Over the past month, the kitchen at St. George Greek Orthodox Church has been teeming with volunteers to create dishes folks are going to have a lot more fun eating than trying to pronounce.
For nearly three decades this kind of teamwork cum fellowship has been at the root of the annual Greek Festival.
What began as a humble bake sale is now one of early fall's most anticipated events. In its 28th year, the festival Friday through Sunday is likely to draw about 10,000 people.
To make all this come together, good folks like Susan Vassilakos and a lot of others with names ending in “ous” or “akis” spent nights and weekends of hard but cheerful labor preparing the dishes, purchasing the goods and setting up this event that will accommodate large crowds of people for three days.
When I visited Susan and her team a while back, they were putting the finishing touches on racks and racks of phyllo-based baklava. Anything involving phyllo is a painstaking process, and to produce it Susan had between 20 and 30 volunteers, close to 30 feet in table space and a full day of careful attention. As tedious a job as it might sound like, the folks there were a lot closer to shouting “opa!” than “uncle!”
The festival predates the need to place the words “big” and “fat” in front of anything Greek to garner attention, but that doesn't mean the congregation at St. George won't be busting at the seams to share a taste of its culture.
In the Parthenon Dining Room, you'll find Greek Lamb and Chicken dinners cooked fresh with all natural Mediterranean ingredients. Under the tent, you'll find gyros and souvlakia sandwiches, the flaming saganaki, kalamari (when in Rome spell it calamari, but this ain't Rome) rings, Greek salad, lasagna-like pastichio, feta in phyllo tiropita and spinach-cheese stuffed spanakopita.
You can purchase tickets ahead of time for $12, part of which goes to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and get all that or split your ticket in $6 increments to use under the tent. The presold ticket also includes $3 for admission.
The church will also serve Greek wine (my kind of church!) and homemade baklava and loukoumades, a fried pastry smothered in honey and cinnamon. Available pastries include Koulourakia, Kourambiethes, Melomakarouna, Pasta Flora, Baklava Cheesecake and Almond Cookies.
The church will echo with Greek music from a band called Keffi, which promises to play classic folk while the church's three dance troupes perform in traditional regalia. When you're not eating, which won't be often, you're invited to get your back up off the wall and dance along or tour the church for a look at authentic Byzantine mosaics, learn about Greek Orthodox tradition and the history of Saint George. A Greek marketplace will offer art and jewelry modeled after Greek antiquities, iconography, clothes and pottery.
The fun begins at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday and goes until 10 p.m. Things wind down at 4 p.m. Sunday. The Parthenon Kitchen operates from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information or presale tickets, go online to greekfestokc.com or call 751-1885. You may also pre-order pastries online, which is encouraged because they go fast.