If You Can’t Slay the Dragon at St. George’s, Then at Least Get a Kebob

There are no Greek restaurants in Fresno. It’s a tragedy, I know!

There are Armenian, Lebanese, and Mediterranean (which is like saying Middle East, or West Coast, and is very broad) restaurants up the wazoo, but none of them are Greek. Just because a place serves a “Greek salad” or a gyro does not make it a Greek restaurant. Taco Bell serves tacos, but let’s face it– it’s not really Mexican. Subway has a chicken teriyaki sandwich– it isn’t a Japanese restaurant. I could go on, but I won’t.

Poor little Plesiosaurus. Now we know what happened to the dinosaurs, really.

Unless you are actually Greek and cook your own food, your only chance is to go to the Fresno Greek Fest. It is only once a year, and it is this weekend. There were a few years where I swear their cookies were frozen in some Greek Grandma’s home garage freezer, waiting for the festival, because they tasted vaguely of garlic, but those days are over. The food’s been great for a while now. This is your chance, because my husband will not share his meatballs with you, so the likelihood of eating Greek food at my house is very slim.

What I like even more than the food, though, is seeing a bunch of other people with eyebrows just as large as mine.

These ladies need more meatballs. They are performing the pre-Christian Meatball Rites, the exact details of which are still shrouded in secrecy.

These meatballs are adapted from Eva Zane’s Cooking for the Gods, which I’ve unfortunately misplaced, but is the absolute best Greek cookbook ever. It is unpretentious and basic, and is the closest thing to what I ate as a child. There aren’t any pictures, so you just have to trust the instructions.

1 lb ground beef, lean
2 slices of bread soaked in water and then squeezed dry and crumbled (breadcrumbs)
1 egg
swig of white wine
garlic powder or smashed fresh garlic clove
2 tbs ketchup
1 tsp dried oregano (fresh doesn’t have enough flavor)
1 tsp dried mint (ditto)
olive oil for frying
1/2 cup flour for dredging
salt & pepper

Squish in a large bowl: beef, bread crumbs, egg, wine, garlic, ketchup, oregano, and mint together until it is mixed very well.

In a separate, smaller bowl, put the flour.

Put a large pan on a medium-low fire, then add olive oil– just a teaspoon or two. While the pan is still kind of cold, start forming meatballs one at a time. They should be about an inch big, then dredge them in the flour, then drop them in the pan.

I put the first meatballs on the outside perimeter of the pan, so that the last meatballs are placed in the center. This way, they all cook evenly (center is hottest, cooks fastest).

Fry them, salt and pepper them, and when they look greyish, flip them over. You may need to lower the heat. It’s okay if they burn a little bit because then they get kind of crispy! Cook until the other side is done, too. If things get too burny, cool everything off with a teensy bit of wine.

***Traditionally, these are served with noodles with browned butter and mzithra cheese, and some kind of green– we like kale!

In other news, this was my daughter’s first week back to school. It was a rather difficult transition, but I think we’ve weathered it. My husband and I were a bit put off by the teacher when we met her the second day of school, and I was further concerned when my daughter told me her teacher said she wasn’t very good at school. Of course, when you’re dealing with a first grader, you have to wonder what gets lost in the translation. I’m still not 100% sold. My daughter is pretty verbal, so I’m sure the teacher did say that, actually, but my daughter also has the imagination of Scheherazade, so I’m not too sure about context and interpretation. As of yesterday, Iso’s convinced they’ll get along after all, because they have the same favorite color: purple.

As for writing, my brain is like that stereotypical computer that destroys itself with two competing concepts, so my writing is craptastic this week. Seriously, I’m a simple sort. I can only deal with complexity when it is FICTIONAL. In real life, it decimates me like a bomb, and so I’m still at the wandering out of my house and into the ashes stage. I do have a seed germinating for a short story, though, but I wonder if anybody reads short stories that aren’t actually in the New Yorker.


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