In May of 2017 I began leading a writing workshop within the Providence Writers Guild, a group that had been meeting for years, and we needed a name to differentiate ourselves from the original group. Since we meet on Tuesdays, we decided to call ourselves The Tuesday Tipplers. (We intended to incorporate the word “writer/writing” in the title, but our priorities, obviously, are in alliteration and alcohol.)
Our first Christmas together, back in 2017, we initiated a Writer’s Secret Santa, wherein we gave the gift of writing: for the person whose name we drew, we would write something in their style–a continuation of a piece they’ve submitted, an imitation of their voice, a story using their characters. It was a huge challenge, and the most fun I’ve ever had with a gift exchange.
We implemented our version of Secret Santa again this year, and the results were even more astounding. I am blessed with a talented, thoughtful, and creative group! We were laughing, crying, and in some cases, crying because we were laughing so hard.
The unfortunate side to this gift is that its awesomeness doesn’t translate unless you have spent time reading each other’s work. However, guess WHAT? You all–my wonderful blog readers–are somewhat familiar with my writing. You are aware of my obsession with Greece, my quirky style of writing, and some of you have even been following along since my Dartmouth days. If there was anyone else who could appreciate this gift, it is you.
The person who drew my name, my Secret Santa, is a local author named Eric Mancini. His debut novel, One American Robin, won a New England Book Award and he’s kind of a big deal. He joined The Tipplers a year after we started, and since I’d been submitting excerpts from my book for several months before he came into our meetings, his critique was always along these lines: “This is great, but…what is it, exactly? A memoir? A guidebook?”
I use a variety of storytelling forms (vignettes, dialogues, charts, graphs), and it builds on itself, so I applaud him for jumping in halfway through and getting to know my characters, my style, and–quite honestly–me as a person.
So, without further ado:
Here is Eric Mancini, writing as Jenny Currier. Enjoy.
The year is 2025. Jenny’s Book about Greece is a NYT best seller, and she has become a prominent Greek influencer on the Internet. She regularly lands five-figure advertising deals for branded content. But she is having trouble in her personal life…
This Greek Cooking Secret is Absolutely Killer
By Jenny Currier
I’d just stepped off the ferry when an old man waved me over to his café table. I was tired. I’d just hunted octopus on the isle of Santorini, and the day before that I’d wrestled goats in Thessaloniki. In two days I was leaving to take eating lessons on the remote island of Shastabikini. But I sat down anyway, because maybe he was single.
The old man adjusted his hat, pushed a glass of tsipouro toward me and said, “You are American. Do you want to know the Greek secret to the good life?”
I leaned forward. Ever since I fled America, I’d been looking for the Greek secret to the good life, and here it was.
“πρέπει να πάω στην τουαλέτα” he said. I asked him what it meant.**
“What?” I asked. I didn’t understand.
He took another shot of tsipouro, slammed the glass on the table, leaned forward and spoke in a whisper.
“In Greece, they say To be happy, you must cook your food so slowly that, in a race with a sloth, the food will lose.”
I wrote the phrase in my notebook in case I wanted to get it tattooed later.
“You are a wise man,” I said. “You must have a very important job.”
“I am–how you say–unemployed. The government pays me to drink and say profound things to American tourists.”
I asked. He wasn’t single.
* * *
After that day, as I ate my way across Thasos, I started noticing some shocking patterns:
|Speed they cook their food||Slowly||Quickly|
|How much I like their food||a crap ton||Not so much|
|Number of restaurants that cook with Hamilton Beach brand Crock Pots with shatter-proof glass lids||All of them||Probably none, but I’m not sure as I am legally unable to return.|
Every single restaurant I entered had rows of Hamilton Beach Crock pots, the shatterproof lids safely latched, the easy-clean ceramic bowls shining in the low Mediterranean sun. Everything I had eaten – the Octopus stuffed dates, the pickled Pita, the slow-braised tabouleh ice cream – all of it was cooked in the highest quality, yet most affordable crock-pot available at Kohl’s.
When I asked local chefs about this, they said: “You are not supposed to be in this kitchen.”
So I asked my hosts. First I asked Big Leonidas, who was actually short. Then I asked Little Leonidas, who was a woman named Cheryl. Then I asked a local dolphin. They all repeated the same ancient Greek phrase, passed down over generations:
“A man who does not own a Hamilton Beach brand crock pot will never feel the warmth of a naked woman in his bed.”
|Amount of money I need to retain legal counsel and fight extradition||$20,000|
& & &
In America, I had a boyfriend. We’ll call him Hot Man, because that was his actual name. He was dark and interesting. He’d say deep things like, “You should feel pretty lucky. I don’t usually say words to people.” He once set his apartment on fire making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was really, really, really good looking.
One day, I talked to H.M. about the Hamilton Beach brand Crock Pot, about the convenience of coming home to a cooked dinner, the safety of the shatterproof lid. He said, “You can have your fun slow cooking now, but I’m pretty old fashioned, and when we’re married I’ll expect you to cook our food quickly, using a microwave.”
I was peeling a sweet potato when he said this, and I suddenly noticed that I’d peeled it into a long, thin point, as sharp as any knife.
|In America||In Greece|
|Number of people I’ve murdered||1||0|
* * *
Yesterday I came back to my hostel and it smelled like pulled pork and sweet potatoes, which had been stewing for 8 hours while I evaded the authorities (now that’s convenience). I pulled the lid off and let the steam rise over my face. I was murderously hungry. As I ate, I packed up my clothes and switched out my fake passports. Before nightfall, I’d be moving on to the next Greek island, nothing to my name but my clothes and my trusty Hamilton Beach Crock Pot.
Every day, Greece wounds me. But sometimes, I wound back.
**Eric didn’t know what the Greek phrase actually meant, but in case you were wondering, it translates to: I need to go to the bathroom.
ALSO NOTE: If you, Reader, know how I can be required to stay in Greece (for reasons other than murder), I’m all ears. 🙂
And, as promised, a shameless plug for our book (!!!):
You can read more from the Tuesday Tipplers in our anthology, which was published this year and was a true a labor of love if ever I’ve been a part of one*. Short stories, fantasy, poems, humor, horror, personal essays, soliloquy…it’s got it all. Even a little Emily Dickinson, because why not. It’s available on Lulu (not Amazon) and you can use the code ONEFIVE on December 19th to get 15% off.
(It’s $10 otherwise. We are not a moneymaking enterprise.)
*SUPER SPECIAL THANKS to Eva and CE Productions ❤
Merry Christmas, all! I hope both your secret and non-secret Santas surprise and delight you this year, and that in whichever way you celebrate, you find joy this season.