By the time they sit around the table, they’ve all had a hand in preparing a small feast. Shredding cabbage, getting plates and napkins and drinks, preparing the grills because, yes, there are three of those. Whisking drained bits of cucumber, vinegar, garlic, salt and olive oil into Greek yogurt to create that herbless, cool accompaniment for sizzling meats and soft pita bread. The vibe is warm and genuine. They are a poster family for the cause of Eating Together.
Demetri, 45, and Vicky, 43, grew up in different parts of Silver Spring, in homes where the dads cooked and the mothers and aunts commanded car pit stops to gather dandelion greens from the side of the road. Every religious holiday gathering was, and remains, a multi-relative, multi-protein affair. Much of that tradition has been passed on to the couple’s generation of cousins, who now host Easter parties that feed 250.
“We move it from house to house,” Demetri says. “Some bring the tables. Some take care of the lambs.” In April, there were six 45-pounders on spits in the Tsipianitises’ back yard.
“We don’t need caterers,” Vicky says.
“I know it sounds cliche, but Greeks show their love through food,” Demetri says.
Next-door neighbor Elizabeth Morra feels the love on a regular basis. “We like to joke: If you sit in our back yard long enough, the T’s will bring you something to eat,” she says. “People up and down the street will request Vicky’s french fries. They’re world-famous.” Hand-decorated aprons (“Thank You Mr. T!!!”) from recipients of Tsipianitis-baked largess hang on a butcher’s rack not far from Demetri’s stash of digital thermometers.
Cliche is not a bad way to go. “Big Fat Greek” stereotypes come to mind: You know, from the 2002 movie with the dad who uses spray cleaner as an all-purpose elixir.
“The Windex thing was the only bit we’d never seen or heard,” Demetri and Vicky say, pleased to verify much of what was portrayed in the film. “But we do use red wine vinegar for lots of things, including stings.”
As the couple explain the origins of their specific Greek food influences — the north-central area of Greece where Vicky’s family is from, and the Peloponnesian peninsula of Demetri’s heritage, neither of which uses dill in tzatziki — minor bones of contention arise. Now cooking for company with a photographer in tow, they’ve never had to work out whose technique is better. Should the meatballs be grilled or fried? This does not escalate to the level of public disagreement. They simply do both.
She’s in charge of dinner Mondays and Wednesdays. He handles Tuesdays and Thursdays. Depending on their sports schedules, the boys will field calls to get things going from their mom at her mortgage office job, or from their dad, who’s a sales rep for various business systems. “I do not cook on Fridays,” Vicky says.