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Greek tradition spreading

Grandmothers coach students in the kitchen

POSTED: September 23, 2012 12:30 a.m.
Autumn Vetter/

David Roberts, second from right, and Greek “yiayia” Evangelia Mastorides, right, teach South Forsyth High students to make galaktabouriko. The students will help prepare dishes for this year’s Cumming Greek Festival, held in late October.

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Students in South Forsyth High School’s culinary arts program learned about more than just food last week.

Organizers of this year’s Greek Festival, which Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church of Cumming holds each fall, visited the culinary students Tuesday.

Several of the visitors were Greek “yiayias,” the term for “grandmother.”

They taught the students about galaktabouriko, a pastry dish consisting of flaky filo dough baked around a light custard filling and topped with citrus syrup.

The galaktabouriko is one of many traditional Greek dishes that will be served up to festival-goers Oct. 19-21.

The yiayias spend several weeks leading up the festival hand preparing all the food that will be sold.

For the first time last year, organizers of the festival joined with the South Forsyth culinary arts students to produce a few of the menu items. Some of the students also volunteered at the festival.

Dawn Martin, culinary arts instructor, said the relationship is beneficial for both parties.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship because everybody benefits,” she said. “The students get a cultural experience … plus, I like for them to be community-minded, so with all those things working together, it’s phenomenal.”

Stamatia Hagen, a member of the church, brought her mother, Evangelia Mastorides, who was visiting from Orlando, Fla.

“Anytime there’s any baking or anything going on, she’s the first one to jump in and help out,” said Hagen, adding that her mother gets especially excited about teaching young people traditions from her homeland.

“It melts her heart to see this,” she said.

While she’s not quite old enough to be a yiayia yet, Sophia Bethune, who recently moved to Forsyth County from Massachusetts, said she was enjoying helping her new friends prepare for the festival.

“I’ve been unplugged from my church, so being involved with the Orthodox Church here has been fun,” she said.

“Today is awesome. These kids are amazing.”

Joshua Andrews, a senior culinary arts student, said he had learned a lot.

“I’m enjoying cooking with the yiayias,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun … it gets us more experience with food that’s outside the United States and I think they enjoy it because they get to pass down some of their heritage to other people.”

David Roberts, one of the festival’s lead organizers, said he hoped the students learned about more than just pastry.

“Working with the yiayias is a little different experience for them,” he said. “You know, if the custard’s a little lumpy, that’s OK because it’s made with love.”

Love seems to be one of the main ingredients for most of the yiayias.

When asked the secret to making a good galaktabouriko, Mastorides was quick to answer: “Lots of butter, good cream and lots of love.”

 

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