Sorry to darken the mood…but some of you may have noticed I missed my posts on Thursday and Friday. I wish I could say it was due to a massive hangover or food coma, but unfortunately there was a death in my family; my beloved Yia Yia passed away on Tuesday, and I had to take a little break and be with the fam. So this is a post in her honor.
Yia Yia is Greek for grandmother, in case you didn't know, and she was known to everyone as such even if she wasn't related. She was a character and an amazing cook; part of the reason I love food so much is because of her. Her family owned (and lived above) a chophouse in Manhattan way back in the 30's where she was a waitress and her parents were cooks. I lose sleep thinking about the fact that they SOLD that prime real estate on Third Avenue. Sigh. I could have been a very rich woman. Instead I blog for no money. Awesome. Anyway, many of their recipes were passed down to my mom and me, and we even have some of the old pots and pans they used in the restaurant. They weigh about 100 pounds, but when you need to make pastitsio for Greek Easter, what else are you going to use? Corningware? I NEVER!
I'd like to share a funny story that basically sums up the uniqueness of my Yia Yia. Read on.
One of the things my Yia Yia loved to do (as most Greeks/Europeans do) is feed the family. Or feed anyone. It was just like any other weekend cutting up batches of vegetables and potatoes for salads, mixing the chopmeat and onions (Yia Yia LOVED onions) for keftedes (meatballs), and lastly, battering and breading veal cutlets. Or so she thought. Yia Yia was a one-woman dynamo in the kitchen, so it's only natural that you spill something or forget something, right? Well, I think the family would have appreciated if she forgot this "special" ingredient. As she was preparing the veal cutlets, she went to grab some vegetable oil from under the sink where she also kept various industrial cleaners and solvents. Smart. She pours the oil into the pan and starts throwing cutlets in the pan without even looking. After a few minutes she looks and notices that the oil and cutlets were blue. "Hmmm..blue?" she thinks to herself and glances at the bottle. It was Wisk. The laundry detergent. In the oil and on the cutlets. "Shit", she thinks to herself, "I just ruined half of the cutlets", and proceeds to wash them off with water and cook them up anyway. Fast forward a couple hours later when the family sits down to eat. My grandfather (Popou) takes a bite and says, "Bea, these taste a little funny.." and Yia Yia responds "shut up and eat them." And no one said anything else until they realized that she was the only one not eating them.
A few years later she came clean.
Rest In Peace Yia Yia…you will be missed, but your stories and spirit will live on forever. <3
In Memory of Beatrice Apicos
April 3, 1920 – March 8, 2011