Sofia's big fat Greek baptism

My beautiful little niece Sofia was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Christian faith in style this past Saturday. Overlooking the Aegean waters and the mountains of Evia on warm summer's afternoon, the setting for this auspicious event was quite dramatic. My uncle's country estate has a very small white chapel, reminiscent of something from a postcard of the Cyclades. That's where the baptismal ceremony took place. Two-hundred people witnessed the joyous christening of my little niece. Despite her wailing following her little swim (if you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know exactly what I mean), she seemed to not be phased by the fact that all these people travelled to see her.

The weekend celebrations kicked off a day earlier, on Friday, when 40 or so people, mainly close friends and relatives, sat along 3 long tables placed together on a patio at the base of the house. My uncle ordered from the seaside town of Kalamos 'paidakia' (lamb chops), pork kebabs, and biftekia (beef burgers, but Greek style and far more interesting than your ordinary hamburger). The lamb meat was deliciously tender. Platters of youvarelakia and vegetables came out of nowhere. We topped up with a wonderful Greek white wine, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't take note of the name and year. I will get back to you on that one. Dessert was ridiculous. We had three to four cakes, one of which was a birthday cake for my cousin Panagioti (the father of the baby). One cake was particularly stunning, which was essentially caramel and vanilla ice cream topped off with caramelised almonds.

Needless to say I didn't eat conservatively. In fact, I ate in excess, and felt the pain thereafter. But it was the kind of stomach pain that is in essence pleasure.

The following day, we didn't eat anything for lunch, even following our impromptu visit to the beach where I met up with family friend's of ours staying at the Kalamos Beach Hotel. It was my first and last swim in the Greek waters for 2008. A striking contrast to the 50-60 times I would go to the beach when I was a little bambino. At a seaside taverna (where I didn't eat anything) early in the afternoon, I engaged in a heavy debate over whether Greeks were following the unhealthy dietary habits of Americans, and the consequences of those habits on childhood obesity, diabetes, etc. My cousin Yanni was still convinced it wasn't a problem in Greece. I begged to differ.

After coming back to the house around 5pm, I cleaned up, threw on my pin stripe suit with a tie, and when I walk into the living room as guests were arriving, I noticed that I was the only one with a tie. Agh! I felt incredibly out of place. So off came the tie. I finally achieved the summer look I was going after.

As the cousins and friends of old started coming to the house, there was a euphoric feeling in the air that was palpable. You knew this was a special day, time, and place. The whole lot proceeded slowly down the hill to the chapel for the start off the ceremony at 7pm. The entire time, I was moving like a chameleon around the priest, the guests, the godmother, in an effort to take the best pictures possible. Total number of pictures taken in the end? 388.

The reception that followed was a true Mameletzis event in every sense of the word. Stylish. Apiro fagito (lot's of food). Apiro krasi (lot's of wine). At some point in the night, I decided to grab a girl called Aliki and start dancing. What followed was a dance-a-thon. I managed to grab others and bring them to the dance floor. My partner in crime was in fact my friend Christina. The previous baptism was that of Vassilis, and a guest list of 400 didn't see a single person dance at that event. For this occassion, out of 200 guests, a significant number of folks got their groove on. In the end, I threw a zebekia (type of Greek drunken man's dance) for my little niece. If you watch Zorba the Greek, you shall understand. We didn't finish drinking and dancing until 3:30am. Insanity. But well worth it.

On Sunday, at around 11am, I woke up to breakfast (and the realisation that my legs were sore from dancing) by the veranda with the rest of the family there. Sofia had managed to get at up 7am. The life of a baby, go figure. As if I hadn't eaten enough from the night before, my aunt Sofi organised yet another luncheon for 35-40 people. There were this time 3 sections. A table for children 5 and under. A table of 30-somethings. And then everyone else. Leftovers from the catering, coupled with fresh salads, was the perfect way to spend the rest of the afternoon. It was quite hot by 2-3pm, and an iced cold beer jug filled with Heineken from the tap made for the most refreshing drink of my life.
By 9pm, I managed to hitch a ride back with one of our friends to Athens, where I proceeded to meet up with other cousins in the swanky club-restaurant Akrotiri for my little cousin Yannis' birthday dinner. He is also a Yannis Mameletzis. There's three of us on this planet right now. The temperature was perfect. The company was perfect. The atmosphere was perfect. And my main course of rooster with spinach and potato puree was perfect as well.

Life is good.


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Sounds like a blast Yannis! I really love hearing stories about Greek families. It reminds me of how Italians used to be before the family unit really started breaking apart. Ah the nostalgia!

Kelly said...


Sorry this is off topic, but it's the only way I found to send you a message!

Just wanted to let you know I read your story in the Athens Plus and then I looked up your show on YouTube. Fantastic! I have been waiting for a Greek chef to do something good on American television!

I am an American living in Sifnos for the past 10 years. I am a big foodie too! If you ever want to do a show in Sifnos (think clay-pot mastello, revithia, Tselementes) I would be happy to put you in touch with the right people.

Meanwhile, keep up the good work kai kali tixi!