Monday, June 7, 2010

Washing machines on the beach?

I do not know if I hallucinated this or not. Many years ago, somewhere in Greece, I saw a washing machine facing the sea, sitting on a beach; it was plugged into a little taverna on the beach. I imagined little old ladies washing their clothes and laying them out to dry on the rocks. Nevertheless it still seemed very bizarre to me, and I continued to watch from the comfort of the taverna.

Waiting for a little old lady to approach, I was amazed when a gnarled, mustached fisherman went to the machine and peered inside it, it was a front loader. He turned and went back to his small boat, which was pulled up on the beach. I assumed he was washing some clothes, odd as that seemed. I did not imagine Greek men doing laundry, it didn’t fit the image, and if they did, I couldn’t imagine them doing it on a public beach.

I ordered some grilled octopus and an ouzo, my favorite snack, especially on a Greek beach.

A little later, the fisherman returned to peer inside the washing machine ( I assumed he was concerned about his laundry ).
He seemed pleased and turned off the machine. He squatted in front of it, opened it, reached inside and removed a huge octopus. I was completely confused and did not realize that the octopus had to be washed. I asked the owner of the taverna what was going on, and why the octopus had to be washed. He turned to his friends and repeated my question to the amusement of them all. The fisherman approached the taverna with his laundry (the octopus ), was filled in on my question. More hysterical laughter followed at my expense.

Finally it was all explained to me, since this was a modern village, they had a washing machine to beat the octopi till they were tender, no more 100 blows on the rocks by hand.

A little nuts, but it makes complete sense, the agitation of the machine softens the octopi, no water and no soap.

My embarressment turned into a wonderful afternoon, being treated and toasted by my new friends, residents of this modern Greek village that didn’t have to beat their octopi by hand.

For years, I have been on the lookout for washing machines on the beaches of Greece, no luck. It is unfortunate that Greek fishermen still beat their octopi on the rocks to soften them up, what happened to all that modernity that once existed.


  1. I remember well our confusion seeing the cable from the restaurant leading up to the washing machine on the beach....Hilarious, but true and a tale we never ceased to relate to all our friends and family. I love it!

  2. The fisherman should have gone 1 step further.
    Put ouzo in the soap compartment before starting the machine. Then the octopus wuld have been marinated and tenderized all at the same time. Very funny story.

  3. Anomalies like that are always so surreal. I remember striding away from camp in the middle of the North Indian desert to have a pee, and meeting a wandering man (you must understand that we were very far away from any village or town) who presented me with a little pot. In it, I discovered on my return, was crunchy peanut butter. Utterly un-Indian. Weird. But you know what, it tasted great on chappatis!

  4. And Greg, well done, I can now post comments! xxx

  5. You can even post weird ones like peanut butter in India

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