My Daddy – Babaki I Called Him: A Chef Extraordinaire

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The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, My Father’s Home

He was his own quirky person, my dad, Costas. Most American friends called him Gus. For a while, he ran a restaurant in Reform, Alabama, a small West Alabama town that had never even seen a Greek person before. But his gregarious personality caused him to make friends easily.

He was a part of the community in unusual ways, like singing in the choir at the Methodist Church on the hill. Of course, he was Greel Orthodox to the bone, but he loved singing. So the loudest voice in that choir belted out “Lead Me to the Rock that Is Higher than I” in perfect broken English! If he embarrassed the choir, they graciously never let on.

One late night, he closed the restaurant by cooking one last dish while singing at the top of his lungs. He packed up a huge pan of spaghetti and meats aisle and brought it to my fiancé’ house. “Wake up, everyone!” he said. “We go eat!”

It was nearly midnight, five full hours after my future in-laws went to bed. But the kindly dragged themselves out of a deep sleep and enjoyed Greel Spaghetti and Meat Sauce. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. But the spaghetti was delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Μακαρονάδα με Κιμά / Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes (crushed with your hands)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Cavendars Greek Season
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute chopped onion and diced garlic inpanwith a little olive oil until onion begins to become transparent.while cooking, add oregano, salt, pepper and sugar. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Skim off extra grease if you like. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and other seasonings. Cook until sauce is smooth and full-bodied (about an hour).

Cook spaghetti to the aldente stage. Drain and rinse. Melt butter in spaghetti pan with a little salt. Let the butter burn. Then toss in spaghetti and stir while adding salt to taste and Parmesan cheese. Ladle sauce onto seasoned noodles, serve and enjoy.