There is much I should be doing right now, must get done, or at least try. Instead, my mind wanders to the simpler days of my youth. Long ago summers when the whir of the mixer would sing me awake in the early morning hours and the sweet aroma of cookies baking in the oven before the day grew too hot. Company would be coming. Who would they be? Would there be another baptism in the backyard? A gathering of my grandmother’s circle of cousins? Another One Yia Yia, maybe? The club girls stopping in before a game of cards next door at my aunt’s house?
Today is one such day where the heat is back, the humidity is hovering like the memories that float in and out of my mood and I stare, like a child, into the cool refrigerator, waiting for something to magically appear to sate my sweet tooth. Something must be in there. Must.
I’ve been thinking of must, which is the first juice pressed from grapes in the winemaking process. As with most things in days gone by, nothing was wasted, including the first juices in the fermentation of wine. These juices would not make good wine, but, they could still be employed to make pudding. Moustalevria!
Only one person brought must to our house. Louie. When he made wine, he would bring my grandmother, Yia Yia, the must. She would make it into the most delectable pudding. Moustalevria. Mουσταλευριά.
Louie was married to Marika, who was my father’s first cousin. Marika (a derivation of the name Mary) had immigrated to the United States as a young woman of about 18 years old. Her marriage to Louie was arranged, as the story goes, at the baptism of my Aunt Christina, my father’s sister. Marika and Louie were quite a handsome couple and I loved it when they came over. They spoke two languages, fluently, and there was an “air” about them that for some reason seemed magical to me.
Of course, part of the magic was the silver dollars Louie gave us every time he came for a visti. What treasures they were to receive. I loved to play with them and marvel at their feel in my hand and of my good fortune.
The real treat, however was the bottle with must. It would be boiled with flour and spices until it grew thick, then, it would be places in a large, shallow soup bowl and put into the refrigerator to set.
I can still taste it; sweet, smooth and gelatinous.
I would open the refrigerator, when no one was looking, and stare, as if the pudding could do tricks in the cold. I would keep checking the moustalevria until someone, an adult, finally took a sliver of the pudding. Then, I would cut a piece with a butter knife, once, then twice, creating a wedge, ever-so-thin, slide the knife underneath, then I would slip carefully out of the dish, close my eyes, place it in my mouth and savor it. The problem was that, as with many sweet things, I would not be able to stop at one slice. I would sneak one more, then another, sometimes walking away, only to come back again and again, until Yia Yia would ask who had been into the pudding. Somehow, she always knew it was me, and I would be told I had to stop eating it, or I would get sick, until my mother or father would speak to me, in no-uncertain-terms, and Yia Yia would tell them to leave me alone! My great defender . . .
. . . and now I really must try my hand at making some.
Did you ever sneak something to eat as a child?
Image and recipe. I understand grape juice can be substituted for the must.