Nelly tells me that Nikos (her son, who fishes) caught them. They drape over a high metal bar (like the top of an old-fashioned swing) under the burning sun. Yiannis (Nelly’s other son) elaborates: they must hang to dry for about 30 hours before they are ready to grill. Nikos will do it simply with oil and lemon. He is in charge of cooking all the fish he catches. Otherwise Nelly is the boss.
Nelly says the octopus will be ready to eat tomorrow lunchtime; some will be grilled and served in vinegar, some will be dished up with a small pasta like macaroni (I think it’s makaronaki). Meanwhile, she is preparing other Greek fare, like dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and pastitsio, as well as small bites for breakfast – milk pie, to be cut into custardy squares (galaktoboureko) and Cretan cheese pastries (kalitsounia).
I ask Nelly if she was taught to cook by her mother or possibly her grandmother, assuming this is the way of things here as it is all over, but I’m unaware that I’m clumsily stumbling into a deeply personal matter.
Yiannis looks at Nelly, and then turns towards me. He explains that his mother was only twelve when her own mother died. Nelly quickly recovers and laughs as she takes on my question, pointing towards Yiannis’ stomach: she had to learn to cook so that she could feed her three children!
Well, she mastered her craft and now runs a fish restaurant on the Argosaronic Gulf. There are rooms and apartments to stay in, a beach with views of the islands and the clear blue sea all around. Go for a swim and you can lose yourself in underwater ruins, which Yiannis nonchalantly confirms are of ancient Thermisia.
At dusk the sky and the sea turn milky blue-white, almost combining – but not quite – before everything goes dark, and you are left with the gentle crash of waves. And the moon and the stars. And Nelly’s fine food. Yes, it is that magical.
A more prosaic Greece is within reach, should you need a break from this paradise, in the village of Thermisia nearby. It’s just a short walk up the road, away from the sea, past fruit trees bearing olives, pomegranates and limes, and a petrol station with plastic white chairs primed for a gathering (conviviality by the fuel pumps).
But before you go there, here is more of Makis Inn.