Saturday, September 03, 2016
Many years ago, when first invited to eat at Goody’s, I was enraptured, labouring as I was under the misapprehension that in fact, I was being conveyed to a BBC ‘Goodies’ themed restaurant, where cardboard representations of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie would greet me with the slogan: "We Do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere," one which resonated with me, as I was a perpetually hungry student at the time, and possessed of a surprisingly similar world-view.
As I walked through the streets of Ioannina, salivating, I mentally re-imagined various Goodies episodes to fit in with my environment. In particular, I recall daydreaming that the entire black population of South Africa had emigrated to Ioannina to escape apartheid. As this meant that the white South Africans no longer had anyone to exploit and oppress, they in turn, introduced a new system called "apart-height", where short people (being the entire Greek migrant population) were discriminated against. The scenario ended in classic Goodies’ fashion, with the short Greeks migrating to New Zealand and reconfiguring the haka to the beat of the tsamiko, as the whole of the North Island sank within the Pacific Ocean, under the weight of their egos.
Goody’s at Ioannina was nothing like that, neither was the Athenian Goody’s I compelled to patronise a week later. Indeed, I was incensed to find out that at no Goody’s I entered then, or ever since, had anyone ever heard of the real Goodies, their denial of any and all knowledge of the aforementioned giving rise within me, to reasonable suspicion that the forces of evil had in fact, as part of a Goodies episode, immured the three Goodies within the walls of the establishment, and were now nonchalantly feigning ignorance. Somewhere between the “extreme clubs” (a fascist metaphor if I ever saw one), and the Pita Goody’s, which is something I suspect, would be the result of a Goodies steamroller rampaging through any given franchise, lies the truth.
Having frequented all of the Ioannina eateries purveying delectable ῾φαγητά της ώρας,᾽ such as giouvetsi and giouvarlakia, which are as close to home cooking as one could possibly purchase publicly, replete with thick sauces that could be mopped up with the unlimited slices of bread provided, I was not particularly impressed with the diminutive ᾽κλαμπ σάντουιτς᾽ that was placed in front of me.
Furthermore, there was something reassuring about the old lady doling out the giouvetsi a my favourite haunt asking me: ᾽Τι να σ᾽βάνω μωρ᾽ μάνα᾽μ; and tapping my shoulder exclaiming: ῾Φάε παshά᾽μ φάε,᾽ as I reached for my third basket of bread. At Goody's by contrast, back in those times, all we received was a barely audible grunt from the cashier, whereas in my last Goody’s foray, I received a dazzling white smile, so forced in its intensity that I marveled that the heavily foundation layered cheeks that had delivered it, had not cracked, nor that the ᾽Kαλή σας όρεξη,᾽ enunciated with the enthusiasm of a Subway television commercial extra, did not turn into ash in both our mouths.
Nonetheless I raised a dispassionate hand to grasp my glorified sandwich while my host looked upon me with horror. Through gritted teeth, he spat, sotto voce: “You do NOT eat club sandwiches with your hands. Where do you think you are? This is Goody’s. Use your knife and fork.” The next time I visited Ioannina, we steered well clear of Goody’s, to which, my friend determined, I was decidedly unsuited. In its stead, he pointed me in the general direction of a patstzidiko and, ever since, replete with memories of tripe and garlic, I remain eternally in his debt.
Having reconciled myself to the fact that Modern Helladic Greeks tend to lack appreciation of the subtle art of nonsense that would render the Goodies intelligible to them, my next memorable Goody's foray took place in Athens, where, seated among a group of people who proclaimed themselves intellectuals, I was treated to a fascinating discussion about Goody’s, being a Greek-owned company, representing the forces of local resistance against the evils of globalization and multinationals. One particularly eloquent member of the symposium, carefully removing the frilly toothpick from his ᾽κλαμπ σάντουιτς᾽ in order to carefully, methodically and in full view of all his friends, attend to the void between his teeth, went so far as to opine that in this day and age, when it is not in the interests of the plutocrats to assert themselves through wars, economic resistance was the only way in which to oppose the Western juggernaut. This was of course, prior to the second invasion of Iraq.
