Like many of you out there in Greek Land, I have had many fine meals at some of the top restaurants in the country… and out of the country too. I have had Kobe beef filet mignon cooked to perfection at fine restaurants that cater to the rich and famous (they allowed me in for some reason). I’ve had real Caesar Salad. You know the kind that the waiter makes at your table by grinding the little anchovies into a wooden bowl and using real, thinly shaved parmesan cheese – not the dressing out of the bottle that they try to pass off as Caesar dressing.
I have also had some fine meals at some dives… just like Guy Fieri on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins. Scrumptious burgers that melt in your mouth and omelets that are fluffy and taste like “butta!” And there have been thousands of meals in between. Like I said, I’m typical.
But, the best meal I’ve had was from a place so common yet so unique. A place where you felt right at home and were always wondering how the food was prepared with such perfection. A place where you tried to figure out how to bottle the food and sell it to the masses. It was a place where you could come dressed in a pair of shorts or your finest suit… and pajamas would not be frowned upon. This magical place? Mama Mahi’s Kitchen.
Who is Mama Mahi you ask? Come on… we all have eaten a Mama Mahi’s Kitchen. It’s your Greek mother’s kitchen. Mahi (short for Andromahi) just happens to be my Mom’s name, but you can easily change Mahi to Katerina, or Maria, or Despina, or the million other Greek names that happens to be your mother.
No matter how old you are, or what you do for a living, or where you have been, going home to eat Mom’s cooking is sublime. It’s heavenly. It’s just superb. Walking into Mom’s kitchen with the delectable aromas of the food cooking on the stove hitting you like a warm blast of air as you come in out of a cold winter day.
When you’re older, and finally appreciate Mom’s kitchen, eating her food is a reminder of your youth – the thousands of conversations at the dinner table. Your father giving you a stern look when you talked too much. Your older sister sticking out her tongue because of the wise crack you said to her. Your little brother whining because he doesn’t want to eat his string beans. Ahh… Mama Mahi’s Kitchen.
You also learned to appreciate Mama Mahi’s meals too. Remember “bamies?” Yuck! I hated those slimy little green alien-looking pods when I was a kid. Now… throw those bad boys right onto the plate and keep ‘em coming! How about “fakies?” Really… lentil soup? How many times did I put a paper napkin over the plate when I took a look at it!! Today, just splash a healthy dose of vinegar and we’re good to go.
When I was a wee youngster, I whined because I wanted a McDonald’s hamburger like my American friends. Mama Mahi would shake her head and say, “I fix you a real hamburger, not that McDonald’s junk!” What did I get – fresh ground beef shaped like a meatball with peppers and onions sticking out of it on white bread. I cried… it was no way like a McDonald’s hamburger and there were no thin French fries and a Coke either. Now I look back and thank God Mama Mahi made me a real hamburger! She knew what she was doing.
And Mama Mahi’s kitchen was open 24 hours a day! Not like some of our modern moms who announce that if you don’t eat what she cooked at dinner time, the kitchen is closed. That’s to say she actually cooked and not just ordered take out. I know… times are different today and moms, and dads, just don’t have enough hours in the day. In Mama Mahi’s kitchen if you came home late on a Friday night from being out with your friends and you opened the refrigerator door, before you could grab some lunch meat, Mom was there to fix you “something good.” It was like the refrigerator door had an alarm straight to her. The kitchen was always open.
One story I remember was when my brother, who played center for the Maple Shade High School football team, told Mom he was having a few friends over after their game and he would order pizza. I happened to be away and arrived around four o’clock in the morning and went straight to bed. At 9:00 AM I was up, got my coffee and as I went out back to sit in my favorite spot to drink my coffee, I was stopped dead in my tracks.
There, in front of me was a mound of beer bottles and cans. The mound was huge, at least up to my hip and size of a large kiddie pool (Warning! Kids, this was the early 80s, you can’t do this anymore). I stood astonished and in shock when my next door neighbor, he too holding a mug of coffee in his hand, came around back and stood next to me. For about a minute we both didn’t say a word, then he stated, “Your brother had 200 of his closest friends.” I looked at him and he laughed and added, “Your poor Mom. She tried to cook for all of them!” That’s Mama Mahi’s kitchen.
So next time you’re at that fancy restaurant with the waiter and his snooty attitude and they give you a check that is for more than what some people make in a week, just remember, you could have gone to Mama Mahi’s Kitchen!
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