Notvorrat für würzige Ferien (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr hotel revue vom 21.05.2015)
Only one thing is a hundred percent certain. That you’ll forget something you need. And you won’t realise what you’ve forgotten – iPad, extra credit card, keys to the holiday villa – until you’re halfway to the airport, necessitating split-second decision-making. Is it more cost-effective to race home, pick the thing up and miss your flight, or to forge on to your destination, arrive on time, and then try to find a local locksmith willing to answer a call-out on a Sunday?
As we get older, so we get slower: our bodies, our memories. Last week, feeling about a hundred years old after a tough few weeks at work, I sat dazedly in a taxi on the way to Berlin Tegel. I mentally ran through the essentials and – for once – actually believed I had them all. Passport, check! Phone recharger, check! Credit cards, change, suitable shoes: check-check-check! My false security lasted for hours, as I lay half-comatose in the back row of an Aegean Boeing, staring out at clouds towering like ancient marble pillars.
In fact, my clapped-out memory didn’t have the ‘Oh My God’ moment until I was well on my way into Athens, tawny hills and olive trees flashing by, a warm wind whipping my hair into a birds-nest, and the taxi driver with melting brown eyes and limited geographical knowledge asking where I was born. ‘New Zealand’ (met with a melting blank stare) became ‘Close to Australia’, which became ‘South Pacific’. After that it was a hop, skip and jump to ‘Asia’, leading to ‘Asian food’ (lunch on the plane had been meagre), leading to ‘sushi’ and ‘wasabi’ – leading to me sitting bolt upright in dismay. I’d finally remembered what I’d forgotten.
Anyone familiar with this column will know I have a longstanding love affair with Greece, where men are the right mix of melting and macho, where the air is silkier and the yoghurt creamier; where tomatoes really do taste like tomatoes and you think ‘How wonderful!’… until… until…
For this is the fly in the ointment, the hitch in my ever-hopeful plans to keep missing planes home and stay in Greece forever. Greek cuisine, let’s face it, can become a little monotonous. After marvelling over moussaka, drooling over dolmades and relishing a hundred spectacular tomatoes for a while, suddenly I find myself pining for spice. As the hundred-and-first wonderful tomato hits my plate, I’m dying for an intravenous chilli shot. A zingy burst of lemongrass, an eye-watering hit of wasabi –but above all a long, slow, syrupy drizzle of black-gold soy.
Thus, like a fussy octogenarian who travels with special dietary needs, I’ve started bringing Kikkoman sauce to Greece. Crazy, I know, but it’s better than ending my holiday staring at luscious stuffed peppers with something close to hatred. With Kikkoman in my bag, I’m a happy holidayer. Without it? I’m sitting wild-eyed in a taxi, desperately asking the geographically challenged taxi driver if he knows any Asian foodstores in Athens and promising him an outrageously large tip if he’ll take me there, pronto.