I have just received an early Christmas present from my friends at The Olympia, and the only proper, Greek response I know is… OPA!
It is possible I have entitled a past blog OPA! OPA runs through me.
Though I am of many ethnic backgrounds, none of them Greek, I grew up working in a Greek Restauarant. Aphrodite is as much a part of who I am, as any other influence, and I could talk about those 9 years in over a thousand different ways–the good, the bad and the ugly.
But today, the blog is about soulfulness, love, and caviar.
The Greeks brought to America, a cuisine as soulful and exotic as there is. Steeped in tradition, guarded family recipes, called by names as sexy as their famous sculptures– MoussaKA, BaklaVA, Skordalia, SpaniKOpiTA, KataiFI and our family favorite…TaramosoLAta, the names roll off the tongue in the same way the flavors tantalize.
Here’s the thing with taramosolata–a silky smooth, mousse like spread made with carp roe, olive oil, bread, lemon, and who knows what else…
No one but “the grandmother” ever knows how to make it right. At Aphrodite, 30 years ago, “Mama Skeadas” made the delicacy herself. An acquired taste, taramosolata is never very popular on the menu. Many Greek restaurants do not even carry it. And, with no disrespect to the many Greek restaurants I have enjoyed since Aphrodite, only one has ever made taramosolata the same way Mama Skeadas did– Lowell’s Olympia.
Since relocating here so many years ago, while enjoying Greek food from many places, no place more than the Olympia brings me “home”. The owners seated at the corner table, the cheesey-heart inspired pictures of the Acropolis and sky blue paint, the short-shouted commands….the amazing smells, and…the taramosolata. (pronounced tah-RAH-moosah-LAH-tah)
Through the years, my girls and I have enjoyed many a Greek dinners “to go”, so often on Sunday afternoons with the game on. Mostly, but not always, we begin with dipping crusty bread into freshly made taramoslata. The reason it is not always available, is because, once again, no one knows how to make it but the grandmother. I have tried myself, with horrible results. TWO of my chefs have tried in the past, with worse results than me. The stuff from Market Basket? Blech. Recently, I was told by Arthur at the Olympia, that even others in his family have tried to make it and failed–after watching the matriarchal-chef do her thing. I offered to Arthur, that grandma teach me to make it…that I would protect the recipe, and nev er-ever put it on my menu–so as to make sure there is a back up to grandma–ane he never loses a sale. He smiled. I argued with my (weak) Greek learned passion “Arthur…you can-NOT let this tradition disappear–NO ONE knows how to make this delicacy–NO ONE!!” He smiled some more, an “I understand, and I am sympathetic while humored but… no dice” kind of smile. I explained to Arthur that I am sort-of Greek. Smile. (A t least he didn’t call me Scott-tah, which, for years when I was 13+, I thought was a sentimental Greek variation of Scott. It’s not.)
I told Arthur upon my last visit–a successful drop-in because they had the taramosolata this day–that my daughters Christmas Eve dinner theme this year was “Greek.”
Well, he remembered. And, although he has still not given me the recipe–He just now had one of his delivery guys drop off a surprise double order of our most favorite Lowell specialty, compliments of the Olympia, with a Merry Christmas and a perfectly crusty loaf of bread. How beautiful is that.
With that said, we wish a Merry Christmas (and thanks for such great memories and inspiration!) to The Skeadas Family, wherever you all are, and to Arthur, and his folks at the Olympia, and, of course, to all of you! If you are now thinking Greek for the holidays…it’s always best to call ahead! (and skip the taramosalata…until grandma steps up production!)