YiaYia's Voice

“Just come show us how to make some of your ‘popular’ dishes”. How do you ‘show’ something abstract? Something that is your inheritance, your culture, a feeling! How do you ‘show’ someone to make dishes filled with memories. Aromas that have become part of your soul. How do you describe YiaYia and her kitchen – perfection? Wisdom, warmth, dedication personified? That’s how it all started

I started cooking & baking. Wow! Couldn’t believe it. Over 800 ‘friends’ interested in my ‘koulourakia & tsourekia!
I kept on baking.
Wow!Wow! 1200 interested in my ‘Infamous’ Cheese Cake. Can’t be a fluke!
So, 5 kilos later, thanks to your inspiration and motivation, and armed with nostalgia I began thinking…..
Like most Greeks in the early 1960’s, my parent immigrated to South Africa for a better future for their children.. Their goal: To stay 5 years, work hard and collect’ enough money to go back to Mitilini. Their dream: To build a ‘spitaki’ (little house) for each of their ‘morakia’(little children). 56 years later their ‘morakia’ are still in South Africa and so are they ….. smiling!

I was very young at the time and have very little memory of ‘my Xoryio’. Fortunately my parents brought it with them.
My father soon became ‘famous’ for his baktze (vegetable garden) in his back garden. His ‘pathos’ for his vegetables was beyond comprehension to me at the time. He would spend more time in his garden than with his family. His friends always left with their weekly supply of horta, celery, dill, brinjals, baby marrows……figs, pomegranates, quince, visina (sour cherries)…. Thin-skinned, blood red and sugary tomatoes, neatly lined up on the ledges, were a common sight. He would prune continuously. Trees were grafted to bear more than one fruit. He would often be teased that one could cut fruit from one tree and make fruit salad. He wasn’t into flowers. Orphaned at 10 and being the oldest son of 8 children ornamental plants were never an option. The family’s livelihood depended on his ‘production’. ‘He would often present my mother with flowers… cauliflowers …stating that not only are they beautiful but useful as well.
He would also take over in the kitchen. My mother‘s cooking often wasn’t on par with his mother’s! God forbid the yiahni (stew) was not ‘melomeno’. It was admirable (and painful at times) seeing his dedication and patience when it came to ‘thick ‘avgolemono making. His pride and joy was his village salad. None of his ‘apprentices’ ever passed their practical: Delicate Handling and Precision Cutting of Freshly Picked Cos Lettuce and Herbs. …………………………………. / to be continued

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