Greek Fruit and Vegetables

Informant A is a 17-year-old Sophomore at USC studying Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis on Neuroscience. She is ¼ Greek Cypriote, ¼ German and ¼ Argentinian but she strongly identifies with the Greek side of her. She spent 9 years in Greek school and goes to Greece every summer. She speaks Greek with her grandparents.

So one of the biggest things on the island is a stress on the importance of fruits and vegetables, because we grow all of our own. And some of my family members actually own farms. So one of the important things that my grandfather did with me as a tradition together, because he knew I wasn’t getting it in such an industrialized urban America, since I lived in New York City, was he brought me to my family’s farm and he had me pick the figs with him. So I know how to pick a perfect fig now! I know exactly the ripeness to pick, I can see it up in the tree, I’ll tell him and point at it, and he’ll take the ladder and go pick the fig down, and I got to eat it right there, right off the tree totally fresh. We’d feed the bad ones to the chickens or rabbits. We’d pick peaches and grapes and he basically wanted me to have experience with the outdoors with the food that you’re eating because he felt that American culture is so far removed from the actual farming and from the food. You just kind of accept what’s in front of you and put it into your mouth and your body without knowing what it is.  He stressed things like knowing which chickens gave you your eggs, and where you’re getting your flowers from. We would drive 2 hours to a nearby village to get our Halloumi cheese. I would always come back with like 20 packages. I guess one of the advantages the US has over Cypress is access to things like toothpaste and Listerine, these things are such luxuries in Cypress. I would actually bring a suitcase full of this stuff. When I come back though my suitcase would all be full of cheese!

There’s a big contrast between the industrial and the farm land. So what would happen with this food, its usually community based, and you’d make your dishes and invite people over and they’d bring the dishes that they made. But the way that the structure works as far as the meals go, which I really like it that you don’t actually start off with a bread or a soup, you start off with some cheese, you use that to tide you over. And they always have the bowls of fruit out. The fruit is completely different. They’re so small but so sweet. I miss it. They only pick it when its ripe and you eat it right away. My family specialty is pastichio, and it’s like a “Greek lasagna” and I call it that just because it has pasta and meat in different layers. Its purpose was to fill you up and give you enough energy for the long day, because most of the people in Cypress work in the fields. It’s a layer of noodles in the bottom, and then you would have a layer of ground beef with mint and parsley, and olive oil and chopped up onions, and then you add all the vegetables to get your nourishment. And then the top is béchamel cream. It’s a very light creamy mixture that adds some substance, and then you put a little cinnamon on top. And one small square like the size of your fist will completely fill you up, it’s a full meal. I actually called my grandmother to get the exact family recipe when I made it here. It doesn’t taste the same if you buy it in a store. Every family makes it a little differently. The family recipes correlate exactly to what the villages would grow, each dish will taste a little differently in each place. In the US we like storage. We need pre-packaged food or canned food, something that we can open easily and work on. In Cypress we have all these fruits and vegetables and its just around, you can pick it and you can make it, you have the time.



Here the informant A talks about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in Greece and also about the tradition she and her grandfather share when she went to pick the figs, and also the tradition of making her family recipes. She also describes how she called her Grandmother for the recipe and how that strengthened their bond.  She describes the importance of community and how everyone will come together over the home cooked food. She doesn’t think that this same type of community exists in the US because people cook much less here because they just want things fast, and have less special family recipes that are passed down.