Often I like to eat at a luncheonette called Mary’s Diner in Upper Darby. It’s one of those places that when you walk in, like the old Cheers Bar, everyone knows your name. It’s not fancy, it’s not pretentious, but the food is good, reasonably priced and always served with a smile. But recently, Tina, the owner, received a letter from the “Greek High Council,” as a result of advertising a Greek product using a false and deceptive name. This was serious stuff and there was hell to pay!

You see, on the daily menu board, the special was, “Nelson’s Gyro Salad.” Nelson? What is a Nelson? Who is Nelson? The Greek High Council stated in their letter that they had scoured their literary sources, reference books, ancient texts and manuscripts, and the holy grail of the Greek world – “Our Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and could not find any reference to a “Nelson.” I learned, that Nelson means “son of Neal” and Neal is a Celtic/English name meaning “champion.” Nelson is simply not Greek. Macedonia is Greek, but Nelson is not. Besides, no offense to my Celtic and English friends (are there still any Celts around?) they are not really known for their fine cuisine – just look at blood pudding!

The Greek High Council’s letter went on to say that should she continue to sell a Greek dish, she better use a Greek sounding name…like Stavro’s Gyro Salad, Yianni’s Gyro Salad, or even Thea Marika’s Gyro Salad. Since Tina is Lebanese, and should have known better, the Greek High Council voted to only reprimand her and put her on probation for one year. I think that was a fair sentence.

So what’s in a name? Why the swift action by the Greek High Council? You may state, “It’s only gyro, for God sakes!” Ahhh, you are wrong. Would you buy Papadopoulos’ Irish Whiskey? Probably not, but if you keep marketing it and using that name, somewhere along the line it will become legitimized. Remember the Nazis? They were pros at it. Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Paul Joseph Goebbels, is thought to have said, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” and they were experts at how to promulgate a lie into a truth. See what I mean?

If FYROM keeps telling the world that Macedonia belongs to them, after hearing it for the umpteenth time, the world will believe it. Last year, Canada and the European Union agreed to impose “established rights” on the word “feta” in favor of Greece and now the sale of the non-Greek feta in Canada must have listed on the label the phrase, “type of feta, feta cheese style, or feta imitation, and legible reference of the product’s origin.” Why? Because other nations want to capitalize on a good thing – feta. But feta is Greek. At least the Canadians did the right thing (my thanks to my relatives in Toronto).

Sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France can only be called “Champagne.” Right? So don’t we need to stand up for what’s Greek? Gyro is Greek. Feta is Greek. Baklava is Greek (okay the Turks may argue otherwise, but it seems, from my cursory research, that the Ancient Greeks had a similar pastry). Spanakopita is definitely Greek! And yes, I call it Greek coffee, not Turkish coffee. My Turkish friends may argue with me but in reality, they were all once Greeks too!

One of the most popular instruments in Irish music is the bouzouki, but they call it…you guessed it, the “Irish Bouzouki!” Really? That is so sacrilege! Tsitsanis is turning is his grave. If the Irish are referring to the heart and soul of Greek music as an Irish Bouzouki, maybe we should have Papadopoulos’ Irish Whiskey! It’s just becoming a mess.

Soon, they’ll be changing the names of the mythological Greek Olympic gods. Oh, that’s right, the Romans did that a couple thousand years ago. See…this is not something new. The Greeks didn’t stand up back then and today we have Jupiter, Mars, and Neptune instead of Zeus, Ares, and Poseidon. So this problem has been going on for centuries!

It’s time we take a stance. When, some day, and that day may soon be here, you see the advertisement for Smith’s Greek Yogurt, lodge your complaints with the Greek High Council. Make your voice heard and demand that Greek yogurt stay Greek! And if you don’t know who the Greek High Council is, well shame on you. Every Greek should know before they send you a letter.

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