Memories of Snow

Diana Farr Louis

“The storm is called ‘Elpida,’ or Hope, but does it bring hope with it? Hope that our lemon tree on Andros will not suffer frostbite; hope for all the citrus groves in Greece—for this is a countrywide phenomenon, hitting even Crete; hope for the farmers and market gardeners who pray their produce will not be damaged? Time will tell, or, in the words of Auden, ‘Time will say nothing but I told you so.’” —Diana Farr Louis

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

By Diana Farr Louis

Louis-Our balcony the night of the snowstorm
Our balcony the night of the snowstorm.

Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—1 March 2022—We’ve been caught in a whirl of fast-flying snowflakes since 8 this morning. They settled, quickly raising the balcony railings several inches high and cloaked the plants in white froth. We could not see farther than two houses away and have been mesmerized all day, glad to have a few provisions and praying the electricity stays on. 

The storm is called “Elpida,” or Hope, but does it bring hope with it? Hope that our lemon tree on Andros will not suffer frostbite; hope for all the citrus groves in Greece—for this is a countrywide phenomenon, hitting even Crete; hope for the farmers and market gardeners who pray their produce will not be damaged?

Time will tell, or, in the words of Auden, “Time will say nothing but I told you so.” 

But rather than dwell on what might happen, I’d rather think back to all the snows of yesteryear. Où sont les neiges d’antan? Melted, for sure, but still lingering in memory and not looked at in decades.

My first recollection of snow dates back to 1946 or 47 and Long Island. Those were the years of historic blizzards and the snowplow had created a mountain at the corner of our street, Narragansett Avenue, and Ocean Avenue. For us kids, six and seven years old, it was just the right size. We could drag our sleds up it and scoot down over and over again. We could also slide down the gentler slope of our driveway to the garage. 

And I remember, too, our glassed-in front hall, with its black and white tile floor changing color with dripping boots and bits of dirty ice as I’d sit on the wooden bench and pull off my galoshes and dark blue snow suit. 

It was also snowing on December 27th, 1948, when my father married my new mother, Betsy. We all drove into the big city in the red Buick, I and my new brother and sister in the back, wearing our party clothes. I guess my older brother and sister had gone separately and we met them, along with a host of other relatives at the Waldorf Astoria, where my father’s Uncle Jim, a Presbyterian minister, would perform the ceremony in Dad’s brother Bartow’s apartment there.

Louis-The happy couple and the wedding cake
The happy couple and the wedding cake we kids will savor while they’re on their honeymoon.

I don’t remember much that is not captured in old photographs, but there is one of little Nancy, aged three, in a dress with smocking and short sleeves, sitting in a chair by a window with snowflakes coming down. She looks anxious. Her life is about to change, and she has no idea what’s going on. 

But the photos of me are happy. I am thrilled to be getting a mother after four years, and when it comes time to cut the cake—whose frosting is almost covered by a large candy wedding bell (which we will take home and take turns licking for days if not weeks)—even Nancy wears a smile.

Dad must have driven us back home in the night. Today it sounds irresponsible, since there was both snow falling and no doubt a fair amount of champagne quaffed, but I don’t remember the return journey at all. Just that the newlyweds departed soon after for their honeymoon in Haiti and Santo Domingo, where my father had business, leaving us in the hands of my older sister, also called Nancy, and her husband.

Snow must have fallen often that winter because my next memory involves a snowball incident between my new brother Woody and me. We had probably been throwing snowballs at each other, but I, flaunting my bratty, naughty side, had hurled one at a window. My father rushed out of the house, shouting, “Who threw that snowball?” And seeing Woody with one still in his hand, Dad immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was the culprit. I don’t remember what happened next. No beatings, that’s for sure. My father never hit anyone ever, but he undoubtedly delivered a strong tongue lashing that sent Woody inside and up to his room, punishment enough. 

When I went inside myself, I found my new mother crying in the kitchen, tears dripping into something she was stirring in a bowl on the table. “What’s the matter?” I asked, horrified. 

“You, you are the matter? I saw what happened. You standing there with empty hands; poor Woody was still holding his snowball. You let him take the blame. You didn’t speak up, tell your father the truth. I’m ashamed of you.”

Her words pierced my heart, took me by surprise, left me speechless. I have no recollection of what came next. Did I say I’m sorry, did I go to my father, did I just slink away in tears, myself? I can only hope I never did anything like that again. Though, of course, I cannot swear to it.

