A Good Greek Granddaughter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     I am missing the Dispatch concert for this? In the basement with Dad and his cousin, I am making kokoretsi. Kokoretsi is lamb organs, including the heart and lungs, on a skewer with intestines wrapped around it. Its head is sitting on the table and Dad is making faces at it. Lovely.

Being a good Greek granddaughter is more than simply being a granddaughter. It is a whole culture. Greeks celebrate with festivals, food, and lots and lots of people. Tomorrow is Greek Easter and the whole family is coming over. Let me explain “whole family.” She knows her seventh cousins. They live down the street. There are at least four Marias, nine Dimitris, ten Nikos, six Georges and five Yannis - and they each own a pizza parlor. All her aunts, third uncles and fourth cousins-once-removed know everything her grandparents have ever said about her. Tomorrow, at her small gathering, the immediate family is coming ... all 60 of them.

Her yia yia (grandmother) and papou (grandfather) believe that Easter is the most important holiday in the Greek Orthodox religion. In fact, Yia Yia also believes that she will marry “a nice Greek boy” (or a priest) in the Orthodox Church. As an Orthodox Christian, she attends a two-hour church service every Sunday. Dressing for church is easy as her wardrobe contains just one color: black. She wears it at funerals, weddings, in the summer, at Easter, even casually. Black is the family color.

After she greets her family at Easter and receives a cheek pinching and a “You’ve gotten so big!” from Yia Yia and Papou, she makes her way to the food table. She will know you are not a Greek granddaughter when you wonder why the dinner salads never have lettuce. The kokoretsi from last night is roasting next to the lamb on a spit in her backyard. As she finishes her third serving of pasticho, grape leaves and lamb, Yia Yia adds more food to her plate.

This evening’s desserts include buttery flakes of sweet baklava, which her yia yia taught her to bake as soon as she could giggle, and cookies topped with white sugar. These desserts are especially amusing to watch non-Greeks eat since they breathe out when they eat the cookies, causing a white sugar explosion all over their clothes.

Music begins and everyone stops eating to gather in a circle and begin dancing. Little children weave in and out, hoping that a yia yia or papou will throw some money in the air. She smiles. Today she made her grandparents proud, and she finally ate enough lamb. A Greek life may be hectic with family, food, grandparents, and church, but I would not trade it for anything in the world. Opa!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

New YiaYia said...
Feb. 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm
Dear Andre C., I'm about to have an eggoni' myself and LOVED your essay.  Any YiaYia would be very proud of you AND your writing skills. (I'm a retired language arts teacher!)
esn0622 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Hah--this is perfect! I'm Greek also. I guess all Greek families really are similar.
Antie said...
Jan. 13, 2011 at 8:06 am
I'm greek and m families is just like that. Hristos Anesti
wishingwriter said...
May 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm
I enjoyed this! I'm greek also, and I love it! It's a nice way to summarize everything! Hristos Anesti!
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback