Food of Gods can induce vomiting

20th August 2010 at 01:00

I am contemplating Greece's greatest gift to the civilised world, which in my opinion is not the Socratic Method. Neither, for that matter, is it Democracy, because that gave us Michael Gove. In fact, you can stop theorising about Pythagoras, say "screw you" to Archimedes, shout oaths at Hippocrates, debate Plato till the cows come home, and give Jason a swift kick up the Argos. For me, Greece's greatest gift to mankind is edible, incredible and heading my way.

Let me explain that at this precise moment, I am sitting on a white plastic garden chair outside a kebab shop in the Cretan town of Chania. My immediate surroundings are not salubrious. These are the outer limits of the town's tourist area. Here the wasps are leaner, meaner and more persistent. There are no handsome young men trying to sell boat rides, and the only mopeds around are awaiting repair in Ioannis's garage just across the road. There is, however, a Greek bearing gifts. His name is Stavros, and according to Janet and John (not the Janet and John) from Macclesfield, he serves the best gyros pitta ever.

The humble gyros pitta is my Achilles heel. It is the food of Gods. Nothing you can do that doesn't involve at least one other human being and the exchange of bodily fluids comes close to it. A lightly toasted pitta bread caressing succulent slices of gyros meat, combined with a tomato and onion salad, generously topped with oodles of creamy, garlicky tzatziki and served with a gentle dusting of paprika. I salivate at the thought ...

And then I recall the Greek Feast in my classroom last term and the memories of the mess, the terrible cries and the awful stench suddenly make me lose my appetite.

"I'm not eating any of that foreign crap; it'll make me spew!" Aidan announced to the entire class on the day of the feast. The special meal was the culmination of seven weeks spent studying the cradle of western civilisation, the most influential characters, ideas and events in the history of the world.

"Why not?" I asked.

"There could be anything in it!" he replied - which is not bad coming from a child whose diet normally consists of bright orange nuggets made from a subtle combination of minced chicken skin, mechanically recovered meat slurry, salt, water, bulking agent and a combination of the best flavourings and preservatives the chemical industry can provide.

"Why don't you try this?" I said, handing him an olive on a cocktail stick.

"Are you havin' a laugh?"

I sighed and switched off the bouzouki music. "OK, everyone stop what you are doing and look this way. Jordan, do not smear tzatziki on Britney's face. Isabel, put the spoon down and step away from the moussaka. I said put the spoon down and step away from the moussaka. Ryan, just because Nathan threw dolmades at you doesn't mean you have to throw them back. Oh and Rogan, don't even think about smashing that plate. Thank you. Now, children, Aidan is reluctant to try food from our Greek menu. Who would like to suggest something they particularly enjoyed?"

"I liked that pink stuff," said Britney.

Aidan dipped his pitta in the taramasalata. He examined it. He sniffed it. Finally he nibbled it. Then he nibbled some more and all went well until he asked what it was made from.

And before I could come up with a convincing lie, Rashid told everyone the truth.

In not much longer than it takes to shriek, "Fish eggs? Eurgh!" my entire class had turned vomiting into an Olympic sport.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield. Mike Kent is on holiday.

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