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Monday, April 16, 2012

Opa! My Big Phat Greek Easter

I'm writing this on the train, headed from Boston to Washington, DC where, beginning tomorrow morning, I will attend my very first meeting of the national board of RCRC, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

I will attend spiritually fortified and definitely well-fed.

I've already written about the liturgy. I've hinted at the food. There's no real way to describe a Greek festive meal - it is really to be eaten and experienced and enjoyed -  but I'm going to give it a try.

First of all, the over-arching theme of such meal - like most things festive and Greek - seems to be "Nothing succeeds like excess."

We begin with the guests. There were 14 of us. I'm told that this is "down" from past years. I can't imagine how any more of us could fit at that table but then again, I don't have the benefit of a Greek imagination. Clearly, this is my loss.

We begin the meal with appetizers. You know. So one can build up an appetite for the main course. There were: water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and baked in a tangy sauce. There were little triangular pies made of philo dough and feta cheese. Just in case this wasn't enough, or for those who wanted something without the same amount of fat, there were these little steamed wantons filled with ground pork and veggies which you could dip in a marvelous terryaki sauce.

All these appetizing beauties were served while various ones of us chopped potatoes or carrots or apples or onion or parsley or dill or garlic whatever else needed chopping, and/or the spinach was squeezed of excess water within an inch of its life.

Others of us organized the Kayro syrup - I counted the use of five bottles (used as a 'short cut' for the simple syrup used for the baklava - walnut pie - and the galaktoboureko - custard pie).

Others of us were tending to the butter - I lost count of the pound cartons at around 12 or 14. This was used for the baklava and the spanakopita and the Greek Easter Bread and, I think, just about every other dish on the table. At the end of the meal, there were six one pound cartons left on the counter. Our host breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Oh, thank God. I was afraid there wouldn't be enough. Somebody put them in the freezer downstairs, please. The church is having a booth at the Marathon in Lexington tomorrow. We'll need them."

My arteries groaned just thinking about the amount of butter we had consumed.

Oh, but wait! There's more.

There was roasted leg of lamb AND a huge bone-in ham. And, in case you didn't like either of these, there was an amazing tomato-based casserole of HUGE bay scollops and shrimp which you could have on a bed of rice. (Which, I did). Or, roasted garlic potatoes. Or, you could have it in addition to some lamb and/or ham (Which I didn't).

You no like? You vegetarian? No problem. We got a HUGE tray of spinach and feta cheese pie in philo dough (spanakopita).

Tsoureki and Galaktoboureko
To accompany all of this, we were presented with some amazing curried carrots, the aforementioned roasted garlic potatoes and rice, a pan of incredible apples with nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, and, lest we should all starve and waste away, some soft, yummy bread (slathered with some of that butter) and a lovely salad.

Better save room for some dessert, because, ready or not, here it comes.

There was a HUGE pan of baklava - the thickest pieces I've ever seen crammed full of chopped walnuts and crushed graham cracker shells with each layer of philo dough absolutely drenched with butter and then completely soaked with heated Kayro Syrup.

You no like baklava? What, you crazy? Okay, okay. Never mind. We got Galaktoboureko, an egg custard cooked in layers of philo dough, drenched with butter and then completely soaked with heated Kayro Syrup.

From the outside, it looks very much like a tray of baklava. Inside? Oh....My....God.....

There was also that amazing Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki) with the red egg in honor of Mary Magdalene, the first one ever to witness and proclaim the Resurrection (more about this in a minute).

And, of course, some chocolates and cookies to much on while sipping your coffee or tea or mastika (brandy liqueur). Or, maybe you like a little mastika in your coffee? Okay, so, you like? You have.

Christos Anesti! Opa

Then, when you think you can't move another inch or you'll explode - or, you're afraid you will - there comes the breaking of the Red Mary Magdalene Egg. Well, the point is not to try to get your egg broken. You can see that each person got one on their plate before the meal was served.

The hostess begins by reciting an ancient Easter prayer in Greek and then, taking the "pointed" end of the red egg at the "pointed" end of your red egg, taps it quickly. If your red egg cracks, she moves on until someone's egg cracks hers.

Then, that person begins to make the rounds of the table until the last un-cracked red egg remains standing and that person is declared the official recipient of a special Easter blessing.

Opa! Alithos Anesti!

So, as the Greeks are of't wont to say, there you go. My Big Phat Greek Easter Dinner, which is bound to make me Very Fat.

I think I'm going to need a Lenten Fast just to recover from Easter Dinner.

I know. You're worried about all the leftovers. Yes, believe it or not, there were leftovers. I think our hostess cooked enough to feed a small village outside of Athens. Which, I think, was her point.

The Boston Marathon is today and will be coming through Lexington later this morning, which is the location of her Greek Orthodox Church. A group of people from her church got up at 3 AM today and began cooking Gyros and other Greek delicacies to sell to the crowds who gather to watch and cheer the runners as they come by.

I have no doubt there will be lots of people paying top dollar for the remnants of yesterday's bounty which we so thoroughly enjoyed.

So, as my Greek friends say, there you go. It all works out and everybody is happy and well fed. God is glorified and the church benefits.

Me? I think I'm going to take a nap on the train before tomorrow's round of meetings. I'm full all over again, just talking about what I ate. 



David said...

dear,dear Elizabeth
you do outrageous so well!
and it sounds like you just might be ready to host your own cooking show - the Cook with the Clerical Collar- her first, best-selling volume 'Food of Heaven: Recipies from the Cook with the Clerical Collar.'
just think of the guest chefs you could invite: Robert Capon, Louie Crew, Grandmere Mimi just to name a few and to give your show an Anglican je-ne-sais-pas-quoi! lol

loved your post Elizabeth, and good luck with the show!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I've been thinking of starting a cooking/baking/recipe blog. Really. It's such fun.