A reader flags it:
I received my August Bon Appetit magazine and as usual, eagerly sat down to read it as soon as it was delivered. I was dumbfounded when I came across this advertisement. To me, it seems like an overt case of ethnic stereotyping. I can understand the use of a traditional “yiayia” figure to advertise Greek food products, but to also have her include arranged marriage and exorcism on her to-do list seems outrageous. And oh yes, there are others ads in a similar vein – apparently in one, the yiayia calls her granddaughter a “prostitute.”
When I went to Athenos website and Facebook page, I am clearly not the only person who is offended by these ads. Athenos’ explanation (and boilerplate response to Facebook posts) is that they “didn’t intend to offend anyone” and were trying for a lighthearted approach, using a character “set in the old ways.” Apparently that means the traditional yiayia is a disapproving grump, putting her seal of approval only on the Athenos food items. As one of the Facebook commenters (with a Greek surname) said: “The only thing my yiayia would force anyone to do is eat a big plate of food.” I don’t know what is more offensive to me – the ad campaign, or Athenos’ dismissive “we didn’t mean to be offensive” responses.
Update from a reader:
I’m half-Greek (on my mother’s side) and HAD a Yiayia. Although my Yiayia was born in Greece, she emigrated when she was still a teenager and was Americanized enough in her thinking that she didn’t try to arrange marriages for her daughters, although HER marriage was, in fact, arranged by her family. Also, I have been to Greece and visited the very small village where my maternal grandfather grew up, and I can certainly envision contemporary Greek Yiayias who spent most of their lives living in that environment coming across pretty much like the Yiayia in the ad.
However, even if that were not true, I think the point of the ad is that “Feta and Watermelon Salad” would be something that a traditional Yiayia would approve of. Frankly, I think the ad is amusing, and as someone who loved his own Yiayia I can’t for the life of me understand what is so offensive about it.
One more thing, I am not at all sure that MY Yiayia would approve of Watermelon and Feta salad. It’s certainly not something that she ever served as far as I can remember. In fact, my sense is that she might actually be MORE LIKELY to disapprove of the Feta and Watermelon Salad than she would be to disapprove of arranged marriages.