Montreal

Montreal sisters share love of Greek cooking, preserve family recipes with successful food blog

Helen and Billie Bitzas's food blog, Mia Kouppa, was born to preserve family recipes and share them online. They recently got a celebrity shout out from Chrissy Teigen on Twitter.

Helen and Billie Bitzas recently got a celebrity shout out from Chrissy Teigen

Sisters Helen, right, and Billie Bitzas pictured with their mother Dimitra Bitzas. (Mia Kouppa/Facebook)

Growing up in Montreal, sisters Helen and Billie Bitzas always felt connected to their Greek roots.

In an interview with CBC's Let's Go, Billie recalled how her parents would host parties in their home often, "and despite the fact that it was a very small apartment, after dinner they would usually move some furniture around and there would be Greek dancing around the living room table."

Food was an important part of family life and helped them feel connected to their culture.

"We realized as we started families of our own, that wanting to share this with our own daughters was proving to be difficult in the kitchen," said Billie. "Although our parents were very willing to share with us how to make certain dishes, they don't use recipes."

"They would give us these very vague instructions that meant everything to them and nothing to us," she said. 

Helen and Billie Bitzas have no formal training in the kitchen but they still manage to whip up dishes like this shrimp saganaki. (Mia Kouppa/Facebook)

In the Bitzas family, nothing was ever written down, and measurements were imprecise depending on whatever cups and containers were within easy reach. 

The two sisters realized that in order to preserve family recipes and cooking traditions passed down orally and to recreate these dishes for their own families, they would need to take a more scientific approach.

"We decided that in order to preserve these very traditional recipes, we would actually cook with [our parents] and follow them around the kitchen with proper measuring instruments," said Billie.

Their food blog Mia Kouppa, which translates to "one cup" in Greek, was born as a way to share those family recipes with a wider audience online.

Celebrity endorsement

Since starting in 2016, the project has evolved, and the sisters have created space for recipes of their own invention as well as the culinary wisdom inherited from their parents. 

Over the years, Mia Kouppa has grown and has even caught the attention of Hollywood celebrities, including model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen.

Earlier this week, Teigen tweeted out a recipe from the sisters' site to her 13 million followers. She'd gotten the recommendation from none other than the Canadian star of the 2002 film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"For Chrissy Teigen and Nia Vardalos to give us a shout out, it's insane," said Helen. "I think we've worked very hard to put out content that is authentic and the very best it can be." 

Their site isn't just pictures of mouthwatering Greek dishes, though these are plentiful.

The sisters have also compiled a charming list of "Greek-isms" which amount to common expressions in the kitchen that don't offer much guidance beyond "cook it until it is done" or "add as much water as it needs." 

"I think anyone who has immigrant parents can relate to this idea that most of the cooking is done with intuition and experience and with just a common sense notion of what ingredients go well together," said Billie.

About the Author

Marilla Steuter-Martin has been a journalist with CBC Montreal since 2015.

With files from CBC's Let's Go

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