My Big Humongous Greek family consists of many Aunties but recently two of my favourite ones (you see what I did there?- baclava guaranteed for life now), visited us for a few days and we literally pissed ourselves laughing. Tena lady anyone?
As soon as they arrived, my charismatic Auntie Loulla revealed she’d actually brought cooked dishes with her on the coach from Manchester to Leeds. She’s done a lot of TV cooking in her time and owns a gorgeous Greek taverna, Kosmos in Manchester, so I expected nothing less.
Her passion for cooking is totally infectious and despite doing a detox whiles they were here (what was I thinking?), she rustled up delicious Greek bean casseroles, lentil dishes and rice pudding (that’s allowed on a detox right?). It does help that one of her son’s is a vegetarian Greek Orthodox Buddhist so she’s used to cooking vegetarian food. My family, you couldn’t make it up.
Now wherever the 3 sisters: my Mum, Auntie Lou and Auntie Mary go, hilarity is sure to follow. We decided to eat at an Indian restaurant in Bradford one night and the waiter kindly asked if it was a special occassion. Mum perked up and said it was their birthdays, ALL of their birthdays. “We’re triplets” chipped in Loulla.
The waiter looked at us as if we were crazy. Not wrong there, then. We assurred him it was true, laughing through our pappadoms. So we ate our meal, me my flavoursome lentils in garlic and delicate vegetable curry (more on my detox in another post), they their chicken and spinach curry and basmati rice and we continued with the jokes about ‘the triplets’ as he served us. “Oh I hope we get some kulfi ice cream with candles, for their birthday” I teased.
And you know what, we did. All the waiters and I mean ALL, gathered round our table as a huge portion of kulfi with sparklers and three sets of balloons arrived. You should have seen my Aunties’ faces, they laughed so much they, they…well they actually stopped talking. Unbelievable. Only for the duration of the Happy Birthday song though but that’s a first. These girls even talk in their sleep. And through Eastenders. The only way you can watch TV with these girls is to put the subtitles on. On the way home from the Indian, Mum who also owns restaurants, The Olive Tree (and should have known better) declared, “As long as we don’t say it’s our birthday’s next week, I think we’ve got away with it”. Brilliant.
And the fun didn’t stop there. Getting our cultural fix, we visited the brilliant Leeds City Art Gallery to check out the Damien Hirst exhibition. There, they’ve created a small corner of Hirst’s now defunct restaurant Pharmarcy.
Being restaurateurs, the girls wanted to view the menu visible on one of the faux restaurant’s tables, but you’re not actually allowed to touch them, let alone read them. It’s art girls even if it appears not to be. A stout Yorkshire guide in his 50’s started bellowing over that they must move behind the line on the floor and no they couldn’t look at the menu, not under any circumstances, and no, not even for them. I could just about make Aunty Mary out, shouting “Bloody art” and stomping away as I hid in the gallery cafe!
Adjacent to the gallery is the Henry Moore Institute and was a favourite of mine growing up. In fact they archived an essay I wrote at Sixth Form about an exhibition there in their library. I was too held up ‘baby sitting’ the family to check if it was still there. The sculpture exhibition of Mario Merz was a little too conceptual and out there and noticing Mama and her sisters asking me lots of questions, a young Swedish looking guide, all floppy blond hair and cheeky smile, offered to show us around. Poor guy, what was he letting himself in for.
We wandered round woven baskets signifying mathematical structures and a Fiat making a political statement in Italy with mud on the windows when finally Mama turned to him and declared loudly, “You’re so handsome, you should be exhibited”, before pushing him to the corner, “Right there- so we can look at you”. Loulla interjected, “Yes, but only if we can touch”. Cue crimson faced guide, flattered but ever so slightly scared as I apologised profusely, dragging the 3 naughty sisters out of the gallery.
More meals ensued at various restaurants including a magnifico Italian meal (“the best Italian I’ve ever eaten”) declared Mary at my brother Solos’ restaurant Giorgios and “you’re allowed to read the menus here” and of course more stunningly rustic cooking from Auntie Lou. I actually wish she lived with me. I’d be a stone heavier no dount, but it’d be worth it.
I then proceeded to book a holiday for my Mum and Lou to Marbella next week so they can stay with their Spanish based sister Zac. That in total took 3 hours to book online as we had to check every airline in existence in the entire world before settling with the first one we looked at. At many points in those 3 hours I questioned the will to live. Does Auntie Zac know what she’s in for?
….This post was not officially sponsored although a lot of food has and is regularly consumed at all of the above restaurants for free and so it will continue (hopefully even after this post)….I love my family massively and thanks to them I’m never short of love, inspiration for my work and not forgetting, a big fat whole load of yummy Greek (and now Italian) food. Happy days.
Photographs ©Peter Broadbent