August 17: on receiving hospitality

When you are waited on hand and foot there is a trade-off. In a traditional family environment in deepest Greece, if you happen to be the tallest, most senior man in the family unit, elderly women will wait on you. They will push extra portions of patatas across the table and look sternly on for you to consume them, even if you already have ample portions of patatas on your already amply laden plate. I will hear the familiar assemblage of syllables that I know means in Greek ‘Does Paul want…? Give Paul some more… Make sure Paul has…’ My sister, who could understand the high servitude bristled with indignation. Well, I can only say in response that if you happen to be the tallest and most dignified of guests at the dinner table, certain engagements are entered upon. Though it would be wrong to see this as a one-way relationship. If you are in receipt of all this hospitality, you are required to fulfill your side of the contract. You are required to eat. Weight will be gained. If you decide to refuse hospitality, you must do so with authority, with grave hieratic dignity, the gestures of dismissal must be sovereign, your disdain colossal. Oh, it is no small achievement to be feted royally; yuo have to be up to the job. I do believe I was.

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