Greek food to be showcased at annual festival
Members of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, many of them descendants of Greek immigrants who settled here more than 100 years ago, keep their heritage alive with dancing, food and worship.
Once a year, parishioners share their rich tradition with the rest of us in the Grand Valley at their annual Greek Festival.
The Greek-Americans who dot the valley trace their roots to ancestors who arrived in the American West to work in the coal mines, according to Georgann Jouflas, one of the festival organizers. From there, many started sheep ranches and other businesses.
Rounding out the congregation are a few Armenian, Ukrainians, Russians and others of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
The women of St. Nicholas, established in 1952, have toiled for weeks now preparing and baking some of the pastries and cookies that Greek festivals are known for.
On the eve of the festival, the men will spend an all-night vigil watching over a roasting lamb. You can be sure that they’ll be basting with lemon, oregano and olive oil, the “holy Trinity of Greek cooking,” as Jouflas’ sister-in-law once declared.
The sweets the women have labored over are:
Baklava, arguable the best-known and most mouth-watering Greek pastry, layers and layers of paper-thin phyllo dough with honey, chopped nuts, butter and cinnamon.
Koulerikia, twisted butter cookies.
Kourembethis, or wedding cookies, almond shortbread cookies with powdered sugar on top.
Almond triangles, almond-apricot filling in phyllo dough.
If you want to try them all, variety packs of the desserts will be sold, which can be consumed immediately or frozen and pulled out for holidays or entertaining.
Since we’ve started first with the desserts, I’ll move on to the protein side of the festival menu:
The most popular item — last year they sold, 1,500 — is the gyro. No explanation needed.
Lamb dinner with lemon rice pilaf and Greek spiced green beans.
Pork or chicken tsoulvlaki on a skewer with pita break.
Spanikopita. I love, love the buttery sheets of pastry stuffed with spinach, onion and cheeses.
On the sideboard are stuffed grape leaves, olives, feta cheese, salads, Greek beer and wines. To wash it all down, try a demitasse of strong, foamy Greek coffee.
If you can tear yourself away from the trough, boys and girls from a church in Denver will be dancing in traditional costume.
There will be children’s games, a gift shop and tours of the church, which has a gorgeous chapel ceiling hand-painted by a Greek artist.
Proceeds this year’s festival will benefit Grand Valley Catholic Outreach and the new Teen Shelter.
Church members, already tied by their shared history of settling in western Colorado, have an even deeper connection, said Jouflas.
In several recent visits to the homeland, the children of the diaspora realized that most of them came from the same region of northern Greece.
“Some of the villages are only 10 miles apart,” she said.
RICE IS NICE: September is national rice month. Why? Because Congress, at the behest of the USA Rice Federation, declared it so 20 years ago.
More than 85 percent of the rice consumed in this country is produce in the USA. Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas grow most of the nation’s rice crop.
At about 10 cents a serving, the average American eats about 25 pounds a year.
QUOTE: “Vegetarians claim to be immune from most diseases but they have been known to die from time to time.” — George Bernard Shaw
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