She lived close, so we carpooled for rehearsals. I'll never forget the first time I was invited into Maria's home. I knocked on her back door. Her father opened the door with one hand and held a long, thin, meat carver's knife in the other. He only had to lean down and over a few inches from where he was in the kitchen to the back door. He was slicing meat off a large bone which I'd never seen before.
As he opened the door to let me in I said hello. With a straight, but sincere face, wide eyes and friendly voice, he held out his knife straight to my face with a few chunks of meat, which did smell delicious, and said,
"You like lamb? Taste. It's good."
How could I refuse, especially with a knife in front of my face?
Actually, I wasn't that intimidated, with the lamb or Maria's father, especially with his welcoming smile and wide eyes. I knew I was going to taste something wonderful. I instantly loved lamb and Greek hospitality. It reminded me much of the bare-bones sincere hospitality my family gave to long time friends. Later in high school, her sister and my brother joined the theatre, music and arts crowd as well. We, with a handful of others backstage became a tight group, often hanging at our house or Maria's house discussing the arts.
|Our two high school friends with their kind father, a friend of theirs on Crete, and their beautiful, kind, mother, who makes the best baklava, pastisio and stuffed zucchini blossoms. 2001|
My brother, our group of theatre friends and I enjoyed when Maria and Tina performed their traditional dances they've learned the through their church. We'd cheer them on, get a juicy grilled souvlaki, sit on the steps of the church and wait until the parents have had their time socializing. Souvlaki is a skewer of chunks of pork marinated in lemon, garlic and oregano, grilled to perfection, served on a lightly grilled pita with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, lemon and dill). My husband now looks forward to at least two at the festival and two to take home each year.
|Souvlaki: marinated chunks of pork, onions, tomatoes and tzaziki sauce on the side|
TheGreek Fests have not been the same without my close high school friends. The family has since moved back to Crete and are all doing well. I haven't been able to visit them since October of 2001, so it's been too long.
|Greek dancers, like our friends used to do|
Click here for a video of the dance!
Until I can see them again someday I make it a point of going to the Greek Fest each year. I'm happy to say I've shared my tradition with my husband and other friends and family through the years. I need my Greek food fix, Greek music and dance, and the chance to spend time with family and friends, new and old.
|Cousins enjoying gyros|
|Lots of folks at this Cleveland tradition. During the festival, everyone is Greek.|
|The end of one of the indoor food lines|
|Not the best photo of the Cleveland Skyline from their parking lot, but you get the idea.|
|My friends' family's village on Crete. Accessible only by ferry, as there are no roads or cars in this remote area. 1997|
|My friend and her grandpa on Crete. 1997|
|My friend relaxing with a frappe. Crete 1997|