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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 February 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2018 7 COMMUNITY OPINION The 23rd Annual Hellenic Studies Awards presented on the International Day of the Hellenic Language 153 awards were presented to high achievers and education professionals The Australian Hellenic Educators' Association celebrated the International Day of the Hellenic Language in style, with the presentation ceremony for the 23rd Hellenic Studies Awards at the Parliament House of New South Wales on Thursday 8 February. Souvlakifest Or how I learnt to stop worrying and love Greek food as the leading ambassador of our culture NIKOS FOTAKIS The Post-it note reads: "The Durrells - Channel 7 - Thursdays - good family show." It's attached to a pathology slip that I unearthed while trying to tidy up my desk. It was written by the kind, cheerful woman who had - kindly, cheerfully - drawn blood from my veins, for my regular check-up. Reading it made me smile - well, not as much as the blood test results, but still. I remembered our discussion and her suggesting I should watch the British show, about the great writer Gerald Durrell and his life in Corfu. It came at the end of a discussion where she shared her love of Greece and more particularly, for the stuffed tomatoes she often for lunch at the local eatery (local, of course, being Oakleigh). This, in its turn, reminded me of a complaint of a friend, that anytime she's around nonGreeks, discussion always ends up being about food. She thought it was a sign of shallowness. I, on the other hand, am relieved that my recent encounters with nonGreeks (am I allowed to say 'Anglo'?) people are becoming more food-centric. When I first came to Melbourne, three years ago, anyone who met me tilted their heads a bit, gave me a worrisome, philanthropic look and said something about the economy. "I've seen the news, it's terrible what's happening, isn't it?" It is. I may have spent hours going over and over the same stories, trying to navigate people through "the Greek issue," explaining what it means to be PASOK, what the European Regional Development Funds are, the strong ties between the Common Agricultural Policy and bouzoukia, pensions, benefits, trying to set up business in Greece, corruption, taxation, neoliberalism, and Varoufakis. I'd much rather discuss stuffed tomatoes and charcoal-grilled meat, share the delight of having an afterhours $13.50 fish soup at Stalactites and enter the ongoing debate on whether Kalimera serves the best souvlaki in Melbourne. The city is still trying to digest the wildly successful 31st Lonsdale Street Festival which saw Melbourne's CBD engulfed in barbecue smoke and the smell of food being cooked in gigantic quantity and at a frantic pace. It is fair to say that anyone who visited the area last weekend still has an aftertaste of gyros, spanakopita and loukoumades all mixed together. In fact, souvlaki consumption is one of the festival's measure of success - this year it is estimated that more than 20,000 of them were sold. That's a lot of souvas. It's easy to be mistaken and think that the festival is all about food. The stalls can do that for you, forming a pathway for foodies, offering everything, from your basic - and basically non-Greek - fish and chips, to the former-noveltyturned-festival-staple of potato twists, to Greek delicacies having made the 15,000 km trip from the motherland, to eye-and-mouth-watering dishes made with love of the produce and a fresh approach to tradition, like the ones that Angie Giannakodakis was serving at the Elyros stand. Greeks take all that for granted. Critics would want it to be more about the culture and less about the food. I know, I've been one of them. As much as I appreciate a shot of raki before lunchtime - or an ice-cold coffee at midnight, for that matter - I have found myself trying to cut through the smog of burnt meat, hoping that this Greek celebration would be more about language, highbrow culture and the theatre. Of course, I was wrong. Yes, there is much more to be done to further pursue a high level of teaching Greek and yes, there is always more to be done to promote Greek culture through music, literature, theatre. And an open debate about how the Community allocates the gener- ous funding pledged by the Andrews Government is certainly worth having. There is a time and place for that and that time and place is not on Sunday afternoon at Lonsdale Street, among people filling their stomachs with food. However hungry one might be for spiritual nourishment, it's never okay to be a party spoiler - I found out the hard way. Instead, I learnt to relax, and try to see things through the eyes - and tastebuds - of people for whom Greek food is not part of their upbringing, people like the kind, cheerful nurse sticking a needle in my arm trying to find out my cholesterol levels. They are happy to partake of what we've been cooking for ages and express their delight. A large number of those 20,000 souvas were consumed by non-Greeks and it is important to keep that in mind. It's very easy to dismiss food as a component of culture, but there's a reason that SBS has devoted a channel to cooking shows and food content. It is the common denominator, what brings us together. As Greeks, we know what a real symposium is all about. So let's break bread and see this as the start of a real conversation. We still might end up fighting about Varoufakis. But at least we'll not be hungry. Under the aegis of Consul General Christos Karras, and in close cooperation with the Consulate-General, educators were honoured for their contributions to Hellenic studies, while students were recognised for their achievements in this field. In the presence of 420 parliamentarians, educators, students, parents, and friends, this was the largest celebration of Hellenic Studies in Australia. The 9 February was proclaimed by the Hellenic Government last year as the International Day of the Hellenic Language a Memorial Day for the National Poet of Hellas, Dionysios Solomos. "The enactment of the International Day of the Hellenic Language constitutes an act of recognition of the contribution of the Hellenic language to world civilisation and brings to mind that the language of the Hellenes led to the birth of the universal values which adds meaning to the modern civilised world," Mr Karras said. "The association is the sole community organisation which organises an event to simultaneously honour educators and students," Dr Panayiotis Diamadis added. The highest honour – the Ayios Kosmas o Aitolos Award for service to Hellenic Studies – was presented to Professor Martina Möllering of Macquarie University, in recognition of many years of service to Hellenic education. Speaking in Greek and English, Professor Möllering focused on the value of studying Hellenic language and literature, praising the value of Hellenic civilisation. Minister for Veterans' Affairs the David Elliott MP, Courtney Houssos MLC, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Sophie Cotsis MP, and the director of the Lysikrates Foundation, John Azarias were all on the same wavelength. The awards were granted in the following six categories: - for educators (5 awards), - for primary school students (21 awards), - for the Hellenic Ministry of Education's Certificate of Hellenic Language and Culture (which has six categories, 59 awards), - for Higher School Certificate achievers in seven different courses, 64 awards) - for tertiary students across three universities (four awards).
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