Big festival is back with food, fun and big words
As Toula’s father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” liked to say, “Give me a word, any word, and I will show you that the root of that word is Greek.”
Why, then, with this common ancestry is Greek such a difficult language to master for those of us who are not Greek?
I don’t know.
But I do know this: Of the scores of people who turn out for the Greek Festival at St. Mark’s Orthodox Church in Belleview every year, most have little or no Greek ancestry (that they know of).
And with the 18nd annual festival this weekend, those going might wonder what some of the words they’ll hear actually mean.
So in the spirit of public service, I undertook to seek and define some of these terms, leaving no stone unturned and copying copiously from a page in the festival program provided by co-coordinator Kathy Zotos.
For instance, you’re likely to hear “Opa!” — a lot!
This is an all-purpose exclamation, “a celebrating term, both good and bad,” Zotos said. “You say it if you’re happy, if you break some dishes, whenever.”
It’s also said a lot after tossing back shots of “ouzo,” a powerful anise-flavored aperitif that can knock you off your seat; I know this from experience. There’s likely to be plenty of both, “Opa!” and “ouzo.”
For the well-mannered, there’s “parakalo” (pa-rah-KA-low), meaning “please” and “you’re welcome.” There’s also “efcharisto” (eff-ka-ree-stow), meaning “thank you.”
Greek music wouldn’t have its distinctive flair without someone playing a “bouzouki” (buh-zoo-kee), a guitar/mandolin-like instrument often played while walking on the tables.
The regular bouzouki player will not be here this year. “He moved to Greece,” said Tom Zotos, once again in charge of the festival kitchen. “But there will be a bouzouki; it wouldn’t be Greek music without one.”
Then there is the food. There will be a kitchen and bakery inside the Father George Papadeas Center, and a tavern and grill on a covered patio out back. In these areas, an array of jaw-breaking terms can be found.
“The Greek way of life is food,” Kathy Zotos said. “We like to eat, and we like to feed people.”
On the kitchen and grill menus, for instance, are spanakopita (spinach pie), tiropita (cheese pie), pastichio (Greek spaghetti), moussaka (eggplant and beef), souvlaki (marinated chicken), gyro (seasoned meat with tsatziki [cucumber] sauce) and something called a “hot dog.”
In the bakery there’s melomakarona (honey doughnut hole-like treats), galaktoboureko (custard in a filo shell) and kourambiethes (powdered sugar covered cookies), among other goodies; from experience I’ve found it easiest just to point at an item and tell them how many.
Then there’s saganaki (pronounced as it’s spelled), better known as “flaming cheese” — a small slab of imported sheep’s milk cheese such as vlahotiri or kasseri fried in butter, flamed with brandy and served with pita bread and a round of “Opa!”
In a word, “nostimo” (no-stee-mo) or “delicious.”
Dining columnist Rick Allen can be reached at email@example.com.