“Eeewwww! He didn’t even chew them!” That is the reaction that came from our mouths when we witnessed my uncle eating lamb eyeballs for the first time. Actually my cousins, siblings and I screeched every time he ate them. Easter and Christmas were the days many loved ones gathered around to feast on lamb—yes we ate little Mary’s lamb. I’m not talking about a couple of chops, my father would come home with the entire lamb, eyeballs and all, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. This was at least a bi-annual event and sometimes, when we were in the mood to celebrate a names-day the lamb was the center of attention. My most memorable experience was when it was an exceptionally beautiful sunny spring day and the lamb would slowly roast over coals outdoors on a rotisserie spit.
The round gooey delicacies were always plucked and placed onto my uncle’s plate. I don’t know if he actually savored the eyeballs, or if he got his kicks from our grossed out little faces after he gobbled them up. I am confident; however, he would have won a face-off with Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods adventures.
An engineer by profession, my uncle spoke with gentleness. However, when my siblings and cousins were in the mood for some fun, we would provoke our uncle who was always willing to play silly reindeer games with us.
My uncle is no longer with us and I have missed him dearly. Recently his older brother has joined him and it is especially difficult to celebrate holidays without their pranks, laughter and most of all their hugs. Easter was my uncle’s most revered holiday. His genuine love was infectious and radiated when family and friends gathered around his summer villa decorated with red dyed eggs in baskets and the smell of oregano infused lamb that perfumed the air from the outdoor spit. Side by side aunts and uncles caught up with each others’ lives while the little offspring would dart about with exuberant energy grazing on all the foods that were not allowed during the forty-day fast.
No doubt that taste and traditions define a people, but can the land give a unique flavor? I remember the flavor of lamb when roasted outside my uncle and aunt’s nest in Hellas—I can still taste the grassy sweetness of melting goodness and feel the warmth of my uncle’s love.
Whether you are celebrating Cinco de Mayo or Orthodox Easter this Sunday, engage in a mindful minute with your celebratory food or drink. Whether a fiesta is brewing in your nest, family or a friend’s nest or in the great outdoors, slow down and make your bite or sip more satisfying, especially if your sensory experience associated with food is of a joyous occasion.
This Sunday, I will cradle my red egg (extra padded from little fingers that haven’t mastered fine motor skills quite yet) and remember the moments I used to crack it with my uncles. The egg is the symbol of life—a renewal of the soul in the spring season. Red is the warmest of colors embodying powerful symbolism as life and vitality. It brings focus to the essence of life and living with emphasis on survival. I will forever keep the spirit of my uncles in my heart. XPISTOS ANESTI.