greekfood

Food: Fancy Greek cuisine
So, uh, where is the giant cookbook with glorious pictures of the cuisine of Greece? Every other Mediterranean cuisine, from Spain and Morocco to — if my Greek friends will forgive the expression — Turkey, is glamorized on TV, glorified in magazine spreads, and up in neon lights over a trendy bistro. All Greek food has is flavor: millennia of savory experience with seafood, lamb, cheese, vegetables, the spice trade, a vast multicultural empire of its own, being part of other vast empires. Even the hot-weather wines have been Californized into fruit bombs by now.

Greek restaurateurs? They end up doing pizza (rather good pizza, on the whole), generic seafood, every kind of restaurant but the kind they ought to know best. True, they have got the Greek salad and the souvlaki and pilaf and maybe even the gyro to cross over into mainstream New England food. But really, is there a better dip on the planet than a good, garlicky skordalia? And taramasalata makes two? Does anyone roast lamb better than a Greek chef (outside of maybe Northern Spain)? It’s amazing the second-rate stuff people will rave about in a restaurant if it’s called tapas, when Greek-style mezze taste twice as good.

Russian food with French names gets more respect. Nobody jokes about Polish food (and neither do I), but John Belushi’s cheeseburger-Pepsi luncheonette bit will never die. I will admit that Greek food is deficient in chocolate desserts. But that’s all I will admit. I’ve tasted ’em all, and the most underrated haute cuisine on the planet is Greek. Maybe all they need is a handsome TV chef with an accent.

— Robert Nadeau

pennies

Currency: The penny
The penny has endured a more sordid history than a fame-seeking reality TV personality. It’s been redesigned, recomposed, traded in rolls for the more buoyant dollar, tossed into fountains, tossed into trash cans, jammed unyieldingly into parking meters and vending machines, cited as divine precipitation in a Bing Crosby song, dulled from gleaming copper to bedraggled brown, and orphaned carelessly in sad heaps on convenience-store counters, like unwanted kittens, yearning for the worn, warm insides of an old leather wallet.

And now the fate of the penny dangles perilously close to extinction, as opponents argue that the rising prices of the metal and labor necessary for producing pennies exceed the value of the coin itself. Freakonomics scribe Stephen J. Dubner admits to trashing his Lincolns; a vocal anti-cent group called Citizens for Retiring the Penny calls them a “waste of money,” and economist François R. Velde says its value should climb to five cents. Bills promoting the demise of the penny have been introduced to Congress, though none have been approved.

But toss this idea into your great piggy bank of thoughts: every day, you buy something at a price punctuated by pennies. A coffee for $1.87 (double that if it’s Starbucks), a sandwich for $5.19, a DVD for $25.37. What if all of those things, each minor purchase over the course of a whole year, increased to an even amount: $1.90 for a coffee, $5.20 for a sandwich, $25.40 for a DVD? It seems negligible, but over the course of a year, or several years, those added cents equal fewer dollars in the old bank account. Many charities raise money by collecting a 100 million or so pennies. How many do you have on you right now?

— Caitlin E. Curran

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