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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 July 2016
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JULY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM A Fat Greek lunch at The Press Club Celebrating the DVD release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, we enjoyed a reinvented Hellenic menu which took us by surprise NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU F ar-fetched as it may sound, when you're growing up as a Greek diasporan, the expectation to get married to a Greek, make lots of Greek babies and "feed everyone until the day you die" (a phrase often repeated throughout the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is somewhat ingrained in your personality. That definitely was the case for Fotoula, Nia Vardalos' character in the legendary 2002 romcom. It was certainly the case in the 2016 release of the sequel, too - spanning not one, not two, but three generations. Sometimes, there's just no escaping your 'Greekness'. Long story short, a few days ago, we found ourselves having a rather indulgent Fat Greek Lunch, not cramped in Chicago's Dancing Zorba's, but comfortably seated at George Calombaris' Press Club tables, like bees in a honeycomb. Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment had invited us to to celebrate the DVD release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 - all things family, food and Greek wine - over an intimate, bespoke three-course meal created by George. Although George is not married, he has two children and has also vowed to "feed everyone until the day he dies", just not the Portokalos way. In his most refined and elegant restaurant, The Press Club, we enjoyed imaginative, succulent dishes, most of which were reinvented. Having spent most of my adult life in Greece and being around cooks, I have come to the understanding that unless you do know your Greek food from the elbow, your chances of fathoming George Calombaris' interpretation of Greek cuisine can be limited. There is a deeply-rooted misconception about what 'traditional' Greek food is among the diapora Greeks, sometimes Greeks from Greece, too. I was a Greek food Philistine for quite a few years, complaining that "I don't understand modern chefs; I paid for a whole meal, not a stain on a plate; that does not taste like my yiayia's spanakopita; this isn't how I get my souvlaki at Savvas' in Monastiraki; that's definitely not how I like my gemista". I would get frustrated while eating something 'different' and even push the plate aside, adamant that "that's not Greek food. It can't be". According to what I knew, and we Greeks tend to suffer from a severe I-know-everythinglisten-to-me condition, those foods weren't Greek enough. But now I know better. Hellenic cuisine, however, goes all the way back to the ancient years - the Minoans, the Mycenaeans, the Lesvians, the Athenian aristocrats of 500BC, and so on. The combination of ingredients was based on seasonality and the effect the food inspired was not only on the body but on the mind as well. Taming the ego in order to please the guests’ senses, bringing out the purity of the ingredients and binding flavours, taking each new meal one step further, was something our ancestors loved to do; fusion was no stranger to them. Sweet and savoury notes often coexisted in a dish titillating as many senses as possible. There were many rules, but flavourwise, every rule was made to be broken and every recipe could be reinvented. Ancient Greeks also loved a bit of theatre in their presentation, and even though they have a reputation of feasting for several consecutive days and nights, the actual quantity of food they consumed was moderate. Food was an experience, prepared in a ritualistic way. "I opened The Press Club with a dream - my heart in the sun and my feet firmly in the kitchen," George Calombaris said at the launch, hoping we all had a "memorable food experience".
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