I love going to the Greek Festival in Salt Lake, held every year in early September at Holy Trinity Cathedral downtown. I love the main courses, I LOVE the desserts, I love the singing and dancing, and I love the atmosphere generally. Opa!!
We weren't able to make it to the festival last year, nor will we make it this year; but as luck would have it, we were invited to dinner Sunday night at the home of some neighbors down the street, and it turned out to be a sort of private Greek festival. Our host Bill is of Greek descent and his wife Sharon - a fabulous cook - is of Lebanese descent. Another neighbor had been invited as well as a couple, Nick (there had to be a Nick at a Greek dinner) and Cathy, about our age whose grandparents had all immigrated from Greece.
The food was ... amazing. Nick had made some battered fried zucchini with home-made tzatziki (made from strained yogurt - usually from sheep or goat milk - mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and sometimes lemon juice, and dill or mint or parsley). In the past, I had always declined to have tzatziki because it has cucumber in it, and for most of my life - at least as long as I can remember - I have had a hate/hate relationship with cucumbers. Nick's stuff, however, was delicious; I frankly couldn't even taste the cucumber. I'm sure each dollop had at least 300 calories in it.
Sharon had also made hummus, a feta cheese dish and shrimp cocktail (not Greek, but delicious nonetheless). Entrees included Dolmathes (stuffed grapevine leaves), Fasolakia (green beans in tomato sauce), Spanakopita (spinach pie), cheese-stuffed puff-pastry triangles, Pilafi (rice) and - the piece de resistance - Pastitsio, a baked pasta dish with a filling of ground meat and a béchamel sauce top.
There was no dancing or singing to go along with the meal, but there was plenty of good conversation. It was interesting to listen to the "Greeks" talk about their parents coming from Greece to work in the mines here in Utah and to farm. Cathy spoke of her great-grandfather who had been killed in a mining accident in Wyoming. His widow and two small children had then moved back to Greece and, years later, had come back to the States.
Cathy also spoke of visiting her grandparents' native village in Greece and of meeting relatives there who had told her that, back in the day, when the men working in Utah had sent money home to Greece to support their families, these funds typically were enough to not only support their families but also the entire village. Families shared resources and all benefitted.
It was also interesting to talk to Bill, Sharon, Nick, Cathy and Peeches (the lone Catholic at dinner) what it had been like to grow up non-Mormon in Salt Lake City. Like many others before them, they spoke of being excluded, of other kids' parents not allowing them to play with their children, of being welcomed into local LDS teens' circles - but only as ringers for their sports teams, etc. It is different now, they said, but they remember.
Now, on another note, I wrote the other day of projected homophobia on the soccer field. In response to this post, I received the following email from, Phyllis, a friend of ours who lives in Denver and who has known Mark from his residency days there. It meant so much to me that I wanted to share it here:
"I'm so sorry about your dip into sadness at the soccer game; I remind you that probably none of the other parents at the game had been called Monster Legs in the previous week (or ridden 175 miles on their bikes either.) Maybe I should cross stitch a sampler with Monster Legs on it to remind you. I know quite well myself how the old stuff can crop up just any old time and skew one's outlook, though. Stand back and look at yourself and maybe think about how some of those "man's man" dads at the soccer game would be handling all the things that are on your plate ... And another thing occurred to me just this second: my father was kind of a man's man....very athletic in a natural way, well dressed, wonderfully articulate, very smart, very funny, also very critical, very aloof, emotionally unavailable, not necessarily something to be envious of Mr. Broom."
I told her that I'd pay good money to have a cross-stitch that says "Monster Legs."