Wednesday, November 4, 2009


More people need a Greek mom like mine that can home-cook her ass off. I’m not joking either; she puts everything into it and must lose some weight doing it. From a pumpkin spice roll to dover sole, from that clean white fish to an assortment dish—this woman does it all and it’s always amazing, always alluring, always….awesome. That’s my mom—she’s sen-sational!

I believe that garbage food has inundated our lives, that there are truly horrible things that people are putting into their bodies, and that there are waaaay too many fallacies out there concerning the things we eat. We are constantly bombarded with messages that recommend we eat this or that for whatever effect. “Use splenda,” buy “fat free,” make sure it’s “sugarless.” It never ends! I grew up eating organic without even knowing it, before it was the latest fad, and during the time of McDonald-mania. And yet, I never appreciated the goodness that exists in a meal that is made with love and from scratch. I appreciate it today, mostly because I can’t cook anything like my mom, but also because I’m realizing the sudden urgency to want to know how to cook….exactly like her.

When I was around seven or eight, I went to Greece to visit my maternal grandmother. It wasn’t my first or last time but I do remember this time in particular when considering cuisine. My yaya (grandmother) lives a couple of hours outside of Athens in a small town, the type where everyone knows everyone and eachothers business. Anyway, I remember her asking what we (my mom and sister) wanted to eat and chicken being the unanimous answer. Well, imagine my surprise when I walked to the back of the house and witnessed yaya beheading a live chicken! I was horrified. I won’t ever forget seeing the headless chicken’s body aimlessly walking around for a few seconds before collapsing. I could not believe my eyes. I had always eaten chicken, was aware that it was an animal, but didn’t quite put it all together quite like my grandmother did for me that day. But the point it is—it was organic, straight from her home farm to the kitchen table—no antioxidants, no pesticides, no toxins—just right, just the way it should be. Try that one on for size in a commercial, Mr. Perdue.

Today, some twenty years later, I realize that my eighty year-old grandmother is living proof of what eating healthy farm fresh food can do: she is not fat but fit; she is not weak but wild; she is not run-down but radiant; she is healthy, she is old and she is still kicking with a strong foot forward! And she’s not the only one, the Greeks in her town who didn’t smoke, like my papou (grandfather), are also the same way; it’s a way of life and one that I want to embrace. Greeks are passionate people who are centered around their kitchen tables—it’s where they bond while filling their bellies. Eating is not done in front of a TV or in a hurry.

The older I get the more I realize how special it is to have good food. I love food, I love eating it and I want to love making it just as much. My beautiful Greek mom doesn’t behead chickens in our backyard but she does the best she can to always have home-cooked meals prepared for us. The funny thing is that we own an American steakhouse—ah, the irony! So this is where I stand on my beliefs:

1. Cook from scratch. Home cooked meals are healthy, hearty, and irreplaceable. Canned soup pales in comparison to the kind that is made over a stove. And, the aroma of cooking food can excite the memories or create new ones that can last a lifetime.

2. Food heals. Whether they’re labeled cancer-fighters, prevent aging, or can cure common ailments, food has unbelievable properties that we can all stand to benefit from—and the kind of food I’m talking about are foods that are farm fresh and natural.

3. TV dinners are a sin. I could vomit thinking about them. Processed foods gross me out and I regret their conception. I know people don’t have time and this shit is supposed to make things easier, but get real. They’re not that good, not good for you, and don’t hold a match when compared to the real thing. There are several alternatives for those who are faced with time or money constraints.

4. When you can’t cook, eat at a good restaurant. This coming from someone that owns one, but still, hear me out. I have witnessed people’s eating behavior and habits on a regular basis and am appalled to think that eating has become a task. When I eat out, I take my time and relax and ENJOY myself and my food; I can’t be bothered, take my time, and relish in every delicious moment. Follow suit. Our lives are busy busy busy, separate the time you eat and when you eat out from that mentality, and allow yourself to have fun with your friends or family while breaking bread.

I’m so blessed to have a mother that has cooked such exceptional meals for me my entire life. I’m saying this as a daughter who wants to emulate that talent; I’m saying it as a girlfriend who wants to dazzle her boyfriend with amazing cuisine; and I’m saying it as a person who believes that eating and home-cooked meals don’t get the credit they absolutely deserve.


Adeana said...

I'm seeing a field trip to your family's restaurant. I know it's American, but do you think your mom could whip up some dolmades for me?


Jzaslow2 said...

My family is Greek, too, and your piece brought back some great memories of avgolemeno soup and family gatherings. Great recounting of your chicken memory. I like the way you led into your list of good/healthy eating habits. After this piece, my mouth is watering! Nice!