Why I Don’t Eat Stifado and other Childhood Memories


I spent most of my childhood summers in Crete, with my mom’s family. The early years I was blessed to have experienced my grandparents– Theano and Giorgos Tzanakakis, who lived in a humble one-room house on a hill above Hania in Agios Ioannis.

One childhood memory I have was spending endless days with their animals– a dog named Bella, a turtle, and rabbits. Lots of rabbits.

I had befriended one particular rabbit– a black one that I always was drawn to since it appeared to be the one the others shunned. I felt sorry for it… And remember thinking that the white and brown rabbits didn’t want to cuddle with blackie because of his dark color.

One mesimeri (midday) I went upstairs to the rooftop rabbit cages to check on blackie. He was gone. I was distressed and ran downstairs to find my aunts, mother and brother in the kitchen– (where else?)– preparing the day’s meal.

I was almost in tears, thinking that blackie had escaped from his cage and might have been eaten by one of the neighborhood’s ferocious stray cats.

My mom asked what was wrong… I told her. Neither her, nor any of my aunts offered any good news or suggestions on where I could find blackie.

My brother– four years older and always picking on me– was smirking in the corner, pointing to the pot that was simmering on the stove top.

They were making stifado– a Greek delicacy made with whole onions, lots of spices in a tomato based sauce with… you guessed it, rabbit.

I never ate stifado again. I also never got attached to another animal fearing that my barbarian family would butcher it and serve it for dinner. I was scarred for life.

This past weekend while visiting Crete and reminiscing about years past, my aunt showed me old pics of my childhood in Crete… Including one with me and blackie.


1 Comment

  1. Diana Spinthourakis-Manoussakis on

    I too have great memories from Crete as a child. My father was also from Agios Ioannis. Maybe we’re related!!!

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