Tuesday, April 25

Weekend Wrap-up

On Sunday Joe and I celebrated Greek Easter with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, their two sons (aged 9 months and 2 years), and our some of our friends. Although the weather outdoors wasn’t great, indoors it was festive and spirited.

As in years past, I roasted a lamb over an open fire in the back yard. Knowing that it was going to rain, I had set up a canopy on Saturday. On Sunday morning I was up at 7am, earlier than I’ve been up on a Sunday in a long time. First I had to get the fire going, which was no easy task because I use charwood without lighter fluid, so there’s a lot of newspaper and fanning involved. I had set aside from branches for kindling, but foolishly left them out in the rain, so they were useless. Eventually, I got a good fire going and went inside to dress the lamb.

The most important ingredient in a Greek-style roast lamb is garlic. Slits are cut into the flesh and whole garlic cloves are inserted for flavor. For a whole lamb, I use about half a head of garlic. Once the lamb was properly skewered and tied to the spit, Joe and I carried it out to set over the flame. It then gets brushed with a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and fresh rosemary. Pretty basic overall.

I made sure that the fire stayed good and hot and kept the spit on the low setting, close to the flame. In years past, I’ve had a problem with the lamb being underdone in spots, so I wanted to make sure that it cooked nice and evenly this year. This requires keeping a close eye on the fire and adding fresh coals about every half hour or so. Here’s how it looked at around noon:

Our friends K, P, and L came over for brunch at mid morning. Joe made a salami pie (a really decadent recipe that’s always a big hit at our place) and a panettone, which is another holiday favorite at our house. Although store-bought panettone is cake-like, Joe’s panettone is more of a bread than a cake. It’s very similar to challah and also to tsoureki, which is a type of Greek Easter break. K was kind enough to pick one up for us at Athan’s in Brookline.

F arrived a bit later followed by my family. I had put some chocolate bunnies in the yard for my nephew to find. I didn’t really hide them, since he’s only 2. I’m not sure he knew what to make of it all. He had been napping on the car ride over, and I think he was still half asleep, but we didn’t want to wait since it was threatening rain. Soon after he gathered all the goodies I had left for him, the sky opened up.

J and G arrived just before the lamb came off the spit. My mom was able to help me determine when it was done. By about 3pm, we could both tell that it was fully cooked and felt comfortable taking it off the spit, as opposed to last year when we removed it prematurely and had a hell of a time carving it. Underdone lamb on the bone is very difficult to carve.

The lamb is wrapped in a clean white sheet (symbolizing Christ’s burial shroud). In my case, I use a table cloth that my great grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother) wove herself. It might have been part of her dowry, which would make it quite old. After letting the lamb sit for about 10 minutes, you gather it up in the sheet and smash the whole thing on the ground three times. Smashing it on the ground helps separate the joints, making it much easier to carve. As I smash it, I recite the following verse in Greek from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:

καί γάρ τό πάσχα ημών ετύθη Χριστός, ώστε εορτάζωμεν.

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed; therefore let us keep the feast (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

In addition to the lamb, my mother made ντολμάδες (dol-MA-thes) or stuffed grape leaves, Joe made a lasagna, and I made φασολάκια (fa-so-LA-kia), which is string beans stewed in tomato sauce. Earlier in the day, K and L had made the roast potatoes, which came out splendid (even though they used less salt than I do). Here’s a video of their culinary endeavor:

Just before we sat down to eat, I got a nice surprise from my friend G, who gave me Leo Steinberg’s The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion. Based on some of my recent blog posts, he felt it was a good choice. I was thrilled, I can’t wait to read it. He’s such a sweet boy (G, that is; not Leo Steinberg, whom I’ve never met).

After dinner, Joe and F made Turkish coffee (or is it Greek coffee? Arabic coffee?), and K read everyone’s cup. I have no idea how she does it, but she’s pretty good. And I don’t know what was going on yesterday with all our coffee drinkers, but there was some weird shit in their cups, J’s especially. There was some wild orgy scene or something. Even I saw it.

It was a great day. It was a smaller crowd than we’ve had in the past, but it allowed me to spend more time with everyone present. Everyone pitched in and helped clean up afterwards too, which was nice because Joe and I were pretty exhausted by the end of the day. I’ll end with a little photo montage from our Easter table:


Blogger Ryan said...

wow sounds and looks like u have a good time. thanx 4 sharing.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Will said...

how I wish easter had been like that when I was growing up! You and Joe know how to host a really good time.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Michael The Shadow said...

I am so jealous right now...and incredibly hungry! What an amazing feast you had. Wish that someone out here had hosted something like that because Easter for me was a dry scone and some coffee.

*drooling over the lamb et als*

Thanks for the videos :)

5:30 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

ryan & will-
it was lots of fun. being greek has its perks :)

dude, i'd send you some leftovers if i could! do you know any greeks??

5:43 PM  

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