After a month in the hospital with a kidney infection, I'm now greatly improved and convalescing at home while being treated as an outpatient. Boring! With nothing to do but cook and play with the TV remote, I got to thinking about all the crazy and fun episodes of my 83 years of survival. And, just for the heck of it, I thought I would share some of them with you.
I mentioned "cook," which was always my passion, since, as a child, watching my mother create wondrous Sicilian meals with practically nothing more than a pot and a wooden spoon.
When I joined the Navy in 1957, I discovered that scrapping paint and cleaning the head (toilet) was not my calling, so I applied for
and was accepted, at the highly acclaimed Navy Culinary School. Navy chefs feed 300,000 sailors, plus man the kitchens for the President of the United States in the White House and at Camp David. Pretty cool. After graduation, I wasn't chosen to feed the leader of the free world, but I was assigned, along with three other chefs, to prepare meals for 200 students of the Officers Training School at Newport, Rhode Island.
Fast-forward to living on the beautiful island of Crete, Greece, with my Greek-American wife, Sofia, since 1985. After almost 10 years of early retirement, and due to some unfortunate circumstances, we found ourselves running low on our New York money. Oh, what to do? Hey, I got it. I'm still a chef (once a chef, always a ….). Well, you get it. We decided to open a simple American Southern fried chicken restaurant, and call it "Chickadees" – from W.C. Field's classic line, My Little Chickadee.
I'm not quite sure how it happened, but Chickadees went from a fried chicken emporium to a full-scale Italian-American restaurant, with a full bar, the only one on the island. We offered over 60 menu items, not counting starters and desserts. Whew! Hard work? Forget about it. Fun? You betcha.
Chickadees was a huge success, with customers from the nearby American Air Force Base, tourists from the surrounding hotels, and, finally, local residents who decided it wasn't a sin to eat mozzarella instead of Feta cheese. Chickadees became a Cretan landmark for 12 years, until a Dutch couple made us an offer we couldn't refuse, and promptly ran it into the ground. But, Sofia and I have great memories of our Chickadees days and the friends we made from around the world.
If you want to take a peek at what Chickadees had to offer, I photographed our menu, which became a classic in its own right.