By Marj Watkins
When I and my family first came to Vashon Island in 1969, we bought a house with a view, joined the yacht club, and my husband, just retired from the United States Air Force, returned to his first career as a schoolteacher. He was hired to teach sixth grade as soon as school started.
We had come from an air base on Okinawa, Japan, where everyone was amazingly healthy. At the age of 100 years, native residents worked in their gardens and had all their natural teeth. However, when sugar cane became Okinawa’s major crop, the Okinawa kids chewed on sugar cane stalks and ruined their teeth.
I resolved to do what I could to upgrade eating here on Vashon Island. I went to the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber office and talked with Jay Becker (who then owned the Beachcomber). I noticed that he had no food editor, and offered my services, free. After a few months, Jay insisted that I be paid, since more people were subscribing to the Beachcomber. Later, the new owner dropped all their columnists. From there, I took my column to the free newspaper, the Vashon Loop. The relaunched Loop has restored “Island Epicure.”
My husband’s teaching stint lasted four years. Then he took a year off; a sabbatical. We wanted a winter without cold and snow, like San Diego. A glance through our atlas showed that Crete was at San Diego’s latitude.
As a retired officer, my husband could travel with wife and children under 21 on empty Air Force planes. We packed our bags, got a suitcase full of fifth-grade text books for 10-year-old Steven. His 20-year-old brother also went with us. Every week we were on the island of Crete, Steven wrote a letter to his 5th grade class back home on Vashon.
People warned us that the Greek diet wasn’t healthy, as everything was awash in olive oil.
We rented a villa on the south bank of the Mediterranean Sea. Steve and I had crammed on the Greek language, but many Greeks spoke English. This is what we ate for our first supper on that first day in Crete.
Salata Horiatiki – Village-Style Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 onion, halved crosswise
3 tomatoes, wedge-cut
1 green bell pepper, in rings
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 cup Kalamata olives, seedless
½ pound feta cheese, crumbled and scattered over salad
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste