In the garden of eatin’


Lauren Ciallella

If I were on death row I know what I would eat as my last meal – Greek chow-mien from Mr. Souvlaki’s in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Partially because of the nostalgia it stirs from annual treks to this coastal, Greek neighborhood when I was younger, but mostly because of the miracle that appeared in the form of lamb, rice, feta and onions.

Somehow this cracked egg of a building with warped floorboards and crude tables created a holy union of ingredients that induced a spiritual awakening on my palate.

I had found something good and true. Greek chow-mien was the tangible epiphany giving birth to my new religion – Barbeque-ism.

Barbeque-ism is the appreciation of life through food and has become my devout practice. I believe that when God decided to create Eve from Adam’s rib, the “boys” (God and Adam) celebrated this amazing idea with a backyard cookout at the best setting they could find – one killer garden.

During the festivities, the alleged rib ended up getting grilled with some tasty sauce before they realized it was meant for Eve. This inherent “secret sauce” became the driving force behind every hetero-male’s craving for female flesh.

We celebrate the “Eve” on the biggest parties of the year (Christmas and New Year’s) because it means letting loose before the actual event. Hey, if a talking snake can happen, why not this?

Instead of smoke at Mass, there could be wafts of caramelizing onions or waffle cones. Instead of wafers for communion there could be blessed bruschetta.

Instead of wine . well, let’s not mess with the sanctity of the church. Let’s stick to the facts. The “burning bush” was due solely to Moses’ insistence on adding more lighter fluid.

What truly fuels the soul are the relationships we encounter and appreciation for what they teach us. Every Sunday my family would meet for (dinner) service at 5 p.m. and pass plates (not collection) in an open forum of discussion.

Christmas called for homemade raviolis and cannolis. Summer suggested staying at the beach late and sharing a sandwich with my sister, toes in the sand. These rituals brought unity to every dinner, every week, every year.

Food possesses that angelic ability to transcend barriers by cultivating common ground. It bridges the age gap, it continues traditions. It celebrates life’s bounty on emotional and physical levels.

Even when I was at the height of my “teenager-dom”, I would still enjoy going out to breakfast with my grandfather. Sitting down to conversations (rather than confessions) nourished the part of me that made me feel connected to something bigger than myself.

These connections became a stronger moral guide than the judgment juice that spilled from pews and practiced prayer that only resonated with the rafters.

When Mr. Souvlaki changed their location and chow-mien recipe last year (they insist it’s always been pork, but lamb is an extremely identifiable flavor), I was at a loss of what to use as my emergency last meal if ever facing “the chair”.

Hopefully, my Barbeque-istic beliefs would spare me otherwise they would spare (rib) me at one Hell of a barbeque.


Lauren Ciallella is a regular contributor to City Times

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In the garden of eatin’