Letter to the Editor: On Words and Greek Food

To the Editor:

Words and terminology have the power to mischaracterize, appropriate, and distort meaning.

Recently in these pages I read a restaurant review wherein the author called the meze she ordered  “Tapas.” Tapas are small plates or appetizers popular in Spanish cuisine which are more or less identical to the Greek foods Meze or Mezedakia.

In this review of a Greek restaurant for reasons unknown, the author referred to the small plates, known to us as meze or mezedakia as “tapas,” despite the fact that they were being served in a Greek (not Spanish) restaurant. Perhaps the author wanted to lend some cache to her review; however, giving foreign names or characterizations to Greek foods has the effect of denigrating OUR cuisine and our culture.

I am old enough to painfully remember Pastitsio being characterized on menus in Greek restaurants and diners as “Greek Lasagna;”  a pretty ironic distortion, considering that the word Lasagna comes from an ancient Greek word, Lasanon, for “cooking pan.”

I have also heard kefthedes being called “Greek Meatballs.”  No, they are not; they are kefthedes, a particular and specific Greek and Eastern Mediterranean dish. At Festivals sponsored by Greek churches and elsewhere, I have seen loukoumades, advertised as “Greek Zeppole.”  Again, they are loukoumades; not a version of someone else’s cuisine.

If we want our people and the wider non-Greek community to recognize our cuisine for what it is, a brilliant and iconic cultural expression, newly acknowledged globally as one of the worlds healthiest and singular cuisines, we need to STOP aping and advertising it as “someone else’s” with a different name.

Greek Cuisine, like every other part of our spectacular heritage needs to be protected and promoted as specifically and particularly Greek, not a take on someone else’s.

Paul J. Kutscera, Esq.

Bayside, NY