Eat Like A Greek

I wasn’t raised in a traditional Greek family, with two Greek-speaking parents; nevertheless, my Mom and her family made it their quest to infuse us with a love for all things Greek. My Dad graciously allowed it to happen, although, over the years, he’s made every attempt to stick a Scottish label on us, but not much sticks to Greece (pun intended). Somehow, I managed to make it through thirty years of life before I realized my “Greek” family originated from Italians. So four generations ago, the grandparents of my grandparents left Italy and made their lives in Greece. And so, I willingly embrace all things Italian.

My Mom did a good job of incorporating American food in to our lives. I’m pretty sure she did it so my Dad wouldn’t starve. And though he loves her cooking, he doesn’t fully appreciate the more colorful aspects of Greek cuisine. Thankfully, I inherited my Mom’s palette and have no food fears. Well, except for lima beans, and badly cooked okra. Oh…and liver.

At an early age, I learned to eat first and then ask, “What is that?” When a plate was set in front of me, regardless of the smell, texture, or look of an item, I was required to take a bite. This small obedience was, as I look back over my life, one of the best gifts my Mom gave me. If not for that little rule, I would have missed out on so many wonderful and exciting flavors from many different cuisines.

When I was eighteen, my family, in different variations, spent the summer in Greece. We lived many days on the beaches of Glyfada, Tolo, and Vouliagmeni, only coming out of the sea for a few hours to eat a delicious lunch. We ate fresh fish, village salads, crispy potatoes, slabs of cheese, lemony horta, and loaves of fresh bread. With wet hair and wet bathing suits, sand between our toes, and sunburned skin, we took pleasure in eating the simple but scrumptious food. Bread was for dipping, lemons for squeezing, fingers for licking, and forks were, well, forks were optional.

The other night I saw an episode of FoodTV’s Chopped: When Chefs Collide (Episode 3.1). In the appetizer round, the chefs were tasked with creating an appetizer out of Manila clams, kumquats, and croissants. The Greek chef, Peter Giannakas, Chef and Restaurateur of Ovelia Psistaria Bar, New York, NY., was eliminated in the first round. He created a dish that, according to the judges, was difficult to eat. They also commented about the flavors of his dish; however, since they were too afraid to get their hands messy, I question whether or not they actually tasted the dish. As the chef was eliminated, he said to the judges, “Don’t be afraid to eat.” I laughed so hard I nearly cried. My Mom would be proud of him.

Thanks to her, and the generations of Greeks who came before me, I am not afraid to taste – even if it means getting messy or trying new flavor combinations. I believe my love for cooking is in the genes, seasoned by my Mom, and whipped in to shape by hours of practice. For that I am thankful and, Lord willing, I will have many more years to eat like a Greek.


One Response to “Eat Like A Greek”

  1. kriziazafiro on August 4th, 2011

    Just watched this tonite and it really piss me the
    way they treated Chef Peter.

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