My Big Fat Greek Pastisio

The year that Neil and I met, a wonderful little indie movie came out about a young Greek-American woman and her Big Fat Greek Wedding.


Neil and I saw it in the theater, and I think I said on our way out of the theater, “Um, that’s my dad. But we’re not Greek.”

See what I mean? The only difference is that my dad (in the second photo, in case you can’t tell) never wears a jacket. And don’t think we were so fancy as to buy name brand Windex.

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I’m sure a lot of people thought that about their own families, which is what made the movie so wonderful. We still quote that movie all the time at our house. “Why you do this to me?” “I had a bibopsy.” “You’re just … wonderful.”

At the time, we lived in southeast Virginia, and as we planned our own wedding (a big fat Episcopal wedding, as our wedding sermon described it), we trekked to Richmond for wedding dress fittings and the like. There, we went to the Greek festival and ate at a little Greek restaurant that Neil enjoyed when he lived in Richmond in his early 20s. We were always tempted by the lasagna-looking Greek dish, pastisio, but always disappointed when we ate it. Maybe we weren’t so Greek after all. Why put cinnamon in a savory dish? WHY? Neil thinks that maybe cinnamon in meat dishes is what caused the downfall of the modern Greek civilization. I tend to agree with him. Their economy could make a comeback and their culture could return to its first century glory, if only they’d embrace parsley or cumin or crushed red pepper flakes instead of cinnamon.

And so, when the new Make it Ahead cookbook came out with a big fat pastisio recipe, guess who omitted the cinnamon? This girl! And it was DELICIOUS.

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If you don’t care for lamb, this might not be the best recipe for you. Or maybe you could keep the cinnamon and that would disguise its lambiness? I don’t know. I do know that if you ask a butcher if he has any ground lamb, and he doesn’t, he might grind up a leg of lamb for you on the spot. That’s service.

As it turns out, there will be a big fat Greek sequel coming out soon. Opa! Maybe they’ll finally get the cinnamon out of their pasta dishes. Maybe?

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