There’s nothing quite like watching my daughter eat and dance her way through every single booth of a Greek Festival for the first time; it takes me right back to my childhood. I was so extremely lucky to have had a Yiayia (that’s Greek for grandmother) that dedicated her ENTIRE day to cooking and baking the most delicious traditional Greek meals and pastries for her family and friends to enjoy. She is the reason I love spending time in my kitchen and she set the bar way too high. No one will ever compare. Now that she is gone, these are the memories I cherish most and the traditions I want to share with Eisley so that she too can experience all the joys of her Greek heritage.
A very large part of that heritage is food. Food, glorious food. Greeks definitely love food! We love to share our love of food with anyone who loves to love food as we do. I remember my Yiayia had a general rule that you were never allowed to say no to seconds. It was a personal insult if you said no and I would never think of insulting her. She cooked for an army and she wasn’t satisfied until you ate every last bite on your plate (and then two helpings more). Family dinners definitely required a day’s worth of fasting beforehand but every single calorie, every single bite, every single dish she made was pure heaven and I would give anything for her to be in my kitchen today.
We arrived early to the festival at the Greek Orthodox church in North Park (because someone has a 7:30 bedtime) so we could squeeze in as much culture as possible. To no surprise, Eis worked her way right up to the stage, front and center. As soon as the music started playing and the kids were dancing she was in the zone. She was in her element and not to be disturbed. I knew the only way to break her focus was to entice her with food (she gets this from me.)
Let’s get back to the food. If you’ve never been to a Greek festival or are unfamiliar with Greek cuisine than here is a line-up of some mouth-watering favorites:
Greek Chicken: chicken grilled with lemon juice
Dolmathes: grape leaves stuffed with rice (with or without meat) in an egg-lemon sauce
Moussaka: baked eggplant with meat
Pastitsio: macaroni, seasoned meat and cream sauce
Pilafi: Greek style rice (Eisley’s favorite)
Spanakopita: spinach and cheese phyllo triangles (my first favorite)
Tyropita: fluffy phyllo triangles stuffed with cheese
Gyros: seasoned meat served in pita bread with tzatziki sauce, onions and tomato (Dave’s favorite)
Feta fries: fried potatoes with feta and oregano
Loukoumathes: golden puffs of pastry dipped in honey, sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts (my second favorite)
Baklava: layered nut and phyllo pastry
Kourambiethes: melt-in-your mouth butter cookies dusted with powdered sugar (my third favorite)
Paximathia: Greek biscotti
If you noticed, I get three favorites because it’s impossible to choose just one.
Yes, that’s right, I do consider the feta fries pictured above (and below) to be a food group. I have never seen those baby blues get so big as when she dove into those fries! “Mmmmmmm!” Everyone knows that Friday was national doughnut day, so to be fair I had to get the Loukoumathes as well.
Dave and I had such a fun evening watching Eisley take it all in and we anxiously await our next visit.
On the drive home I asked Eisley if she had a fun night. For a moment, there was silence but then in the softest, sweetest, sleepiest voice, she answered, “I wuv Greece.” I knew my Yiayia was smiling down on us and my heart was completely full. ❤