Had I known then, what I know now, that is, that the Goody’s franchise has not only managed to dominate the Greek market at the expense of other multinational behemoths, that it has not only been the subject of New York-style hostile corporate takeovers, but it has also carefully, and cautiously extended its sway into such countries as Cyprus, Albania, FYROM, Mayotte, Australia and soon, the break-away state of Kosovo and Saudi Arabia, thus indulging in a little of that globalisation my interlocutors so denounced, I would have pointed this out to all present in tones as strident as the potato chips and the eye-wateringly delicious burger stuffing my mouth would have permitted me so to do. As it stands, globalisation is, for the modern Greek ideologue, a terrible thing, unless we are doing it, in which case, we are merely fulfilling our destiny. Look at Alexander for instance.
Scintillating discussion aside, that particular Goody’s experience was notable as well for the foray into the store, of some particularly ebullient Greek –Australians who proceeded to make such comments in inordinately voluble English as: “Shoulda gone ta Macca’s,” (prompting one of our party, who was an English teacher to ask me if I knew which language they were speaking,) trying to recite the ingredients of the Big Mac, “Two all beef, patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese….” before lapsing into a rousing chorus of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, oi, oi.” I cringed, culturally of course before exiting the premises with them, onto Omonoia, where I harassed, for their amusement, a hapless policeman with the question: “Excuse me sir, can you tell me where Omonoia Square is?” When he replied “here,” I responded with indignation, pointing to the decrepit roundabout before us: “Come on man, this is a circle, how can it be a square?” Much majesty arises therefore, in the trivial outcomes of the marriage of Goody’s and Greek-Australians.
Now that Goody’s is made manifest among us in the heart of our own Greek-Australian community, let none deride it as a mere western imitation. Let no one ask how its Angus burger range, which include the ‘Texas BBQ’ and ‘Red Hot Chili Burger’ (affectionately known among Greek-Australians from Northern Greece as the ‘boukovo,’) are in any way connected with Greece. Goody’s cuisine notwithstanding, is the personification of Greece in ways subtle and unsuspecting. It even reflects the demography of that country and its phenomenon of mass migration to the cities, with seventy-two of its one hundred and seventy two Greek stores being located in Athens. Its very name precludes negativity and directly refers to the Ancient Greek quest for beauty: το καλόν. It, like Ancient Greece itself, is an ideal, and thus occupies a exalted space far beyond the decay of this chthonic world.
More importantly, rather than aping the western culinary and marketing traditions of corporate entities that in reality constitute a vanguard for global domination by rapacious, capitalist world powers, Goody's represents something profound and exciting. It is, by its very existence, Modern Greece's riposte to the west for appropriating Ancient Greek culture, with all its constituent ingredients (theatre, democracy, philosophy, history……(to be recited with the same tune as “two all beef patties”) and culturally trademarking them, so that they in turn, market them back to us, and dictate to us the terms in which we will receive (and pay for) them.
Now, at long last, we in turn, millenia later, have, through Goody’s genius, been able to appropriate aspects of Western cuisine, assimilate them within the Greek zeitgeist and make them so much our own, that to consider a Modern Greek state without the institution of Goody’s would be unfathomable. I can almost hear my Greek ideologue friends of yore crow triumphantly: “Take that, evil westerners, ye of the memoranda, the troika, the usurpers of Bretton-Woods, unspeakable fiscal water-boarders of the IMF quagmire from which you were filthily spawned, your burgers are ours!”
Put simply, it is the patriotic duty of every single Greek-Australian to get their Greek on and tweak the nose of our oppressors by purchasing not one, but two κλαμπ σάντουιτς from Goody’s. And I eagerly look forward to the day when, to paraphrase Charles Kuralt, we can navigate our way through this most Greek of cities, using Goody’s burger establishments, as a navigator uses the stars.
First published in Neos Kosmos on 3 September 2016