Even though the calendar tells us it is still spring, we all know the official start to the summer is Memorial Day weekend. And it has arrived with a bang here in the Mid-Atlantic. Hot, sunny and beautiful.
To celebrate the arrival of summer, the Greek side of our family would meet at Lakewood Park in Norfolk, VA. With its tennis courts, ball fields, playgrounds, walking paths, and pavilions, it was the perfect place for a multi-generational family to gather. Our “strategy “was to arrive early and grab a pavilion. Children were encouraged to run off and play, but we were always more interested in the big reveal. We would remain underfoot, mouths watering, waiting for the food to be laid out.
And then one year, it happened. Another large family came to grab the pavilion next to ours. Normally, this would not have been a big deal, but you could actually feel the tension begin to rise for this was no ordinary group of people. This was a family from the Philippines, another culture with a rich heritage in music, art and food.
The activity in our pavilion began to increase. Out came the taramosalata, marinated olives, tiropita and spanakopita all while stealing glances at our neighbors. The activity was just a feverish at their pavilion. Except for the lumpia (which would have been enough reason to visit our neighbors), I cold not identify the food. But I knew I wanted to try everything they were showcasing. It all looked amazing. My family sensed it too. The pace became more frenetic as they rushed to lay out the stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes with feta, rosemary lamb and deviled eggs (I know, but we are southern too and you can not have a picnic in the south without this dish) Our neighbors kept pace, bringing out one incredible looking dish after another. Normally, dessert would not have been revealed at this early hour. But, today was no ordinary picnic. My Yia Yia and Aunts emptied their last coolers and totes, offering up kourambiethes, loukoumathes and baklava. This must be what heaven feels like.
I am not sure anyone can truly win such a competition. I just know both families enjoyed an incredible meal that warm sunny day years ago. καλή όρεξη or bon appétit!