Greek-American Stories: Pass The Tofu, Someone

May 20, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Easter, the holiday of holidays, was coming up and Yiannis wondered where he’d be feasting.  Usually, his sister would, naturally, invite him and Areti.  His daughter, Barbara, her husband and kids will be there too, of course.  Those twins, now almost two, are rambunctious and wild.  He recalled when babysitting one Saturday needing to take two aspirins, plug his ears and stay in the bathroom until Areti took over.  So, he didn’t relish going there.  A holiday is supposed to be tranquil and…and, appetizing.

Sitting among his friends at Dixon’s, he wondered what plans each of them had.  He started with John.  “So!  Where will you be on Easter, John?” John answered, “After church we’ll go to my wife’s sister’s house as usual.  She usually has company.  I never know who’s going to be there.  Last year it was our priest and his family.” Turning, he asked Dimos the same question who responded, “My backyard will be full of company this year.  Penelope starts cooking the day before.  Then, I prepare the barbeque , you know, a full table of orektika, wine, lots of desserts…”  Yiannis’ stomach began to rumble, him mouth watered and Easter was still days away.  George mentioned he was going to his wife’s family in upper New York State.  “What about you, Kipreos?” Yiannis asked the bachelor who only had family in Cyprus and usually spent Easterwith staff at the hotel where he worked.  Before Kipreos responded, Dimos offered him an invitation.  “Kipreos, if you have no place else, why not come to my house for Easter this year? It’ll be crowded but there’s always room for one more.” Kipreos didn’t answer right away.  Yiannis looked up.  “Room…for one more?” he asked hopefully.  “Sure! Why not? What do you say, Kipreos?” Kipreos was hesitant.

Yiannis envious said, “That’s so generous of you, Dimos.  That’s the way Easer should be spent, with friends, togetherness, all welcome.  And, like you say Dimos, always room for one more.” Dimos added, “I’ve ordered a bigger lamb. We’re…” Kipreos’ expression darkened. “Lamb?”Dimos shrugged.  “Of course, lamb.  What else?” “Oh, I don’t think I…I will come.  You see, I don’t eat lamb.  I don’t eat animals.  I’m a vegetarian.  I can’t see that poor, beautiful animal on the spit, turning brown and being basted…I…I can’t look at it.”  Everyone looked surprised.  “How long have you been a vegetarian?”Kipreos revealed, “It all happened a few years ago when my boss sent me to pick up an order of meat, to a place in Manhattan’s westside.  I went in this huge warehouse where I saw live animals, beautiful, innocent, fluffy furred lambs that sensed something awful was going to happen to them.  They started to panic, looking for a way out.  I froze realizing that my order was yet to be slaughtered.  I watched as…” John put up his hand.  “Never mind!” Don’t tell us!  We know what is coming.”  All fell silent.  Everyone began realizing that they will be feasting on one of those warehouse slaughters.  Undaunted, Yiannis said, “That’s the custom Kipreos.  Lambs are for us to eat.”  Kipreos shook his head, telling him, “You can eat them. I won’t”  Then, finding it a prime opportunity, Yiannis said, “I know I’d be happy to be at your house for Easter, Dimos.  Like you said, always room for one more.”  George frowned, “He meant, one more Kipreos.”  Yiannis ignored him.  “We’re invited to my sister’s house, George,” he sneered.  Then, his mood altering said, “But, being with friends is better, I think, than being with the same ol’ group and grandkids that are noisy, annoying…”  He looked up hopefully.  Dimos reached for a donut.  “like I said, Kipreos, you’re welcome anytime.”  No invitation was forthcoming, Yiannis realized.  But the silence prevailed.  Sighs, throat clearing and fidgeting commenced until John, hoping to break the sober mood, said, “There are other things to eat.  George said, “What about cheese, salad, carrots and potatoes?” Kipreos somberly spoke, his eyes holding a tear, “But you’d still all be chewing on the poor, dead animals.”  Yiannis still miffed said, “So what if it was once beautiful, innocent and fluffy furred like you tell us, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into that delicious roasted lamb!”  Suddenly, everyone looked at Yiannis as if he was a serial killer.  Suddenly, Easter just didn’t have the anticipation and symbolic pleasure it had when it was looked forward to.  A huge sense of melancholy hung in the air.  Was it Yiannis’ remark? Or, Kipreos’ admittance?  One thing seemed certain; for the guys at Dixon’s, Easter couldn’t be over soon enough!  Ahh, Happy Easter everyone!


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