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ChefView – OPA!


Chef View
By Dana Johnson

Everybody say“OPA!”
50 Years! Greek Food Festival!
“OPA!” is a Greek word that is heard often in the celebration of life. Most likely, you’ve heard the word at a restaurant (Greek or otherwise) when someone broke a plate – on purpose or unintentionally. Or you’ve heard the word at a wedding or Greek festival when people are dancing. You should put the he underlying meaning of the Greek word “OPA!” into a practical context so that you can use it for your own benefit: to build resilience, foster engagement, manage life transitions, enjoy life to the fullest; in your personal life and in your work. “OPA!” to those benefits being a part of my life!

Since 1966 the Greek Food Festival has been introducing Modesto and the surrounding communities to authentic Greek food, entertainment, and a true sense of their celebrated culture. For the past 50 years, including several generations the traditions of the festival have been passed down and kept alive. Anna Petrulakis has been involved in the baking and as a chair person for all 50 years. Anna recalled having her small children in playpens while she and 50+ others who gathered to bake the desserts including; Baklava, Koulourakia, and Paximadia which are two kinds of Greek biscotti. Anna also introduced me to her granddaughter, Eleni, who proudly showed me her handmade apron she wears while helping in the church kitchen, and who also attends Our Lady of Fatima. I could truly feel the sense of a community come together as these desserts were being handmade for the 8,000 guests who will attend the 2 day event. The Baklava smelled divine with aromas wafting through the air of butter, honey, cinnamon, lemons, walnuts, and sweet sugar. 500 lbs of Baklava, that’s 100 pans, 160 pieces on each, totaling 16,000 decadent bites!

Included in the ticket price is an authentic Greek dinner; Greek salad, Greek style chicken, made by head chef Paul Forakis, Greek pilaf, Greek veggies, made by Nick Malekos, son of Tony Forakis. Yes, these men all learned the trade of Greek cuisine from their fathers. During the festival there is also so much to do and see like folk dancing (that some children start learning from as young as age 4). You can take a church tour and see the beautiful tiles created by an Italian artist, maybe do a bit of shopping in the Agora (marketplace) for some craft items, jewelry, clothing, and other Greek imports. You will likely find me in the coffee house sipping and snacking down on Baklava!

Cindy Malekos, head of public relations and former dancer of 20 years at the festival has a pure passion for this event as she loves to see everyone, the sharing of her culture, and hosting the community is a very special time of year for her. She was disappointed at the time of my visit the priest wasn’t there to introduce me. I look forward to meeting the priest, soaking up this lovingkindness, and dining on some AUTHENTIC Greek cuisine, see you at the Greek Food Festival!

Modesto View signature question: Beatles or Stones, Cindy? “Beatles!” But why was she laughing when she said it? I don’t think she really meant it! “OPA!”

Publishers Note: Father Jon Magoulias plays a mean bass and has been known to jam on occasions – Chris M.

Modesto View Chef View September 2015
Greek Food Festival
Sept. 19th noon-9pm
Sept. 20th 11am-7pm
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
313 Tokay Ave. Modesto (209) 522-7694
Tickets available online www.goannunciation.org
Adult pre-sale tickets- $14* Adults at the door -$17* Kids under 12 -$8.50
*Includes meal, dessert, and admission to all venues (Take out available.)
Shuttles available from Safeway/Burlington Coat Factory parking lot

RECIPE:
Definition of the word “authentic” when it comes to foodIt’s a difficult idea to pin down. The word itself comes from ancient Greek, autosmeaning “self” and hentes implying “doer” or “being”. It’s also tied up with the notion of authorship, so a working definition of authentic food could be dishes which are true to themselves and the person cooking them.

GREEK SALAD DRESSING
1/2 c. olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Mix all ingredients together. Pour over salad. Top with feta cheese (marinade salad if desired).

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