Why is the American system of government so polarized along doctrinaire lines that even Greece’s political system seems more open to compromise?
Why are striking Greek taxi drivers who work so hard so intent on shutting down Greece’s seminal tourist industry, despite the far reaching harm their actions inflict upon their already suffering countrymen, and why is the Greek government unwilling or unable to do anything to stop them?
Why in this day and age did an industrialized western nation allow a gathering of its future leaders to take place at a remote locale without minimally appropriate security, and as a corollary question, why did none in the camp band together in some attempt to stop a lone killer systematically hunting them down for more than an hour and a half?
Finally, Why are those who ask such questions categorized rather than answered?
Thankfully, I found an escape from my search for answers. I went to a panayeri.
In the Greek Orthodox faith, churches generally are dedicated to saints. On the night before a saint’s name day, services are held in churches honoring the saint, often followed by celebrations filled with food, dancing, and music. In Mykonos’ “old” days—before its 24/7 nightlife—a panayeri was the only place for locals to party. It was where the unmarried met, and on occasion eloped straight from the party. But despite all the many changes to the island, panayeris are still big events on Mykonos.
|Inside a Mykonian family church|
The traditional panayeri actually begins the day before the formal celebration. That’s when family and friends contribute their goats and lambs for slaughter in preparation for the next day’s cooking, as well as wine, bread, salads, fruits, vegetables, and special local dishes and desserts. It’s all part of the sacrifice honoring a saint.
I attended a panayeri honoring Saint Panteleimon (whose name, in a bizarrely coincidental fit for my state of mind, means “mercy for everyone”) and on that night everything served was homegrown or, in the case of the wine, made by the hosts–—the wonderful family of Nikos and Michele Nazos.
The Nazos’ place is a treasure, with what many regard as the finest vegetable gardens on Mykonos. Their church is tucked in the middle of their gardens, beside a broad, olive-shaded stone patio large enough to accommodate the hundreds who carefully circle this night on their calendars.
|Traditional sampouna bladder pipes|
I’m not precisely sure how the Nazos family goes about putting together their panayeri, but in other instances the men in charge of slaughtering the animals arrive at least a day before with their own food and wine. Lots of wine. They’re followed by friends who show up to help, bringing more food and more wine. Somehow they always manage to get everything done on time. It is, as they say, the Greek way.
The panayeri meal begins with a piece of bread blessed by the priest and a cup of broth derived from the boiled meat to come. Then comes the real food: tables full of batter fried cod fish with skordalia garlic sauce, delicacies prepared from the goats and lambs, appetizers of every kind, salads, black-eyed beans and dandelion greens, and wine, wine, wine. The boiled meat is next, followed by the yahknee, a savory, rich stew begun with the broth; developed with simmering, fresh island tomatoes, potatoes, onions, spices and herbs; and finished with the tastiest of the meat from the contributed animals.
If you’re not full yet, don’t worry, lamb chops off the grill are still to come, and later, pastries, custards, yoghurts, and fresh fruits.
All of this is accompanied by non-stop traditional music and dancing running up to the morning church service. After church those who remain (or return for the service) finish off what’s left of the food—having no doubt prayed for room to do so.
I didn’t quite make it that far. I was home by 4. It was sad leaving such good cheer and wonderful people in a setting summoning up memories of simpler times. Far simpler times. God bless them. God bless us all.