I did work myself back into her heart, at least. 

But back to snow. Snow days, no school. Snow men. Lying flat and making angels with wings. Skating on the pond near our house. Dad slipping on the icy sidewalk on the way to an annual party on Christmas afternoon that he always went to under protest, and breaking a rib. 

College years in Cambridge, Mass. Riding my bike in the snow to classes—intrepid and/or foolish. Don’t remember feeling the cold in those days. And once, heading into Boston on the MTA with a friend one very snowy evening in 1960 to see Sviatoslav Richter give a recital at Symphony Hall. The audience was a tiny fraction of what would have been a sold-out performance, but the master pianist was so gracious and so touched by our efforts that he rewarded us with countless encores. Unfortunately, I have no recollection at all of what he played. Last memory from those years: tempting fate by taking to the ski slopes on the nearest mountain and ascending via a rope tow for the first and last time. I managed to stay upright and enjoyed myself.

Louis-in Swiss ski resort Mom and pooch
Early photo from the one time I was in Swiss ski resort and there was not enough snow to ski on: Christmas 1963.

Flash forward to mid-1960s Manhattan. It’s New Year’s Eve and snowing. Alexis and I had been celebrating with my best friend Cynthia and her boyfriend at her apartment on 51st and East End Avenue. And even though it was snowing we decided to walk to Times Square and watch the ball drop. Crazy idea since we were not dressed for such an outing, wearing high heels, skimpy party dresses, and perhaps a fur jacket. The return to our own apartment at 63rd and Lex took longer and involved navigating my way through pockets of slush, which seeped into my elegant shoes. But we were young, warmed up by love and alcohol, and suffered no ill effects. 

The only other snow memory with Alexis is not so happy. We had gone to Montreal for the weekend—who knows why? Accompanied by his secretary, Barbara. And somehow made our way to the Mont Tremblant ski resort. Again, who knows why? They were certainly not interested in winter sports, or any outdoor sports for that matter, and I had only had that one experience skiing at Sunapee. Anyone with my history of prolonged hospitalization with a fractured femur should have stayed well away from anything more than a baby slope. And yet, bored and resentful, leaving the two of them in the overheated lobby, I ventured out, rented skis, and took a cable car to the top of the mountain. There was a member of the ski patrol in the cabin with frostbite sores on her nose and cheeks. The temperature was officially 25 below F, but the wind chill factor had made it plummet down to minus 50.

Yet, despite being an absolute novice, I made it down the challenging mountain with my heart in my mouth, only collapsing, probably with relief and emptied of adrenaline, when I got to the bottom, which was as smooth and flat as a floor. Luckily, I suffered nothing worse than a chill to the marrow. The chill to the heart was deeper, for, when I returned, Alexis and Barbara had obviously been enjoying both avant and après ski without a sign of guilt. The marriage was not to last much longer, but that’s another story and nothing to do with snow.

In Greece, or at least Attica, of course, snow is a rarity, and when it comes every few years, it takes all the municipal authorities by surprise, the way it does in Baltimore, DC, and even Manhattan. The equipment is lacking, coordination is nil, and citizens expect everything from the State and do not lift a finger to help themselves or their neighborhoods by clearing the sidewalks. Mostly, panic reigns for the day of the storm, and then the complaints and accusations take over, finger pointing, name calling, with opposition politicians gleefully taking potshots at the incompetence of those in power. 

Louis-Two cars stuck
Two cars stuck in the middle of the street parallel to ours.

The storm this January should never have been named Elpis/Hope. It behaved more like the Erinyes or Furies, throwing so much snow on the northern suburbs of Athens that it took days for all the streets and sidewalks to be cleared. What’s more troubling was the damage to the crops and trees. An estimated ten thousand trees have suffered broken branches or even been uprooted.

Last February’s blizzard was even more catastrophic, bringing down hundreds of thousands of trees and heavy branches, even in Athens proper. Every street corner in our suburb was piled high with branches for weeks, some even for months, until we despaired that they would become a fire hazard or attract the interest of pyromaniacs. They were eventually shredded and disposed of, aided by some enterprising souls with chain saws who cut logs for their fireplaces and loaded them into the trunks of their cars. 

But this year’s storm had still other consequences. Dozens of neighborhoods were without electricity for days and thousands of motorists were trapped on the big highway that crisscrosses Athens from east to west. Despite warnings on our cell phones and on the television and radio, urging people to stay home unless they had chains on their tires, the advice was ignored. The highway management itself, despite assurances to the contrary, was woefully unprepared, with all but five or six of their 36 snowplows sidelined for lack of fuel, lack of expertise, and lack of service.

