Sunday, June 27, 2021

From the Point of View of College Students: What is a subject worth the attention of Greek American studies? [Food, connections with cultural identity, Greek Orthodoxy, and Greece]

"When thinking about important topics to study under the realm of Greek America, one that is significant to me is the study of the Greek food in America, particularly how it is a way for Americanized and later generations of Greek Americans to retain aspects of their culture as well as their religion. As a 3rd generation Greek American, food is the most common way I connect with the culture of my mother and grandparents. My yiayia makes delicious dishes, heavily influenced by the food she ate growing up and the food made by other Greek Americans she is friends with. She attempts to pass on her recipes to her children and grandchildren, but this is sometimes difficult because “a cup of flour” to her is flour filled to the brim of her favorite mug. Nevertheless, eating and enjoying these dishes brings us together and makes us feel Greek without being in Greece. This topic is an important one to study because, just like it is for me, for many it is a way to connect with the culture of their ancestors in a country across the ocean. It would be interesting to study how food connects later-generation Greek Americans to their heritage.

The topic is also relevant because Greek food is heavily influenced by the Orthodox religion that is common in Greece. There are many fasting and feasting days in the liturgical calendar that require certain foods be eaten. For example, many Orthodox Christians avoid eating most meat and animal products during the forty days leading up to Easter. This means there are many meals and cookies that are made specifically during this period of time. Then, on Easter, a popular meal is roast lamb, supposedly representing Jesus as “the lamb of God.” Greek recipes like this not only tie Greek Americans to Greece but also tie them to the Orthodox religion. To study the connection Greek food has to religion in America, I would ask if later generation Greek Americans still hold these connections; do they know that recipes like lentil soup are often made during the Lenten season? Do they feel a connection to the Orthodox Church through these meals?

Lastly, a question I would ask you in particular is what are the best ways that later generation Greek Americans can keep aspects of their Greek culture? Since I am half Greek and a second-generation American, how can my future children stay connected to this culture that will only be a sliver of their heritage?"

[My note: Given the centrality of Greek food in Greek American family, social and public life, it is astonishing––isn't it––that there is no systematic scholarship on food cultures in Greek America]

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