“Give me a word, any word, and I will show you the root of that word is Greek”
How about, Macedonian?
The movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002) is a family favorite in our home for good reason. I am pretty sure someone had a spy-robot-fly-on-the-wall that filmed our engagement and wedding and then made a movie about it. But as my father-in-law would say, we aren’t Greek; we are Macedonian…and so as not to offend, there are many differences, but for fun in this post, we are going to look at some similarities.
*Caution; proceed only if you have seen the movie or don’t care about movie lines that make no sense to you.
“And my whole family is big and loud. And everybody is in each other’s lives and business. All the time! Like, you never just have a minute alone, just to think, ‘Cause we’re always together, just eating, eating, eating! The only other people we know are Greeks, ’cause Greeks marry Greeks to breed more Greeks, to be loud breeding Greek eaters.”
If you want to join us in the “circle of trust” here at our house, you must become a big-fat-eating-movie-watching-eater who likes to watch movies and eat. And did I mention eat? The first thing a neophyte must do is eat some grilled meat (“What do you mean he don’t EAT NO MEAT?!”) do a shot of Ouzo (“OPA!”) and watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding with us while we annoyingly yell along with lines of the movie. (“My cousins have two volumes; Loud and Louder!“)
If you don’t have rolls of tulle, baklava or Windex, (“Put some Windex”) although my father-in-law preferred duct tape as the superior answer to most of life’s problems, then you have to acclimate for a bit by just watching the insanity, and apprentice in sarcasm with each family visit. But be sure to take off your shoes at the door first, or you will deal with us staring at your shoes the whole time you are here. (“If greek women aren’t naggin’ somebody, they gonna die!”)
The way I acclimated to this wonderful culture was to eat warm tomatoes from the garden like an apple, and stalks of baby garlic (think green onions) with dinner–and if you were married, the rule is you BOTH had to eat them or the other one of you wasn’t going to sleep well for the next two nights. I learned to eat beans, tomato salad and manga the bread into the wonderful juice that was left behind every beautiful dish so masterfully prepared. My mother-in-law’s cooking was unlike anything I have ever eaten or will eat because you could taste the love she had for her family in every amazing bite.
Sometimes I tried to deserve her cooking by doing dishes after dinner, but other meals were well-earned. My favorite time to hang around was August when the garden was being harvested and the sausages were hanging to dry. We would walk into the house and the powerful smell of ground leeks would hit us in the face; and I knew that meant the sausages were being ground and mixed. If I came over too early though, I could get caught up in the action of harvesting, which I didn’t mind, except for the plum trees. My father-in-law recruited me to go into battle with the bees and the wasps to gather the delectable sweet plums. I would duck under the low hanging branches to the loud buzzing that warned of impending stings. Pull, run, scream; pull, run, scream. I tried to make a good daughterly impression as he giggled his adorable silent laugh the whole time watching me, knowing my skittish fear of things that buzz. My mother-in-law made it up to me with some fresh-baked baklava (you thought I was kidding about the movie, right?) and if I believed in reading coffee grounds, I am sure my “tursko” coffee cup would have told me that I was in for a wild Macedonian ride. And it would have been wonderfully correct.
My Big Fat Greek wedding was hysterically accurate of our wedding year…almost. Even though I was the first Americanski into the circle of trust, I was blessed with kindness and understanding from my husband’s family and schooled in this amazing culture by all of the wonderful cousins and family that supported us. Other than that, I will someday write a book about our six-month engagement that included (just to mention a few)
- a phone call asking me what color the pig should wear at the reception (it was to be enjoyed at dinner, but dressed for the occasion in the same color as the bridesmaids)
- swigs of whiskey from bottles carried by the cousins wearing aprons, shirt sleeves rolled-up, banging drums and spoons to the music of the band; a traditional dance around the hall at the reception, collecting dollars for the newlyweds “Besheto“
- a dance around a loaf of bread that brought enough money to purchase our first couch (people paid to dance with the bride, groom and bread in the center of a circle) “Pogacha“
- cookies, cookies and more cookies…practically every Macedonian family brought their own handmade version which decorated the hall tables more delectably than the flowers…because you couldn’t eat those. (“Ladies, fresh baklava”)
- people swinging kerchiefs (Linda, I can’t remember…”how you call?”) and yelling “Opa!” (“Have another ouzo.”)
- and circles of glamorous, dancing people who know how to eat, drink, and dress like movie stars. (“Oh Taki, he looks like a greek god“.)
I may not be born Macedonian, but this little Irish girl loves a party and maybe I didn’t marry an Irish lad with my family history, but he didn’t marry a Macedonian girl either. What brought us together was family, food and fun. Maybe we are from different parts of the world, but to quote Gus, the father of the Greek bride, “In the end, we all fruit.”
You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word “milo,” which is mean “apple,” so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek word “portokali,” which mean “orange.” So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit.
In memory of my mother and father-in-law, who always treated me like family. Today is the twelfth anniversary of my mother-in-law’s heaven birthday so I salute her with a grateful heart and amazing awe at the sacrifices she made for her family.