The Friendly Skies (+ a spicy whipped feta recipe)

mise en place


Friends:

I love the term oxymoron.  I guess it’s the second part of the word that I find amusing. Here are a few examples: jumbo shrimp, quality assurance, unconditional guarantee, bipartisan legislation, and extra legroom. The last one is high on my list.

Claudia and I have just returned from spending 10 amazing days in Greece. This was her second trip there and my first with almost all the time spent in Athens. When we travel we tend to plop ourselves down in big cities without much of an agenda and try and take in as much of its flavor as we can. This we most assuredly did despite the airline desperately trying to spoil the allure. I am not going to turn this into a rant about the state of air travel, although I easily could. I want to talk about meaning what you say” and doing what you promise.”

We are awash in false claims, exaggerated promises, and unfulfilled expectations. We are bombarded visually and on the airways with pictures and words that offer us unqualified enjoyment, physical enhancement, and unselfish representation. I challenge you to name five products, services, or policies, that measure up to those expectations.

I have to assume that those who are selling their stuff, whether it is a product, a service, or a person, are betting that we are either stupid and truly believe what they say or that we instinctively know it is an exaggeration so it makes no difference what the message is.

We are being forced to accept what comes at us because there is no easy recourse given that we have little or no choice in product or service selection. Spend much time talking to a nonperson on the phone telling us the menu has changed and to please hold as our call is important to them and see where that gets you. When was the last time a complaint improved anything except the relief from venting your spleen?

Positive online reviews can now be purchased and negative ones can be removed for a price so you can no longer trust what you read. As a previous business owner, I received multiple offers like that each day, so now you can buy the mirage of excellence.

So what to do? We can stick our heads out the window like in the movie and scream ‘I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore” or, we can choose not to buy or go, and do without the things we want. Think that will teach them a lesson? It seems we lose either way.

I suggest a different course. Find one or more of the above-suggested five products, services, or people who do what they say and support them even though it may cost more and demand more effort on your part. Excellence, sincerity, and quality usually do. Let the marketplace reward those who truly deserve it.

Be creative and focused as to your vacation plans, purchases, and services. Sacrifice immediate gratification (especially if it is less gratifying) and save up for something better later. Teach yourself a new skill that takes the place of a mediocre experience or service and ask hard questions of people wanting your support. Don’t just do without to spite them, do better without them.

I have learned firsthand that consistency and honesty come with hard work so please reward it. Quality comes with a price so buy less but better, and promises kept are uniquely satisfying, so return the loyalty. There are indeed products, people, and services in our community that measure up. If they are supported they will not only succeed but become the standard for new enterprises to emulate. Quality and honesty promote the same.

We may not be able to force major corporations (and airlines) to alter their morals or business models in the short run, but we can affect our local marketplace and even our politics.


FOOD

As I said, Claud and I did manage to make it back from Athens. I describe it as a mixture of Rome, Istanbul, and NYC. It has the accessible history of Rome, the cultural uniqueness of Istanbul, and the urban buzz of NYC, and the food is great. One of the most popular recipes at REPUBLIC was our take on a spicy feta spread. We sampled some in the place of origin. It was delicious and Claud gave me a sly head nod as to say, “ Well, Ed, it may just be a bit better than yours.” I disagreed as a matter of course, but I must say, it was damn good. So here is the challenge. Make mine, then get yourself to Athens. Order it just about anywhere, and then give me your verdict.

Talk soon (or drop me a line) edandclaud@gmail.com

Edward


In a food processor place:

  • 4 cups crumbled feta (drained)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup of chopped roasted red peppers (jarred is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (hot pepper paste, available locally)
  • 1/4 cup, extra virgin olive oil (use the good one you received as a gift just sitting in your pantry)

Blend while slowly adding the extra virgin olive oil. Serve with toasted pita chips.