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Winter 2017

A Concerned American Tries Greek Food for the First Time

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I sit in the restaurant and think,
You Greeks, is this what you eat
every day? It’s delicious, this,
what is it? Pastitsio? Delicious.
It’s a culture I could loiter around,
pretend to bump into by accident and say,
“Oh, nice to meet you. I’m just
here for no reason.” We’re all here
for no reason, I want to say to you,
Greece, place I have never been,
but whose corner restaurant gives me
insight. Moussaka! Now that’s a name
for food, serious but light-hearted,
a contradiction that opens to other
questions. Is this what you eat
every day? Moussaka? Pastitsio?
Are you in a villa, on the beach,
above a beach on a wide, white balcony?
Are your balconies white?
I hate my job. Do you have
places you are required to be?
Meetings you must attend?
You are strolling down the beach
as we speak, aren’t you, eyes gripping
the white caps, peeling back the sky,
looking out for Persians or Romans,
or others who would destroy the republic?
Is that like your only job?
Does it have health benefits?
Retirement they threaten to take away?
Thirty minutes paid lunch? Mmm.
Moussaka for lunch! Should I
capitalize Republic, and do you
still believe in Zeus and that other guy
they chained to a rock for giving us fire?
What was his name again? I have to know,
are you going to eat your dolmades?
How could anyone be tired
of dolmades? You probably eat them
every day. Or are you in too much
of a hurry for a home-cooked meal?
Say you have a mandatory meeting
to attend. You HAVE to go. In that case
does this moussaka I am so fond of saying
come in Hot Pocket form? As I said,
I have begun to doubt meaning,
and I bet you’ve just got the same
stuff we’ve got. Have you tried the
Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pocket?
You should not. It is not their best effort.
The pizza one is pretty good, I guess,
because it’s pizza. How do you feel
about the Italians? I know you two
have a history. Is that a sore spot?
You should give them a chance.
They are a beautiful people. We have
an Olive Garden just down the street.
Prometheus! That was his name!
He gave the mortals fire so they
could cook their food and not die.
My doctor has wanted to check
my prostate ever since I turned forty.
I have put him off for about as long
as your austerity measures, so I
know what comes next. I am with you.
How is your cholesterol, by the way?
Moussaka! How do you do it?
I bet you don’t eat like this every day.
Damn it, Greece, I feel like I know you
already, but I have questions, and you
have not answered! Is everything the same
everywhere? You have no money,
the kids need new shoes, and pastitsio
is illusory at best? Did the banks
take your money, the police take
your rights, the loan company take
your home? Are they all the same
person, just one corporate entity,
and do you hate your job, which is part
of that bloodsoaked machine?
Have you ever eaten Taco Bell’s
Mexican pizza for lunch, because
it was the only place cheap enough
and close enough to work? The rumor was
that their boxes of meat were stenciled
Grade D, Fit for Human Consumption.
But it isn’t true, except how Prometheus
is true, and pain is the daughter of fire.
You shouldn’t eat that stuff, until they
label all of it poison, and tell us
who is impaled at the end of the fork.
I know you have struggled, Greece.
Tell me all of it, please, and have
some of my moussaka.
This is too much for one person.

—Todd Heldt

Todd Heldt is a librarian who lives with his wife and two sons in Chicago. His first book, Card Tricks for the Starving, was published by Ghost Road Press.

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