Food plays a huge role in the Greek culture. What you eat tells me who you are – and we are definitely a combination of Gyros and the All-American Burgers!
Greek cuisine, among the best in the world, is labor intensive; the shopping, the cutting, the slicing, the chopping, the sautéing, the stirring, the spicing and the tasting! takes time. There is no rushing either because it is about family and love. My mother and aunts would spend hours preparing stuffed tomatoes and peppers, pastichio, moussaka, lemon chicken and potatoes, spinach and feta cheese pies (my mother would roll out her own fillo dough!) and so many other dishes I remember from childhood.
It is not unheard of to have four-hour dinners, especially for holidays and special events. It starts with appetizers which perhaps might also be called mini meals. It is not just one or two items; it could be a plethora of tastes: feta cheese, meatballs, spinach pie bites, kalamata olives, stuffed grape-leaves, pita bread and dips such as tzatziki and tarama.
I remember being asked once, when I was a young girl, if we celebrate Thanksgiving…well duh, of course! We do it in grand style: Turkey, stuffing, yams, potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies. So, does it matter if the stuffing – filled with raisins, currants and spices – is the one my Greek dad brought over from the old country? Does it matter if the potatoes are the lemon, garlicky ones my mother perfected? Or, if the dessert table also included kataifi, melomakarona and kourambhiedes?
Alas, I have not been able to keep up with prolific output of love through cooking. Hectic days has not allowed for heavy cooking or experimenting with various new recipes. Zaf and I have settled into a weekly routine of simple meals with some barbecue items thrown into the mix. All this is about to change. I have pulled out the family recipes and earmarked the old dishes I used to cook (one learns by being attached to mother’s apron) and some new ones I’m going to try. This goes for desserts as well; baklava being a big challenge!
Then, at some point, I will explore how to make a really, good gazpacho, some really, tasty guacamole, a true, authentic Italian sauce, a mean stir fry. There is no end to delicious food from around the world and I mean to try every bit of it.
Am sure my attempts will be many and will invest in some good digestive tablets till I get the hang of it. I will also rely on the age-old fix-it solution my mother always used: Put a little lemon on it!
Just thinking about all of this makes me eager to get going with this retirement thing. In the meanwhile, I can certainly continue exploring the foods of the world – cause after all, we gotta eat!
We are on it!
Picture: Baklava- our favorite dessert photograph from The Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf
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