For Greek celebrity chef Vassilis Kallidis, peppers stuffed with rice and herbs is the ultimate comfort food. Part of the yemista (γεμιστά)—a staple Greek dish that also includes stuffed tomatoes and, sometimes, zucchini—it’s the taste Kallidis grew up with. But it’s not the memories of his childhood that make yemista special for him now, more than two decades after he left his home in Thessaloniki. Instead it’s the taperakia (ταπεράκια)—plastic containers full of those peppers—lovingly prepared and sent to him in Athens by his mother 500 kilometers away.

Economou became interested in taperakia as a student in the United Kingdom, when she watched her friend receive regular shipments of spinach pies and meatballs from his mother in Greece. Later she learned that this wasn’t an isolated occurrence. More and more women she met were sending prepared dishes to their children, some going as far as creating weekly menus and splitting their tuppers into single-sized servings.

Some of this practice, Economou argues, comes from the mothers’ fears that their children can’t cope on their own. Kallidis agrees. “For my mom, I’m not a celebrity chef,” he says. “I’m away from the nest, I’m supposed to suffer.” Taperakia is one way a mother expresses concern for a child’s well-being. For Dimitris Dimitriadis, who’s been receiving taperakia from his mom for years, this “ritual-like preparation of food” [is a] gesture of love and care.”

Children’s opinions on taperakia vary. For some it’s a welcome taste from home—”It was exciting [to receive] it and [my roommates] thought it was cool” says Katerina Bournou, who studied in Manchester, England—but for others their mom’s homemade food is something they haven’t yet had a chance to miss. still gets taperakia from his mom, now sees it as symbolic. “I don’t want to waste even a single grain of rice from [her] tuppers,” he says. “Because it comes from my mom it’s more precious than gold to me.” For him—as for his mother—her lovingly prepared stuffed peppers and grape leaves are a way to communicate, to be together while apart, and to maintain their bond across time and distance.

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