My novel What’s Left has me thinking about families – especially like Cassia’s Greek-American household in Indiana.
- Number of single-parent families in the U.S.: 13.7 million (27 percent).
- Number of Greek-Americans: 1.3 million to 3 million of full Greek ancestry estimated. (With her mixed ancestry, Cassia wound not be counted here.)
- Number of Greeks in Indianapolis area, 1900: 29.
- Number of Greek-Americans (full ancestry) in Indiana: 23,993 (2010).
- Number of family businesses in U.S.: 5.5 million.
- Greek diners: More than 600 founded in New York area between 1950 and 1970 alone.
- Number of diners in New Jersey: about 525 (the leading state).
- Greek-menu restaurants in U.S.: 3,100.
- First Greek Orthodox church in the U.S.: New Orleans, by 1866
- First Greek Orthodox church in Indiana: Holy Trinity, Indianapolis, 1910.
In a whimsical twist in my novel What’s Left, I placed the town along the Ohio River. Well, the navigable waterway is a defining element of southern Indiana.
- Length of the Ohio River: 981 miles
- Length along Indiana: 240 miles before adding twists. Drains all but the northernmost area of the state.
- At its mouth: It is considerably larger than the Mississippi, making it the main hydrological stream of the whole river system.
- Number of states feeding into the Ohio River: 15.
- Largest tributary: Tennessee River, 652 miles long. Its watershed includes Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, a corner of Louisiana, as well as Tennessee and Kentucky.
- Largest northern tributary: Wabash River, 503 miles long. It originates in Ohio and flows across Indiana before becoming part of the border with Illinois.
- Average depth of Ohio River: 24 feet.
- The biggest city along its way: Pittsburgh, metropolitan population of 3.5 million. The river begins with the confluence of the Allegheny, from upstate New York, and the Monongahela, which drains part of West Virginia and Maryland as well as Pennsylvania, at Point State Park in the Gold Triangle.
- Next largest: Cincinnati, metropolitan area population of 2.2 million. Can be seen as the waterway’s hub.
- Major hurdle: Louisville, Kentucky, sits at the Falls of the Ohio, which once presented a barrier to river traffic. The McAlpine Locks and Dam stand where the Louisville and Portland Canal was built in 1830 to allow vessels to bypass the falls. It was the first major engineering project on the river and, by some accounts, the first on an American waterway.
In my novel What’s Left, Cassia’s family runs a landmark restaurant but realizes many of the Greek dishes they make at home are just too exotic for their clientele in southern Indiana, at least during most of the timespan of the story.
They do add roasted Greek potatoes as an option, but that’s about it.
Well, by the early ’80s, when they have a vegetarian line going, they might add dolmathes, the stuffed grape leaves, or vegetarian stuffed peppers to their offerings, perhaps along with tzatziki, the distinctive cucumber yogurt sauce distinguished by its dill and lemon.
Oh, but how much are the holding back on? Consider these ten options.
- Gyro. It’s a yummy handful, a wrap made of warm pita bread filled with strips of seasoned grilled lamb and beef with tzatziki and sliced tomatoes. (No onions on mine, please. They don’t agree with my system.)
- Souvlaki. Around here, it’s usually kabobs of char-broiled marinated pork, ordered by the skewer. “Give me two sticks, please,” is the way to order. Rounded out with things like rice pilaf, beans, and Greek salad on the plate. My favorite came from a wood-fired stove at the Common Ground Fair in Maine.
- Spanakopita. Or spinach pie, made of filo dough baked with layers of spinach and cheese.
- Loukaniko. Greek sausage made with orange peel, too. Great appetizer.
- Kolokythokeftedes. A Cretan vegetarian appetizer ball featuring feta cheese. (Feta is big in our house.)
- Lamb shank. This slow-baked, savory hunk o’ meat is one of the glories of our local Greek festival. Or, for those who want something a little less messy to eat, the slices of roast lamb are delightful, assuming you like lamb. If not, go for the lemon-pepper roast chicken. (Admittedly, I’m cheating in trying to keep this a Tendril. Just ten dishes? Oh, my, impossible!)
- Pastichio. Layers of baked macaroni with cheese and seasoned beef are a common entrees , as is Moussaka, made of layers of baked eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef.
- Keftethes. Meatballs. Bet you can’t eat just one.
- Baklava. This honey-infused filo is a heavenly dessert, but be warned, it has to be eaten while fresh. That honey can get sticky.
- Let’s not overlook Loukoumades. Bite-sized golden puffs of fried dough often sprinkled with syrup, walnuts, and cinnamon are another celestial way to round out the meal. I have heard some heated discussion, though, about whether the next generation can live up to the standards this one requires. The debate can be quite amusing, especially when the stand is being operated by closely supervised children.
Now, as for your Greek favorites?
Returning that matter of bohemian identity, here are ten more options.
- Peace activist.
- Organic gardener.
- Civil rights activist.
- New England contradancer.
- Sanctuary volunteer.
What more would you suggest for the list?
I’ve been considering some differences and similarities of beatniks and hippies, but they’re just part of a much longer tradition that is often called bohemian.
Without trying to distinguish what identifies each of these (I do get awfully confused at times), here are ten to consider.
- Stoner. (Oops, I just saw that this one can be broken down into ten more categories!)
How would you distinguish any or all of these?
What would you suggest for the list?
Considering the negative image of some, what would you offer as more positive alternatives when it comes to alternative awareness and living?
While many beatniks despised the hippies who followed on the counterculture trail, the two did have some commonalities.
Here are ten I see.
- Alternative living: They both dressed in ways that weren’t socially acceptable, part of their rejection of bourgeois attitudes of American respectability. Hippies, especially, advanced that into group living.
- Beards: The beat goatee was signature. Hippies took facial hair in many distinctive directions.
- Sandals: On men, especially. Forget the polished wingtips.
- Incense: It became a staple of small alternative stores, along with interesting teas like Earl Grey and Gunpowder.
- Pot: Jazz musicians were the root for the beats. Having a toke together became a communal expression among hippies.
- Free love: Although the birth control pill was approved for public use in 1960, it was still illegal in eight states four years later. Still, it quickly grew in popularity, garnering the condemnation of Pope Paul VI in 1968. Well, if extramarital sex was already taboo, what additional fault would using the contraceptive have? This was having fun while scoffing at conventionality at the same time.
- Eastern spirituality: Zen Buddhist and Theosophist influences championed by the beats spread into yoga, Sufism, and other strands of Buddhism in the hippie era.
- Pacifism: Opposition to war, though, did not always carry a corresponding nonviolent outlook by hippies, who instead focused their opposition on the military draft and stopping that by any means possible.
- Cool: Beatniks liked to “play it cool.” Hippies had their own nuance in preferring to “be cool” as a way of displaying their individuality.
- Mass-media caricatures: Both were portrayed negatively in the mass media, usually as warped stereotypes.