Father Joseph Francavilla, a McLean resident, has been the pastor at Holy Transfiguration Greek Catholic Church in McLean for 45 years, and for 27 of those has been leading the Middle Eastern Food Festival at his church. The Middle Eastern Food Festival that took place Saturday and Sunday attracted community members, churchgoers, and politicians like U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10) and gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie to enjoy the wonders of traditional Middle Eastern cooking in McLean.
The Middle Eastern food served symbolizes the bringing together of Holy Transfiguration and the local community, but it also represents the roots of Christians who brought their religion west where it was historically practiced in ancient places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine.
“Sometimes people mistake our outreach for the notion of all middle easterners being Muslims. But this is not true, Christians are in the Middle East too and we want to be conscious of our biblical past,” said Francavilla.
The festival was focused around the food, and there was a lot of it handmade treats by the women church members. Traditional Kibbee is the most popular, and is sometimes served raw, although it was cooked at the festival. Pita bread, rice, and eggplant Baba ganoush, were also available. So were the grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice.
Washington D.C. has a large Middle Eastern population and that has expanded in recent years to outlying communities like McLean.
“Our festival has become the thing to do on labor day weekend, as in the past it has been an orphaned weekend with not a lot going on for people,” said Francavilla.
“This festival really shows how international our community is in McLean,” said Comstock. “The food is great; these are some of the best meals you can get in the area!”
Homemade pastries hand-made from pancakes, called Atayef and stuffed with clotted cream, dates, and pistachios were available for lunch and for sale. Baklawa was present in its traditional form.
“The women of the church are proud of their hospitality, and in Middle Eastern cultures it is important for the host to be hospitable even if he doesn’t agree with the visitor in politics,” said Francavilla.
Kimberly Metzger, a Vienna resident, who belongs to the church, was new this year as a volunteer. “It’s been wonderful. I met a lot of people, for the first time in 18 years I felt like I belong!” she said.