At this year’s National Folk Festival, the Foodways Stage will feature the foods and culinary traditions of Greece. Maine is home to four Greek communities, including one in Bangor represented by St. George Greek Orthodox Church. Audiences will see how certain dishes are prepared and will learn about the role that food plays in Greek culture and religious holidays. For example, a walnut-filled cake called fanouropita is traditionally made at the end of the summer on Saint Fanourios Day. Young girls place a slice of cake under their pillows at night in hopes of dreaming of their future husbands.
Anastasia Kalea was born in Cezanne in the northern part of Greece. Kalea is active in Bangor’s Greek community, teaching modern Greek and Greek literature classes at St. George Greek Orthodox Church and Greek dance for children in the community.
In Greece, the seasonal availability of fresh foods has greatly influenced the cuisine.
In the Cezanne region, for instance, pork and lamb accent a cuisine that includes plenty of spinach, cabbage, lentils and garbanzo beans depending on the season. Greek cooking also is heavily influenced by religious holidays. The religious calendar includes meatless days when legume soups often are served. Special meals and desserts are prepared during the holy seasons.
Helen Koulouris’ grandparents owned Greek restaurants in the United States, and Koulouris enjoys cooking traditional Greek dishes. She is active in land preservation in Maine and is president of the Maine Olmstead Alliance. She also enjoys camping in Washington County. At the festival she will be cooking two traditional Greek desserts, kourabiedes and koulourakia.
Vassiliki Panakis was born and grew up in Karpenisi, Evritania, Greece.
She and her daughters Maria, Eleftheria and Georgia live in Millinocket where the family owns a restaurant known for its baklava, one of the best.
Even though the children were raised in the United States, they also spend a lot of time in Greece.
Panakis passed down Greek cooking traditions to all her children.
The family’s favorite foods are trahanas soup (trahanas is a type of homemade egg- and yogurt-based pasta), gemista (stuffed veggies), pites (phyllo dough-stuffed pies) and pastitsio (made of pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce).
Pankis uses oregano and dairy products in most of her recipes.
One of her favorite culinary traditions is making tsoureki, a sweet bread with a red egg in the middle, which is traditionally prepared for Easter.
Charalampos (Harris) Georgiadis
Charalampos Georgiadis grew up in Thessaloniki, Greece, and is a graduate student at the University of Maine. A decade ago, he began cooking Greek food, especially meat-based dishes, using plenty of herbs such as oregano and thyme. His favorite Greek dish is moussaka, which is a casserole prepared with eggplant, potatoes, ground beef-tomato sauce and bechamel creme on the top. Another favorite dish is souvlisto arni, the skewered lamb barbecued over charcoal during the Easter Sunday celebration.