued until we turned right into a maize field. The maize was high with yellow inflorescence in the late summer evening light. It was to be an early dinner at 9 p.m.!
Tou Papa lay like a hacienda when viewed from the maize field. The gravel parking area had been crunched by a few cars that were standing already. To the right his sheep were grazing in an open field, and to the left was a large vegetable patch. We parked, and walked across the gravel. Cicadas quiet and crickets not yet chirping.
The front veranda had chairs and tables on it, more so than for a priest’s house. Come to think of it, there were more cars that there would be a Sunday’s Liturgy in Kakouri. Granted, most people walked to church in Kakouri. It’s not that big.
And inside there were people seated in the restaurant. An older lady and a younger man were taking orders, and delivering house wine in carafes, village bread in baskets and mezze on thick white plates. The tables were all square, covered with white tablecloths protected by white wax paper. Small village glasses for wine, no balloons. No clowns either. The smell of fresh bread and cooked beans and yellow roast potatoes had me salivating even before the roast lamb and grilled souvlakia (kebabs) came out.
We sat and waited for bread, wine and mezze. The other tables around us were filled with older people and younger families with children. There was a quiet buzz, a bit less noise than one would expect in a Greek tavern. Certainly, there were no expletives emanating from the kitchen or serving staff. Even later, when a few tables filled up with hip youngsters in designer clothes, it remained subdued.
The priest received special dispensation from the Archbishop to open a restaurant. His passion was cooking, and as a farmer he had produce to use like generations before would have done. The archbishop placed two limitations on him. One, he was not allowed to open on Sundays; and two, he had to confine himself to the kitchen, and could not come to the open area and mingle with clients.
So my father took us off to meet him in the kitchen. Greeks are like that. Rules, even religious rules, are just guidelines.