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The Big Fat Greek Name Day Feast

August 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

The evening of Friday 15 August was an absurdly funny one.    The occasion – dinner at mum’s to celebrate her partner Peter’s name day.

According to the Greek Orthodox tradition when someone is named after a saint or martyr that day becomes their “name day”.  This happens on most days and is celebrated with a feast fit for a King………. and the entire King’s army………and the King’s enemies and the enemy’s army.

My curious nature led me to this ask the question.  What the blazes is a ‘name day’ ? For that matter what does MY name day mean –St Katherine’s Day.

History tells us that Katherine of Alexandria, a smart and beautiful women (and no, I am not making this up) declared to her parents that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in everything, such that “His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world.”

Katherine was obviously a smart lady when it came to the dating world.  She wanted the best of everything – looks, wealth and intelligence.  Being named after Katherine isn’t so bad so far…. But then a horrible twist…..
Katherine visited her contemporary Roman Emperor Maxentius who was a persecutor of Christians to try and convince him of the error of his ways.  The Emperor didn’t take to kindly to Katherine’s convictions so he ordered her imprisonment and she was ultimately condemned to death on the breaking wheel – an instrument of torture.

So let me get this right, I am named after a woman who was tortured on some sort of giant wheel by a maniacal roman emperor who had a problem with smart women and the Greeks decided this was worth celebrating?  And I thought the Emperor was crazy!………. well now that I am satisfied with the outcome of my name day research let me get back on track regarding the absurd evening.

I was reluctant to go to this name day dinner.  Mum had been experiencing some computer problems that she wanted my partner Julian to look at so we thought we would pop in just to say hello, fix the computer and do a quick exit stage left.

I should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy.  We turned up at mum’s to be greeted by a group of her  friends that I didn’t know.  If you have read my other blog, The baby down pour, you would know how I feel about attending ‘rituals’ such as weddings, christening and baby showers.

Just to bring some complexity into the evening, Julian is on an elimination diet due to a suspected food allergy.  This means he is on a very strict diet which allows for no deviation. It’s bad enough when you are on a diet and going to a function but when that function is Greek it’s unacceptable – it will be talked about for many years.  You are forever a leper in the eyes of the Greeks.

When I saw that mum had put on an extravagant spread on I knew there was no quick exit to be had.  I took mum aside and explained that Julian couldn’t eat anything.  ‘What about ‘salad, I have prepared a nice salad just for Julian, its got rocket, parsley and lettuce’, she asked. ‘No’ mum, Julian can’t have rocket.’ ‘What about tuna?’  ‘No mum, no tuna!’

This was going to be awkward.

I am convinced mum has some sort of obsessive compulsive question disorder as she asked me if I wanted something from every dish, ‘’would you like some olive bread?  Or how about a slice of split-vienna?’  I eyed the 20 varieties of bread in disbelief; no doubt my mother had covered all bases.

One of my mum’s friends offered me some wine – lambrusco from a casket, hmmm how charming.  I declined politely even though I was tempted to explain about the abomination of lambrusco.

The barbeque was working at full capacity, every type of animal and its organs were on offer,  fish, pork, shrimp, beef, liver, Cypriot sausage. I refer to the Greek BBQ as cancer on a stick – the meat isn’t ready until it’s black.  I read somewhere that the Greek diet is one of the healthiest, whoever said this were obviously vegetarian.


My mum continued firing off “would you like questions”- ‘would you like some feta? It’s been marinated with oregano and olive oil, what about some grass?’  Now let me explain for all of you non-Greek folk. I am referring to leafy green boiled vegetables (not of the illegal type).  They are quite bitter and often served with lemon juice and olive oil.

Poor Julian, I could see him out of the corner of my eye, drooling over my Cypriot sausage and marinated feta.  Then, more “would you like questions continue” – ‘How about I prepare Julian an iceberg lettuce salad?  Just lettuce, he can eat lettuce cant he?’ Then the explosion from me, ‘mum, Julian will EAT AT HOME, and stop asking me if I want this and that, I can see what is on the table, I can SEE and if I want something I will just help myself!’

The guests fell silent, unusual for Greeks but I knew I had gone too far.  A few glasses of lambrusco down the hatch might not be such a bad idea right now; instead I stuff a big chunk of Cypriot sausage in my mouth.

Slowly I devoured my plate of Greek-all sorts.  There is magic at work at a Greek feast, your plate is never empty, somehow it always refills itself.  It’s a miracle. ‘Come on eat, you’re too skinny’, exclaimed one of the guests, ‘you are a growing girl you need to eat’.  Um hello, I am a 5 7” 35 year old women, I am not sure which direction he thinks I need to grow.

By this time Julian is so hungry he’s monosyllabic.  A childhood memory pops into my head unexpectedly. When I was a child and I used to get bored visiting family friends, I would kick my mum under the table to hint that I wanted to leave without attracting attention.  I thought it was a clever and subtle tactic but I was wrong.  Everyone knew I was kicking my mum under the table.  Julian gave me a look that was equivalent to a kick from under the table but no one saw it expect for the ginger cat from next door that had come to scope out any leftovers.  Judging by the size of Mr Ginger’s waistline, he quite enjoyed his visits here and I suspected Mr Ginger would never kick anyone under the table.

On the way home as I carefully balanced a big plate full of food on my knees, I reflected upon the evening.  Are Greeks really celebrating a name day or is just an excuse to eat more food and drink bad wine.

Tags: musings

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 okokok // Jul 2, 2011 at 12:49 am

    cut down on indymedia re malaka, it destroyed your brain

  • 2 kimbakat3 // Jul 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Awww shucks you are obviously such a charmer..I guess I would expect nothing else from a Greek male. By the way I challenge you to write something – if it’s good then sure happy to stick with my malaka title.

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