Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greek Festival

I was invited by some people I love very much, to go to Kansas City
with them, for a Greek Festival being held there. It started Friday night, (Sept. 9,) and will go on into

The head of the family I traveled with has many relatives in Kansas City and it is a yearly
chance for him to get together with them. Younger family members have learned to cook some delicious richly flavored Greek food and the kids called their grandma yaya and grandpa is papu. Sorry if my spelling is wrong, I haven't read these names in Braille.

The first thing I noticed was the music! I'd been told that it was so loud I could
take out my hearing aids and still enjoy it. Not true, but With my hearing aids
it was just about right for a big outdoor space, in front of the Greek Orthodox Church, where the Festival was held. The Festival is not only a chance for families
to gather and enjoy traditions, it's a fundraiser for the Church.

It was explained to me that the instrument I was hearing was a bouzouki, butmythe explainer pronounced it bazuki. He said it had a Very long neck, and a body somewhat like a mandolin.

It was backed up by a drummer and a guitar, both of which, mostly played rhythm.
The bouzouki had the melody and What a Range!
The low notes were as low as a guitar, and the High notes were Higher than a mandolin
and kind of a cross between a mandolin and a violin.

The head of the family said the music he grew up to was slower and softer, as
no electric amplifiers were available then. But this music was mostly fast and happy
sounding and Definitely amplified. That bouzouki player worked on his strings so
Fast I was amazed! I thought it would really be Something to see his flying hands.

I love really strong coffee, and had been told that you can stand a spoon up in Greek
coffee, so I was sorry they were just removing the coffee when we arrived.
But the smells in the air were No disappointment! I have eaten grape leaves rolled
up around meat (usually beef and lamb) and spices before. The leaf ends are tucked
in so that the filling won't fall out and they are very good. Since I already knew
I liked this dish, (which I can say but not spell) I wanted to try some things I hadn't eaten before. I also knew
I already liked gyros, pronounced yeros (with the OR sounding a bit like a D, as
it does in Spanish.) So I didn't eat this yummy dish either. It is pita bread,
warm and wrapped around beef and lamb, served with a dressing of sour cream or Greek
yogurt and dill, or dill and a lemon wedge. Usually, other vegetables like tomatoes,
cucumbers and lettuce come with the rolled sandwich.

I tried a cheese I cannot pronounce because I'm not sure I heard the name of it correctly.
It was fried, then covered with liquor, then set on fire, luckily, not near me.
That can feel pretty scary, when the heat of something rushes out toward your face
and you aren't quite sure if you are safe. But the alcohol burns off, leaving a
nice crunchy crust on the cheese, and the cheese under the crust is warm and very
good. From being lightly fried, then set on fire, the cheese has a bottom crust
and is eaten on pita bread.

Also, I ate a pork kabob which I heard as suflaki, this may not be correct. It was
on a skewer and was well done. I think I tasted a bit of lemon in it, too. They
also had this dish made of chicken.

The last thing I ate was a piece of Greek pie filled with cheese and spinach, covered
with phylo dough.

Usually, I don't eat heavy meals, so I was full after these three dishes, (two of which were new) which I also now know I like.

We then went on a tour of the Greek Orthodox Church hosting the fundraiser. The
priest was very good at explaining things and answering questions. He said that
until it came to the U.S. everyone who physically could Stood all the way through
a Greek Orthodox Service, there were no pews, just a few chairs for the very old
or physically disabled people who could Not stand. He said this was to sharpen the
concentration of the congregation and help them to focus on God.

He explained that most Greek Orthodox Churches were built somewhat like a ship. Christ was on deck as the Captain, on the dome or Deck of the Church. The people were in the belly of the ship, below the deck. And the priest was there in between to help people who were having problems reaching out to God.

I remembered a friend telling me about a wedding of her son to a woman from Serbia.
She said they stood through the whole ceremony, which lasted for more than two hours.

The priest said that the Serbian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, and the Russian Orthodox
Churches were separated by language, but Not by Belief. He said these and some others
all belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church governed from Constantinople, from the
time when the country of Turkey was a Christian country under Emperor Constantine. Emperor Constantine ruled the Byzantine Empire which took in many East European countries and some of what is Southern Europe, today.
I am not sure what the modern name for Constantinople is, may be Istanbul, the priest
never used the city's modern name.

The Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church when an
extra clause was added to the Nicaea Creed, still recited in many Churches today.
The clerics of the Eastern Orthodox Church did not agree with this extra clause and
so separated. I do not want to get into a deep religious discussion about the split,
because I don't know enough.

The priest said that Roman Catholic people were welcome to worship with his flock,
but that Communion was only for those who believed in exactly the same way and so
Christians of other denominations could not take Communion there.

He said that in older times his Church has Deaconesses, which are mentioned in the
Bible. These were usually women of 60 or older, sometimes widows. He said that
a discussion was just beginning about whether women could become priests and only
men were priests now.