Trucks jackknifed, cars stalled, inexperienced drivers skidded into drifts, and newscasters forgot about tensions over Ukraine and Covid statistics and showed us endless footage of desperate, angry people stuck in their cars with nothing but half a water bottle for 24 hours. It was a miracle than no one died, and gradually everyone was evacuated to a hotel via the trains that run parallel to the highway. 

Mission Control did not seem to exist, either. The minister in charge of climate problems is from Cyprus and undoubtedly used to more collaboration from his peers. Former PM Alexis Tsipras, never shy of mudslinging in hopes of boosting his own consistently dismal popularity ratings, called for a vote of confidence in parliament to bring down “the worst government seen since the end of the Junta.” His ratings did not budge.

One can only hope that our government manages to get better at coordinating its response to climate emergencies by the time the fire season rolls around. 

Louis Pork, Leek & Celery Stew
Pork, Leek & Celery Stew. (Photo: Eat Yourself Greek)


Pork, Leek & Celery Stew

Forewarned, we were forearmed with a sufficiency of wine, bread, and chocolate, and less important items like fresh fruit and veg. I purposely did not buy too many other provisions, wishing to empty the freezer. So, we feasted on lentil soup, Andros sausage with peppers, and a pilaf I’d never concocted before, which proved absolutely delicious. Consisting of leftover pork, leeks, and celery, the dish was my attempt to recreate the tastes of a Greek winter favorite, pork stew with celery in a lemony sauce.

 Amounts don’t matter much here, and there was enough for four or for the two of us another day. 

2 leeks, without the top bits (saved for a veg soup), chopped

4-5 celery stalks, chopped, leaves and stalks separated

2-3 T olive oil

1 C long grain rice

1 C or more of leftover pork (or lamb), chopped

1 Knorr Homestyle veg stock cube, diluted in two cups or a bit more of boiling water

Lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, sauté the chopped leeks and celery stalks until wilted, add the rice and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add the meat and celery leaves. Pour in the stock, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is tender. Stir in the juice of half a lemon or more, to taste.

Couldn’t be easier and very tasty indeed. And just as good the next day.

To order the paperback book, click on the book cover below:

111 Places in Athens That You Shouldn't Miss

Diana Farr Louis was born in the Big Apple but has lived in the Big Olive (Athens, Greece) far longer than she ever lived in the US. She was a member of the first Radcliffe class to receive a degree (in English) from Harvard . . . and went to Greece right after graduation, where she lost her heart to the people and the landscape. She spent the next year in Paris, where she learned to eat and cook at Cordon Bleu and earned her first $15. for writing—a travel piece for The International Herald Tribune. Ever since, travel and food have been among her favorite occupations and preoccupations. She moved to Greece in 1972, found just the right man, and has since contributed to almost every English-language publication in Athens, particularly The Athens News. That ten-year collaboration resulted in two books, Athens and Beyond, 30 Day Trips and Weekends, and Travels in Northern Greece. Wearing her food hat, by no means a toque, she has written for Greek Gourmet Traveler, The Art of Eating, Sabor, Kathimerini’s Greece Is, and such websites as Elizabeth Boleman-Herring’s A regular contributor to, she is the author of two cookbooks, Prospero’s Kitchen, Mediterranean Cooking of the Ionian Islands from Corfu to Kythera (with June Marinos), and Feasting and Fasting in Crete. Most recently she co-edited A Taste of Greece, a collection of recipes, memories, and photographs from well-known personalities united by their love of Greece, in aid of the anti-food waste charity, Boroume. Her latest book, co-authored with Alexia Amvrazi and Diane Shugart, is 111 Places in Athens that you shouldn’t miss. (See Louis’ Author Page for links to her her titles.) (Author Photos: Petros Ladas. Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)


  • Elizabeth Register

    Enjoyed your snow day recollection as I sit here in 70 degree weather! I don’t think I ever heard of the snowball incident as most of Woody’s stories from childhood centered around him tormenting little Nancy. Poison mushrooms, pushing her out of the dollhouse window, etc.
    All is fine here. MaryAnne was supposed to be coming here to have “girl time” painting, but all of the uncertainties of our times made it not a good time for her to travel. Best to Hari, xo to you.