Hellenic American Leadership Council
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Chicago, Illinois 60606
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It is hard to imagine holidays without our Yiayia’s cooking our favorite recipes and the delicious smell of their cooking filling the household. Every Greek holiday seems to also be a celebration of food. These traditional dishes, which are a staple part of the Greek culture, are also one of the best ways to preserve Greek identity across generations.
Archestratos wrote one of the world’s first cookbook dates around 330 BC. Food has always been a large part of Greek heritage. The traditional Greek dishes that we still prepare and eat today — such as dolmades, tirpotes and the like — have been passed down through countless generations.
While it is obvious that Greeks value these ancient recipes, they also value the time spent preparing the food. The meticulous process of preparing the Easter lamb represents more than cooking a piece of meat. This intricate cooking process is an honor and brings together family members of all generations. Additionally, making the lamb to eat on Easter Sunday represents not only the cultural component of the holiday, but also the religious component. Cooking the lamb honors the lamb of God that was sacrificed and rose on Easter Sunday.
Preserving the Greek culture through food is also seen in the ingredients used to prepare traditional dishes. These ingredients represent are not just items on a list. One example of this is olive oil. Olive oil is full of rich symbolism and is an essential ingredient in almost every dish. Olive oil comes from the olive tree which represents peace and victory in the Greek culture. Additionally, olive oil is used to symbolize strength and protection as the Greek warriors would lather themselves in oil for protection during battle.
Too often traditional family recipes are stuck between older generations of family members. Grandchildren and children sit back and relax which the matriarchs or patriarchs of the family slave away in the kitchen. If these traditions in the kitchen are not passed down to younger generations of Greek Americans, we could eventually lose an important part of the Greek culture. Just as language, dance, and other aspects of culture are slowly disappearing from the lives of Greek Americans, we can not lose our food as well. So this Easter, as the house is buzzing and everyone is preparing for the family to come over, don’t be afraid to get your hands in the kitchen and learn the recipes yourself, as they are an essential part of Greek culture.
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