If a man is married or gets married before being ordained as a priest in the Eastern
Orthodox Church, this is fine. But priests may Not marry after ordination.

Like Roman Catholic Christians, those belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church believe
that the bread and wine used in Communion literally become the body and blood of
Christ. This is referred to as the "doctrine of substantiation." The priest said that everyone drank from the same chalice at Communion because
all were one in Christ. He said there has never been a record of anyone becoming
ill after taking Communion due to drinking from the same chalice. This is because
Communion wine is the blood of Christ.

There were huge stained glass windows in this Church. I felt the back of one. I
couldn't tell what story from the Bible the picture of the stained glass window told,
but I was surprised at the thickness of the pieces of glass put together to make
the window. Until today, I have only touched things like stained glass sun Catchers,
, which are pretty thin. But these pieces of glass were at Least two or more inches
thick. I did not get to touch them long enough to find out just how thick they were!
For all I know they could have been four or five inches thick, does anyone know how thick the pieces of glass must be to withstand storms?

Then we went shopping. There was lots of beautiful and reasonably priced jewelry,
but I have enough jewelry, so enjoyed looking at it but didn't buy any. My loving and patient guide said much of the jewelry had a particular Greek geometric pattern in it. Part of the pattern had squares, but I never understood what the pattern looked like. I
have touched the diamond and triangle shapes often used to decorate Native
American pottery or bead work. But the design wasn't like that.
Something about knots in the pattern was mentioned and I asked if it was like the
Celtic Knots I have felt in jewelry. My guide said no, and the patterns in the jewelry
were too small for me to make out by touch. But it sounded cool and there was both silver work or gold work around many different semi-precious stones like lapis, (a deep
blue sometimes having gold colored flecks in it) turquoise, amethyst, etc.

Then we looked at CD.s and I bought one by the group we were listening to called
"A Night in Athens" because I was enjoying their music so much.
My dearest friend Ann used to say that she could love music without understanding the words. But I guess I'm a "word-head" because I like to know what is being sung about. Yet today I felt like I under stood what Ann meant when she used to say this, I wished She could have heard that music! Whatever they were singing about it just sounded too
happy for me to stand still. The group had a male and a female singer who mostly
sang solo, and they both had beautiful clear voices.

Then I bought a scarf which has a texture woven into it. It has raised lines which are broken up, after a few inches, by flat spaces of woven fabric. On either side of each raised line there is also a flat space of fabric. The overall effect is the feel of a soft, lightweight, crinkly scarf. It is a mix of wool and silk. It has short fringe all around the edge and is the size of a shawl.

I like the way shawls feel and they are fun to mess with, because you
can wear them in so many ways. I got a cream colored shawl, though I was Very tempted
by brighter colors which I remember. But the cream color will go with anything and
I don't have to worry about trying to match it up with other colors. The shawl only
cost $15.

Next, I bought a bar of jasmine soap, the smell is Wonderful!

It got Truly dangerous then, because we visited the pastry shop. I was too
full to eat anything, but I brought home a piece of baklava, which is made of Very
thin layers of pastry dough called phylo dough, with honey, walnut bits, cinnamon,
and sometimes orange blossom water in between the layers. It is so sweet that it
is sold in Very small pieces, thank goodness.

I bought an almond paste cookie, as almond is one of my favorite flavors. I thought it was the shape of the curved part of a horse sho, only the cookie is much wider than that. It also reminded me of the moon.

I also got a slice of honey cake, a moist cake which is sweet enough that it needs no icing. You can taste the honey in it, and a bit of spice, maybe nutmeg. The last item I bought was a pastry of phylo dough which was sweet, filled with a custard which was less sweet. The dough and the custard were a nice contrast in flavor.

I guess you can tell I'm writing this After breakfast on Suncay morning. Very strong black coffee was Perfect with baklava, which has disappeared. The other pastries I bought have each been tasted but are still present. I will save the almond paste cookie for last. I like to save my favorite foods until last, so I am happy and thankful when I say good-bye to a meal.

I didn't eat any of it on the ride home. When I could hear well enough to be a Rehab.
Teacher for people losing their vision, I learned how bad I feel when I eat too much
then sit in the car for hours. I was so excited about going to this Festival that, like a little kid, I didn't sleep very much the night before. So I took a nap and hope I didn't snore too loudly on the way home.

Confession, after getting home I pinched a crumb off of the cake slice and the almond cookie. All of the baked goods were a bit soggy by the time I got home, but were once again firm after a night in the fridge.

A funny and cool T-shirt was read to me which a man at the Festival was wearing. I don't know how to spell the very strong Greek liquor which has, a flavor like the spice anise (like licorice) but it sounds like ouzo. And there is a Greek chese found in every Greek salad and many Greek dishes, called Feta.
The man's T-shirt said, "Brain by ouzo, body by feta."
It was a totally fun day and I'm Thankful that I was invited to go!

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