Dena Marmigas is very proud to be Greek. Her father moved from Greece to the United States in 1909, and his wife-to-be came in 1914. They met, married, had children, and made certain to pass down the Greek heritage, language, and cuisine to Dena and her sister, Mary.
“My mother could cook anything,” Dena recalls. “As a child, I would eat and eat and gain weight.” In fact, Dena says her one regret in life is that she could not rise to the level of her mother’s cooking skills, especially her ability to make authentic delicious Greek meals. Part of the frustration – her mother didn’t write down recipes. She taught her daughters to cook by having them watch her in action, and though they tried, they didn’t quite achieve their mother’s expertise.
Of course, their mother spent three hours a day on average in the kitchen.
Dena is now 86 and a hospice care resident at Bethesda Dilworth, a skilled nursing home community in St. Louis, MO. The food at Bethesda Dilworth is good, but did not offer a Greek cuisine anywhere close to the level that Dena enjoyed growing up.
And Dena missed the authentic Greek food that her Mom used to make.
Dena shared her desire with Allison Givens, a social worker with Bethesda Hospice Care. That was all Allison needed to hear. She contacted Nick Stratos, the owner of Spiro’s Restaurant in South St. Louis, and shared the story of Dena and her desire for authentic Greek food.
Nick was touched, and he arranged for his cooks to make an order of dolmades especially for Dena, which he kindly provided at no charge. Dolmades is a dish contained a filling of ground beef and lamb, with several spices, rice, garlic, onion, and dill, wrapped in grape leaves and topped with an egg/lemon sauce.
Allison presented it to Dena, who enjoyed it immensely. “Wonderful,” was her official critique, which is high praise from someone who was raised on authentic homemade Greek cuisine.
“I felt very flattered and honored that she liked our cooking,” Nick says. “After hearing her story, it was the least we could do.”
“It was very gratifying when I learned that Spiro’s would be able to help us,” says Allison. “I knew what a treat this would be for Dena, how much she would enjoy it, and what wonderful memories this meal would create. She is such a neat lady, and I’m so happy we were able to do this for her.”
Allison’s interaction with Dena began with the challenge of pronouncing “Marmigas” correctly. “It was pretty bad at the beginning, and Dena used to laugh at me,” Allison says. “I kept working at it every time I saw Dena, and I kept getting closer and closer to saying it right. Finally, one day I got it, and we had a mini celebration!”
In addition, the sisters were introduced to a volunteer/employee at Bethesda Dilworth who played the bouzouki. The bouzouki is a plucked musical instrument of the lute family that their father used to play. Watch the video below to experience the sounds firsthand.
“You could tell that any opportunity to engage Dena into an aspect of the Greek culture means the world to her,” Allison says.
As does the effort made by a certain employee who made sure she enjoyed a “wonderful” meal.
If you or a loved one are in need of Hospice Care, contact Bethesda. Our professional staff and caring volunteers will ensure that you make the most of your time together.