When I arrived in Athens, I was to meet my guide, Darius Vascos, at a tavern called The Sea-Eagle. The smells from the kitchen were heavenly. I was served a king’s feast of tarmosalata and bread and fish cakes with rosemary sauce and a square of spinach and feta pie. I was so enchanted with the flavors that I took my leather-bound journal from my satchel and took notes. The waitress, amused, assisted in my efforts by providing me with details about the recipes. It was a family-run tavern, and she helped make the dishes since she was a child. She stood over me as I wrote, giggling as I periodically slipped into ancient Greek as I spoke with her.
I heard a laugh nearby and looked up to see a stocky man in his thirties with a tousled mop of black hair watching us intently. He held a wide-brimmed hat in his hands. His grin turned sly as he admired the waitress. Noticing, she shied away as I thanked her for her help. The man stepped forward and bowed slightly, holding out his hand. “Mr. Drake?”
–Ivy League Crypt
When the idea for writing Ivy League Crypt came to my mind, I had no idea how much I would enjoy working on it. It’s become more than a short story, but since I’m busy focusing on my second novel, I don’t have time to develop this into the kind of story I would like it to be, but it is on my list of upcoming works.
In the 1800s, Julian Winter Drake II was typical of well-to-do young men of his age. After receiving his degree from Harvard, he embarked on what was then known as a grand tour, where wealthy young men traveled to Europe to explore and enjoy themselves before returning home to take up their roles in society. It was largely an English tradition, but since Julian’s family hailed from London, it seemed apt that he would do the same, much in the tradition of Lord Byron and his peers. Greece was a common destination, particularly with the Romantic fascination with the Classical culture.
Julian loved the cuisine in Greece. Little did he know it, but that cuisine would serve as his last meal before he was made into a vampire by the ancient god Thanatos. Using Darius Vasco as a lure, Thanatos obtained sustenance, or possible candidates to be made into vampires. While Julian did lose most of his research in the years he spent trapped in a crypt under the steps of Sever Hall in Harvard Yard, he did retain his journal that he had with him on his grand tour. And below is one of his favorite recipes from his mortal days.
Fish Cakes with Rosemary Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil (premium/extra virgin for the best flavor)
3 tbl. flour
1/3 cup white or unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbl. tomato paste
2 cups water
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced (I use a mini-processor)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste (I recommend a rich and flavorful salt such as the French fleur de sel)
Heat olive oil. Add flour and whisk, then add vinegar and continue to whisk. Stir tomato paste into the water and slowly stir into the saucepan. Add garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Whisk over medium heat until it thickens. Remove bay leaf before serving.
2 stalks celery
2 tbl. mint
1.5 lb. cod
1/3 cup feta
1.5 cups panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Blend onion, celery, and mint in food processor until fine, add to mixing bowl. Add fish to food processor, blend, then combine with all other ingredients in mixing bowl. Depending on how crunchy you like it, you may want to adjust panko. I like it really crunchy, so I kept blending until the mixture felt good and crispy with the breadcrumbs.
Heat about 1/2 cup of cooking oil (I use a cast iron pan, my go-to item in the kitchen!) until it reaches a good, hot temperature (@350 or so) then form the fish cake mixture into small, palm-sized patties and fry for a few minutes each side, until crispy and browned. Serve over rice pilaf, and pour sauce over the cakes. Makes approx. 10 fish cakes.
After a good meal, it’s always nice to go for a walk, but be cautious…
It was initially a peripheral observance. Flickers of phosphorous colors darted in and out of my line of vision. Darius seemed entranced, noticing things that I didn’t. As the full moon rose, our surroundings came to life. A lingering breeze caressed the waves of rosemary, the scent lulling me into a state of enchantment. I lifted my eyes from the ground, and saw a legion of luminescent butterflies drift up the rocky incline above us. Even more amazing was the sudden flourishing of delicate flowers that were the same shade as the bluish-violet wings of these magnificent nighttime butterflies. The flowers wove into the rosemary and around the black rocks, reaching with a languid sensuality toward the full moon.
In this feast of phosphorescence, I began to notice a pattern. The butterflies fed on the flowers and began to stream toward a void at the peak. Darius nodded. “They feed on the flowers of Nyx, the flowers of the soul. We follow them. No words now. Be as quiet as you can.” He stood and motioned for me to follow.
Ivy League Crypt is available for free download on Smashwords.com.