Barbara Myers stays connected to her culture through cooking.
Her mother, the late Olympia Lambros Kauffman, was the daughter of immigrants who passed down Greek recipes and traditions.
“My dad (the late Ronald Kauffman) fell for my mom,” said Myers, who lives in South Abington Twp. with her husband, Sunday Times sports writer Marty Myers. The couple also has a son, Matt. “He was a pharmacist, and she was a nurse. … My dad converted, took Greek classes, the whole thing.”
Myers loves to cook and has dozens of recipes up her sleeve, though her Greek dishes, including Grape Leaves, are her most requested.
“Every time I’m going somewhere, there’s a request for Greek food,” she said.
Myers’ recipe earned St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, Scranton, a $50 grocery gift card through Local Flavor Gives Back: Times-Shamrock employee edition.
The recipe is very straightforward, Myers said, and uses a mix of lamb and ground beef. Others in the Greek community might make the dish with slight differences.
“Everybody has their own touch,” she said. “I put lemon juice and pine nuts in mine, but I’ve seen other recipes without them. I don’t know if it was by family or by the region they came from, but everyone’s is just slightly different. … There’s no wrong or right way to make them, though.”
Greek culture surrounded Myers as she grew up near Lancaster. Her grandmother was always cooking, and Myers remembers watching her create classic Greek meals in her kitchen. The annual Greek bazaar was a huge event for the community, and Myers recalled watching all the women get together to make hundreds of delicacies, including phyllo dough from scratch. Her mom was an impressive cook, too.
“She was the master,” Myers said. “She could look at something or smell something and knew what it needed more of.”
A licensed behavioral specialist by day with a passion for animal rescue (the couple has four dogs, and One Live To Live Rescue is close to their hearts), Myers also loves to cook. She carries on her heritage and tradition by making Greek meals for family and friends. If someone has a baby or is celebrating another milestone, you can bet Myers will be there with a dish. It helps her stay connected with her roots and makes her feel close to her family. While she hasn’t been able to visit her out-of-town family in a year thanks to the pandemic, cooking these storied recipes eases the sting of missing them.
“I think this has been a hard time for everyone, and we have to do the things that make us feel better now. And when I (am making Greek food), I’m thinking about my mom, my grandmother,” Myers said. “It makes me happy to know I still have this part of them here with me.”
Barbara Myers’ Grape Leaves
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons onion powder
Black pepper, to taste
1 ounce pine nuts
1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
1 jar grape leaves
40 ounces chicken broth
Preheat oven to 275 F.
Combine meats with dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Remove grape leaves from jar and rinse under cold water. Unroll leaves with the dull side facing up. Put appropriate amount of meat mixture in each grape leaf.
Fold stem side up, then fold in the sides and roll up toward top. Roll as firmly as possible.
Place grape leaves close together in cake pan. Put pats of butter on grape leaves. Cover in chicken broth. Add lemon juice to taste. Bake for 2 hours.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT