Each year before Great Lent begins, in villages and towns all over Greece, people share in a national feast day that is decidedly un-vegetarian. There is music and revelry, and most of all, there is meat in every shape and form cooking on outdoor grills for all to smell.
The name of this holiday is Tsiknopempti (tseek-no-PEMP-tee) a word that comes from the combination of the word tsikna which means the aroma of charred or grilled meat, and pempti (PEMP-tee), the Greek word for Thursday.
During the seven-week period that precedes Pascha (PAS-ha) or Easter, Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, dairy, eggs, and basically any food products that derive from an animal with blood. Observing the fast allows one the opportunity to purify the mind and body, and fosters a more spiritual focus during this holy period.
The forefathers of the Orthodox Church were very pragmatic in their preparation for Great Lent. They allowed the faithful an opportunity to gradually purge their kitchens and pantries of the foods that would be restricted during the Lenten period to follow.
Two weeks before Lent begins, the faithful give up meat products, hence the great meat-fest. One week before Lent begins, they give up dairy. By Clean Monday or Kathari Theftera (ka-tha-REE thef-TEH-rah), which marks the beginning of Great Lent, they are all ready to go.
These Greek-Style Grilled Pork Chops would be a perfect addition to any Tsiknopempti celebration.