Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My South: Greek and Proud of it!

By Rachel

My Great-Grandfather immigrated from Greece near the turn of the century into our country that, at the time, was quite prejudiced against Greeks. Despite the general feelings of animosity, however, he must have been somewhat charming – he convinced my Great-Grandmother to marry him before he knew a word of English or she knew a word of Greek.

I never knew him, but his belief in the value of Greek culture must have been magnificent. they had five children, all who had a very firm grasp on what it meant to be Greek, and how to pridefully carry on the traditions of our culture.

Our holidays, especially Easter, were always celebrated with Roasted Lamb, Spanakopitas, Greek Easter Bread, and Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese.

(The real olives and Feta Cheese, bought where they should be, in a plastic bag from Nabeel’s Imported foods.)

All of this was delightfully mixed with my Great-Grandmothers truly southern Macaroni and Cheese, my Grandmother’s famed biscuit recipe, Chocolate cake, and Chicken and Dumplins’, of course. I found that Greek Food and Southern food made a delightful combination.

My Aunt Helen was infamous for her ability to read your fortune from the coffee grounds in the bottom of your cup, and loved to spice up a family gathering by cranking up the Greek music and breaking out into dance.

My Granddad, while being truly proud of his Greek heritage and sharing his Greek roots with anyone he was around, was also in the Hillbilly Brigade with the Zamora Temple Shriners, where he dressed up in overalls and a straw hat and drove around acting as southern as possible in his 1920’s Model T.

In proper Greek fashion (and made famous by the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), I was made to go to Greek School. Despite several years of study of the Greek language, I don’t remember much, except for the Greek girl Penelope who sat next to me, and the boy who sat on the other side of me with thick, black, oozing earwax.

(Sorry for that. I don’t know if thick, black, oozing earwax has anything to do with Greek culture or not, but it is certainly associated in my mind.)

But, much more than earwax, Greeks are known for their food.

My Father went into the Air Force as a teenager, and when his platoon formed, the commanding officer yelled out, “Who in here is Greek?” Dad was the only one to raise his hand, and so was immediately assigned the job of being the cook for the entire platoon.

My Mother is not Greek and did not know how to cook when they got married, but my Father taught her well. I am so thankful that she learned to cook like a Greek woman, and taught me all of those amazing recipes as well.

(Some of these Famiy Recipes can be found on my blog, if you’re interested.)

Besides cooking Greek, I am thrilled beyond measure to live in a city that is full of amazing Greek and Mediterranean restaurants, such as Dodiyos, Nabeel’s, Taziki’s, Zo√ęs, The Fish Market, Jim N Nicks (did you know they were Greek?? I told you all good cooks are Greek.), all of the Sarris family restaurants, and I’m sure a ton of others that I’m not thinking about right now.

So, if you haven’t tried some Greek food lately, you might want to. I promise – you’ll want to get up and dance, and maybe even read someone’s coffee ground fortune.

Rachel writes at Grasping for Objectivity . . . and Alabama Bloggers.

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Sarah Cook said...

My family is very similar. We are from a strong Italian heritage and moved to Georgia from New Jersey so family gatherings are always a fun mix of Italian standbys and southern foods. I like a little of the culture mix!