Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Night Dinners

We spent many a memorable Friday night at Yiayia and Papou Sarris' house enjoying dinner they had prepared for us and often also for the Demas Family, cousins on my Papou's side.  Uncle Nick's mother Sophia Demakopoulos was my Papou's sister. She and her husband Bill had owned the Palace Candy Store & Restaurant on Main Street with Papou as the chef.

The cornerstone Friday night attraction was Papou's Clam Chowder, Manhattan-style.* Fish -- baked or broiled, catfish or halibut, occasionally cuttlefish (ink fish) -- was also central to the menu as we were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays. My aunt Liberty remembers a white Alfredo-like sauce Papou sometimes whipped up for the fish, which he must have perfected at the Palace. Specialties included horta, fried artichokes, and vegetables & potatoes baked in the oven with tomato sauce (and, if Yiayia was able to snagged some, those long, thin string beans from Gus Terezakis' garden).   Everything was super delicious, of course, and, per the photo, there was also some assigned seating. Yiayia and Papou had their places, and my Dad Steve had his. The rest of us filled in the blanks...

But the main idea was to get together as a family and share a meal/evening at the end of the  school/work week -- even though it might not have been the end of the work week for the owners of the S&G Supermarket or a prominent gynecologist.

Jewish Shabbat (something like the Sabbath celebrated on Sunday by Christians) begins at sundown on Friday and lasts 24 hours -- signaling the end of the week and time for spiritual preparation for the next week though prayer, personal reflection and rest.  "The Sabbath" (1951), by Abraham Joshua Heschel, gives beautiful understanding to the search for "inner liberty."

A compelling part of that book is the Introduction added in 2005 by Heschel's daughter, Susannah. She talks about her father's teachings and describes the family's Shabbat preparations and activities -- including the Friday night dinners ("usually quiet, slow and relaxed"). The menu was always the same: challah (bread), chicken soup, roast cornish hen, salad, vegetables, and apple. It was a memorable time for the family and occasional guests to be together for a special meal.

The focus on those Friday nights on New York City's Upper West Side may have been more religious than what transpired on Alpine Street in Stockton, since it was not a holy day per se for us.  But in my mind, there is a striking similarity...except, perhaps, for the quiet part. 

*The recipe for Papou's Clam Chowder can be found on p. 50 of the St. Basil's Greek Orthodox Church "International Cookbook."

No comments:

Post a Comment