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It’s Greek to Me

As we get into the swing of the season, we’re making our favorite holiday dishes, spending time with loved ones, and reveling in a little holiday nostalgia. Longtime employee Stamatia “Sandy” Karadimas-Sanders shared with us the traditions that bind her family together … and make the season bright with flavor. Welcome to her family table.

Greek families are very close. You could say we have a tight bond, but it’s more like a warm hug with the sense that someone is always there for you … and that lasts forever. Food was plentiful and played a big part in our celebrations.

All of the holidays were huge family gatherings. Theo (Uncle) Christos and Thea (Aunt) BB hosted every year. They had a small 3-bedroom bungalow and big hearts — there was always room for family and friends to come celebrate at their house. Parties were in the basement, and it wasn’t uncommon for 100 people to visit their home in Cleveland on Christmas. So much food! The adults were at tables on one side of the room, in order of generation. The first generation got the head table, the second generation the folding tables, and us kids would spread out around the other side of the room.

Dinner was served family style, passing dishes of delicious food from person to person. The main course was lamb and there were side dishes like rice, Greek potatoes, peas in tomato sauce, dishes of olives and plates of feta cheese. Always, always present at every holiday celebration were huge trays of Spanakopita and cheesy Tyropita. Tyropita was Thea BB’s specialty. It was a fantastic spread. No paper plates at this celebration and no dishwasher either — that job fell to the kids.

After dinner, the tables were removed so that Greek music and dancing could go on late into the night! This is also when the Baklava and Greek Cookies came out. Mom baked the Baklava, cut it into diamonds and added a clove in the center of each.

I have fond memories as a child always with siblings, cousins, cousins of cousins playing together. When we were young there were board games and Greek card games. That camaraderie grew with us into adulthood and remains today. Vacations, festivals and parties still center around family and food. Thea BB, soon to celebrate her 90th birthday, is still baking up her Tyropita! And me? I will mark my 40th anniversary working at Athens Foods in April 2024. I guess you could say phyllo is in my blood.

What recipes taste like home to you? We’d love to know. For Greek favorites like Sandy’s and surprising new twists on the classics, check out our Pinterest page or download our Holiday Entertaining Guide.