Comfort? Food.

Ready for dinner

Last week was the first since the inception of this blog in which I didn’t post. I could make some excuses about being preoccupied by traveling with the baby, spending time with family, meeting some article deadlines. But the truth is I was too busy eating.

It started when we arrived at my parents’ house the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and my aunt insisted on touching her finger, dipped in sugar, to Amalía’s lips to ensure that she have a sweet visit and a sweet life. I was a little weirded out…Amalía hasn’t had anything but breast milk and her liquid vitamin and I know we’re supposed to introduce all foods slowly, one at a time, to see if she has allergies. Besides, sugar is the crack cocaine of natural foods and there’s an obesity epidemic in this country. But I do want Amalía to have a sweet life and it basically just looked like she was having an exfoliating lip treatment, with the grains rubbed against her baby mouth, so I went with it.

Ferris's "The First Thanksgiving", taken from Wikipedia.

That was the extent of Amalía’s binging (she’s really much more of a purger; she spit up so much we had to change her party clothes six times in one day). But while Amalía gorged on the attention of two grandmas and lots of great-aunts, her mama started eating and didn’t stop. First there was Thanksgiving. I know the pilgrims were grateful to God for having survived that first harsh winter, but I have to think that they were at least as grateful to the Native Americans for introducing them to such delicious foods. I can just see Priscilla Alden leaning over to Massasoit and saying, “Love the wild rice, and the cranberries–delish! I was worried the menfolk wouldn’t let us eat them, the berries being red and sweet and flashy like those forbidden love apples, but I guess when you’re starving, anything goes. Now, if you could just talk to them about us adopting your beaded jewelry trend…so becoming!”

Our own 2012 Thanksgiving had cranberry relish (good times!) and a turkey that weighed about 6 pounds more than Amalía, but it also some unique traditions, such as Joanie’s chocolate kahlua pie. (I’d like to pretend that this pie is a harvest-themed nod to the indigenous tribes of Mexico, but it’s really just deliciousness for its own sake.) I enjoyed all the food, traditional or nouveau; I’m an equal opportunity enjoyer.

The next day we had an open house so my aunts and cousins could meet Amalía. Everyone else ate Greek Christmas cookies and drank champagne; the honoree spit up breast milk. The highlight of the day came when she had thrown up on everything else so we dressed her in a Mrs. Claus outfit that Yia Yia Joanie had bought her. Suddenly cameras surrounded her like bait in a feeding frenzy, but she is used to paparazzi by now, so she refrained from further spitting up until the photo opportunity had ended.

On Saturday, my mother made a turkey pie with the remains of the Amalía-dwarfing bird. The recipe was a testament to American ingenuity, meant to make short work of Thanksgiving leftovers and making excellent use of frozen Pillsbury pie crust. But I forced her to “Greek chic” it, as my friend the cookbook writer likes to say, to add a little sprinkle of Greekness, by writing the date 2012 on the top of the pie in shredded turkey.

Last year's kreatopita

When I was growing up, every year on New Year’s day, my family would eat kreatopita, meat pie, with the date of the upcoming year written on the top in lamb bits (you think I’m joking, but it’s true). A coin (wrapped in tinfoil for sanitary reasons) is hidden in said pie, and whoever finds it in his or her slice is supposed to have good luck all year round. Then, so that you’ll have two chances at good luck instead of just one, we have a sweet, vegetarian version for dessert, the traditional vassilopita (St.Basil’s cake, since January 1st is St. Basil’s day). I’ve tasted other versions, but our vassilopita is a moist, dense, intensely comforting orange pound cake–like a citrus hug. In any case, since I knew we wouldn’t be in Massachusetts for New Year’s Day this year, and would have neither kreatopita nor vassilopita, I insisted that Joanie turn the turkey leftover pie into an ersatz new year’s day celebration. My husband, Emilio, got the coin–again! He got it last year, too, and the new year brought him a baby daughter without any of the swelling I had to go through to get the same prize. Who knows what 2012 will have in store?

I’m happy the luck ended up in our household, but I would have been just as delighted if my aunt had gotten it, or my cousin, sister, or parents. The truth is, I’ll take any excuse to consume delicious food or equally delicious folklore. When the food itself is what’s magic, all the better, even if it means rubbing sugar on my baby’s already-sweet lips (after all, when we announced our engagement, the same aunt whipped up loukoumades, honey-dipped dough balls, so that we’d have a sweet life together. What kind of mother would i be if I denied my daughter the right to the same wishes, just because she doesn’t eat solid food yet?)

There are many ways we show love. Feeding each other–whether it’s from the breast or the bakery–is just one of them. But it might be my favorite.


  1. Is your Thitsa Kanta still living? While recently reading your book “North of Ithaka,” I was so hoping she would live to see you get married and have children. After finishing the book, I found your blog and saw the wedding photos and read your birth story. Congratulations! Blessings, Kathy

  2. Eleftheria Arapoglou says:

    I loved the post! How about an alternative title: “Showing Love? Food”

  3. Good call, Eleftheria! And Kathy, yes, all of the thitsas are still alive, happily, and Thitsa Kanta met Amalía this weekend. I have some very cute pictures of them. If you go to my facebook author page I’ll post a picture of the historic meeting; I’m not sure how to do that here without writing a whole new blog!

  4. Yay, I saw the picture. What a blessing that all the thitsas are still alive and able to welcome the next generation. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m so happy to come across your blog after reading (and re-reading) your book which my wonderful husband gave me for my birthday! And I’ve even more delighted to see that you have a beautiful, beautiful little girl! Chronia Polla to you all! My husband and I, without a drop of Greek blood between us, love Greece and took our then- 7 month old son, Alexander, to the Peloponnese in May. While the Greek people have always been incredibly kind and welcoming to us, oh-my-goodness, were they amazing to our baby son. He was so confused when we returned to the States after several weeks and everyone didn’t immediately drop what they were doing to fawn all over him ;-). Whenever little Amalia takes her first trip, I’m sure she will thoroughly enjoy her taste of royal treatment too :). P.S. Alexander was also a “spitter” from about 6 weeks to 5 months. I promise, it will pass :). I have to admit to eventually keeping him in a bib just about 24/7 because I just could not keep up with the laundry of needing a dozen new outfits every day!

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