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November 24, 2002

Do Greeks and Turkey Get Along?

"Do Greeks celebrate Thanksgiving?" We remember being asked this question often when we were growing up and to this day we still get asked the follow-up question, "What do Greeks eat on Thanksgiving?" Greek-Americans obviously celebrate Thanksgiving. While not holding the sort of quasi-religious significance that it holds for those who descent from those who came to the new world during colonial times, Greek-Americans, especially those whose families have been here a few generations, enjoy the event as much as those whose ancestors suffered through that cold winter at Plymouth Rock. 
Baa...I mean Gobble, gobble.
A desperate plea to remind Greeks of their culinary preferences.

Thanksgiving has assumed such a role in the Greek-American mainstream, that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese here in America actually relaxes the Nativity Fast on Thanksgiving allowing for our full participation in this secular holiday. (For those of you who don't know, the church encourages a Lenten like fast for the forty days before Christmas. If you've ever been to a dinner dance held by a church during this period and not had steak or chicken served for dinner, this was probably the reason why, not that your church was trying to save costs by going with the fish.) To put this into proper perspective, the church allows the eating of fish on Greek Independence Day, which almost always falls during Lent. Greek Independence Day falls on the same day as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, one of the church's most celebrated holidays, which makes this annual trip to the Red Lobster or Long John Silver for most fasters understandable. On Thanksgiving though, the church lets you go one better, eating turkey, pumpkin pie, and participating in gross displays of gluttony. (Ok, we aren't theologians and don't know if the church actually qualifies this relaxing of the fast, but who are we kidding, no one is eating fish on Thanksgiving.

But knowing that Greek-Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and are allowed to eat turkey doesn't necessarily mean that the traditional Thanksgiving meal is actually going to make it through unscathed in a Greek-American household. Greeks often substitute Thanksgiving favorites with non-traditional Thanksgiving fare in the following ways: 

Turkey Lamb. You can't stuff it, it takes just as long to cook, makes for horrible leftovers, but will still put you to sleep like it's its job. 

Sweet potatoes Oven roasted potatoes with lemon and oregano. Somehow Greeks will find a way to completely reverse the sentiment of a side dish. Sweet potatoes are usually served with marshmallows and nuts, making them more like dessert than a side dish. Greeks somehow find a way to substitute this classic with a dry, herb-ridden, desert of a side dish. 

Cranberry sauce Glyko tou Koutaliou. For those of you who don't know what this is, it's what happens when your mom boils up some grapes, throws in some peeled almonds and some sugar, and lets it stand there for a while, until it causes tooth decay on contact. (Ok, we're just kidding about this one. That would be just nasty to serve at Thanksgiving. Let's be honest, Greeks don't mix sweet and meat.)

Gravy Augolemono. (Eh, that's not true either.)

Pumpkin Pie Galaktobouriko. Same consistency, although you can't put Cool Whip on Galaktobouriko. Well, there's no rule against it, but we wouldn't recommend it. 

Thanksgiving parade Morning shows on Antenna Satellite or the Greek news on Channel 56 at noon. 

Football Poker. Actually, those of the older generation might have money on the Thanksgiving football match-ups, but they'll just tune in to check the scores at the end.

Sitting on the couch, letting the belt out one notch, and falling asleep around 8:00 Sitting on the couch, opening up the foustanella (ha ha), waking up around 10:00, and going out to Greek Night. 

Read past feature articles