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Monday, April 13, 2009

My Grandparents

My dad's parents; Chrisoula and Dimitrious Papanicolopoulos came from southern Greece.  The mountain area near Kalamata (where they grown the delicious olives).  I never knew my grandmother (yia-yia), but my grandfater, "papa Jimmy" lived with us for the first years of my life.   He found a place to grow corn, strawberries, and even a grapes in our yard (The grapevine "ate" my slinky).  Papa had a restaurant in downtown Atlanta when my father was a child. Papa, dad, and mom all cooked.  Papa was a great cook.   I thought everyone roasted a whole lamb at Easter.  Papa never lost his Greek accent.  He cussed like a sailor, but only us kids could really understand him.  (we never repeated the swear words).  We would walk for miles together.  I remember walking to the convenience store when young... I know it had to be a few miles one way.  Papa would purchase juicy fruit gum and candy for us and the neighborhood kids.  Everyone knew Papa.  He would cut the lawns of practically everyone in the neighborhood just because he enjoyed doing it.  He never asked for payment, just some cold water.  He was proud of his neighborhood, and wanted all of the lawns to look nice.  My two Papa's; Jimmy and Bill would only speak to each other in Greek.  I loved and adored both of them.

My mother's mother was of Irish heritage, her father was a Greek Cypriot.  I never knew her mother. Mom inherited her mothers auburn hair and gorgeous green eyes.  She had her father's olive complexion. My cousin is trying to trace the ancestry of my maternal grandmother's  family. They  had been in the U.S. for quite some time, so mom had an interesting diet of "good ol' southern cooking" and "Mediterranean" cooking while growing up in Virginia.  I enjoy Irish food, and make a great stew with Guinness.  I make a wonderful corned beef for St. Patrick's day too!  

 Her father, Akieviades Aloneftis, came to the U.S. when he was in his 20's.  He could speak eight languages.  I have always enjoyed the study of languages, even if it is only enough to say common pleasantries and such.  Being from Cyprus, "Papa Bill" (he changed his name to William Long when arriving in the U.S.), enjoyed and respected everything about the sea.  He was a great cook too. There was rarely a time when he came for a visit that my mom didn't make him some Greek Coffee.  Papa would turn the cup upside down on the saucer for a few minutes after he finished drinking his coffee.  I remember him reading the fortunes from the pattern it formed in the cup.  He was a great story teller, so I know he may have embellished the fortunes a bit.  I would love to hear mine now.  I'm sure that when I was little, it was a fortune fit for his "jolie" granddaughter!  When I started studying French in high school, he would say; "tu es tres jolie" (you are very pretty). He called me "his beautiful" since I can remember.  What a wonderful feeling to feel so much love from both of my grandfathers.  

He built Chesapeake Bay worthy boats for his kids when they lived in Hampton, VA.  Mom could shuck oysters with the best of them.  She loved crab too, but became allergic to them when she was older.  Papa was a carpenter, artist, cook, and an all around interesting person.  My cousin has friends in Cyprus trying to find relatives. I hope to visit the place of his birth one day.  

I learned so many things from both of my grandfathers.  They were both nurturing to their grandchildren and families.  Morals and many of my thoughts and beliefs got their start from these wonderful people in my life.  They treated people with honesty, integrity, and kindness.

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Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar