Do you want some coffee with those fish?

I sometimes complain about the way Greeks conduct business. “Do you want a receipt with that? If so, it’ll be 25 euros. If not, it’ll be 18 euros,” they shrug. Or maybe they charge you for 2 kilos of tomatoes when the weight is just 1.75 kilos. I’m always on the defensive when I go to the open bazaar every Friday in the next town. However, Greeks can also be very sweet when they conduct business. One day, my husband and I tried another fish store in Ormyllia, one we’d heard had the freshest fish. As we entered, we saw a display case filled with octopus, sardines, gavros, red snapper, cod, and more.

My husband ordered 2 kilos of gavros, a small fish similar to the sardine, as we like to fry them and eat them whole–bones and all. He asked the lady owner if she would clean them for us. She nodded her head with a smile and asked us if we’d like a cup of coffee while we waited. She turned to a small hotplate in the corner of her shop and proceeded to make us a coffee with her battered briki and in between talking about the upcoming elections, the weather, and the future olive harvest, she asked how much sugar we liked in our coffees. As she handed us our coffee in tiny cups, she motioned for us to sit at the small blue table in front of the display case. Then she turned to the business of preparing 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of gavros–cutting off the head with her finger while pulling out the guts in one smooth movement. After years of practice, she was fast.

By the time we finished slurping our thick sweet coffee, the fish were packed in a plastic bag and handed over. The dishonest sellers and tax evaders we’d encountered in the past were shamed with this fish seller’s generosity and kindness. And she gave us a receipt without our even asking!

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