By Mike Rakes
This week I was fortunate to spend time with my Uncle Demo, Uncle John and cousin Niko in Portland, ME while traveling for sales meetings. They own a restaurant named after my Yiayia (Grandma) called Emilitsa in the Arts District on Congress Street (pictured). It has been in the family for 10 years now, but this was my first trip out to Portland to visit. I left Portland so inspired and grateful to witness tangible proof of the love for food, people, and hosting others that was instilled in our family by Yiayia and Papou (Grandpa). The food at Emilitsa is thoughtfully crafted and sitting down in their beautiful space was a sensory experience that brought back so many wonderful childhood memories. While on the road, I’ve spent some time thinking a lot about the lessons Yiayia and Papou taught our family, and the legacy that they left behind beyond food and entertaining.
When I was growing up my Papou George always spouted off stories and one liners. He’d speak fondly, but soberly about the difficult journey he made at 17 years old from his village in Greece to Duluth, MN – unable to speak a word of English. He’d chuckle softly behind his worn brow and large, thick-rimmed glasses about the time he curdled milk for a Coconut Cream Pie at his diner, the Regas Cafe. He sold it as Pineapple Cottage Cheese Pie and received rave reviews from his customers, but could never duplicate the “mistake.” He was always willing to sit down and share a story, and he had a rich life because of the many experiences he sought out and shared with others.
Papou lived by two simple phrases, the first was “everything in moderation.” He’d often drop that one as we reached a second helping of dessert. Convenient, right? But of all the stories and one-liners he told us, the second one he lived by was what I remembered most: “You need people.” He said this time and again, and it always resonated with me. In good times and in bad, he felt that connection to your friends, family and loved ones was of the utmost importance. This simple phrase is the foundation on which Philia Foods is built.
For those of you who know anyone of Mediterranean or Eastern European heritage, family is EVERYTHING. Our family gathered regularly at Papou and Yiayia’s house on Sunday after church and spent countless hours just being with each other, no distractions. On holidays our family spends all day together with old and new friends that we’ve gotten to know throughout the years. When my Papou George would say “you need people” these are the types of gatherings he was talking about. The kind that refuel your soul. The kind that allow you to truly unplug from the chaos of your day to day routine. Our reason for existence at Philia is to be the perfect accompaniment to these gatherings. You can let us do the work, forget about the appetizers and focus on your friends, family, and guests. Our love for food and relationships is what drives Philia Foods forward every day.
In the fast paced world we now live in, it is too easy to forget this lesson. Our devices promise to connect us with more people, but often leave us feeling starved for authentic personal engagement. We get so swamped with our lives, routines and schedules, we forget to take much needed time to unplug and connect with others. My sincere hope is that when you read our blog, buy our spreads, and share our story, you remember that one of the pillars of a meaningful life is your friends and family, the time you spend with them, and the memories that you make together.
Until next time.
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