Half of  Greek population fear that they can wake up homeless next day due to factors beyond their  control.

It’s December 13 and finally the winter is here. No more hot weather and mosquitoes, no more sockless shoes and summer dresses.  However, living in a time that the Greek economy is  sluggish the winter  is our difficult time because we have to spend on heating oil and there are many who cannot not afford it. Today 1 third of the Greeks live with less than 500 euros. Even worse, there are many people among us deprived of a shelter that can protect them.

According to FEANTSA’s (European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless) research data,  the number of street homeless people and those in transitory shelters in the city of Athens is approximately 11.000 (3.000 Greeks and 8.000 foreigners). Of course, one of the effects of the economic crisis is the change of  the profile of the homeless. In the past, they  were mostly people with  alcohol, drug or  psychiatric problems. Today they are immigrants, elderly people and people who have lost their jobs or their housing.

In these harsh economic times, let’s do not forget them.   Instead of having done nothing but feeling  pity for them,  let’s take action!

Seek out organizations that help homeless families.

Volunteer at your local soup kitchen.

Donate your used clothing for redistribution.

Donate children toys for redistribution. The new face of homeless in Greece embodies  poor immigrants, families hit by the economic crisis and single mothers without money for a deposit.  Their children need toys.

Buying a cheese pie, a nutrition bar or a snack for a homeless or making an extra serving of meal and bring it to a street person in your neighbourhood are things that most of us can afford.

Homeless do not need our pity but do need our love and support.



Xinohondros is the Cretan equivalent of trahanas,  made with cracked  wheat (hondros) and sour (xino) sheep’s or goat’s milk.

1 (1,5-2 k.) whole chicken

4 carrots, washed and grated

1 cup of rice

3/4 cup of xinohondros or trahanas

salt and black pepper

lemon juice

a cup of strained yoghurt

Place the chicken in a large pot, cover with water  and bring to a boil. After 10 minutes remove the scum, add the carrots, reduce the  heat, add salt to taste and simmer until the chicken is very tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place it in a serving dish and sprinkle it with lemon juice and pepper.

Strain the stock and place it in a clean pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice, add salt and pepper to taste and cook.  When the rice is almost done add the xinohondros. When the xinohondros is tender  beat the yoghurt until creamy and add it to the soup. Stir over a very low heat for 1 minute and serve.

Non profit organizations dedicated to provide  the poor and homeless of Athens with nutritious meals.

City of Athens Homeless Shelter

Klimaka. For details ring +30 210 341 7160.

Hellenic Red Cross

Caritas Athens Refugee Soup Kitchen

First Baptist Church






” Their heart is like an artichoke” Greeks say, describing those who are in love with love and keep a leaf for everyone in sight, like an “I love you…. and you…. and you”.   Here,  the phrase retains the meaning of the original French expression  “avoir un coeur d´artichaut”: to  easily fall in love.

But they also say “Their heart is like an artichoke”  referring to those  who are prickly on the outside, though tender inside, like animated artichokes. It takes much patience and time to peel off their panoply of thorny leaves until you finally have their heart. 


Just like human  hearts, the delicate hearts of the tough purple flower buds require care. 
Hence, add the juice of one lemon to a bowl of cool water. After cutting off artichokes’ stems to the bottom,  remove the hard outer leaves… keep going- removing leaves until you reveal very soft, yellow ones.  Cut off their tops and use a spoon to remove and discard the choke.  Halve the artichokes, rub the cut surfaces with one lemon cut in half, and place them in the lemon water until you’re ready to cook.  Artichokes brown very quickly and you don’t want to see your hearts changing color.
Of course, don’t throw away the stems. Peel them and cook along with the artichokes.
Of course, don’t throw away the leaves. Eat them one at at time, sprinkled with lemon juice. 

There is a plethora of ways to prepare artichokes. You can cook them, fry them, bake them, roast them, grill them, stuff them, use them in pies etc. or eat them raw~ sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice. In Crete, the egg-size baby artichokes of the early spring  are  served raw, sprinkled with minced spring garlic,  lemon juice, virgin olive oil and chopped dill.  

But. At the farmers market we still have fresh and tender broad beans. And broad beans shine in a dish of artichokes. 



7 medium artichokes

3/4 k. broad beans

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 spring garlics, finely chopped

3 tbs dill, finely chopped

lemon juice

olive oil

sea salt

ground pepper

Remove the broad beans from the tough pods and with the knife string the tender pods.

In a saute pan, heat 2 tbs olive oil and saute the onions. Add the broad beans, and the artichokes (drained), followed by olive oil, fresh onions, fresh garlic, water to cover, dill. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and cook until the vegetables are fork tender. Add lemon juice and remove from the heat. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Globe Artichokes With Fresh Broad Beans on Foodista




Angel hair soup: with angel hair pasta, chopped potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions,  lentils,  bay leaf,  without olive oil. It is eaten during Good Friday.

Bacaliaros, salt cod: once an inexpensive food but now it is a luxury. It is prepared in many ways and is the emblematic food of the Feast of Annunciation and Palm Sunday.
Cheese, soft and fresh: it is often baked in savory or sweet pastries, around Easter.

Derbiye:  although the word in Arabic (tarbiya) and Turkish (terbiye) is applied to egg-lemon sauce, in Greek derbiye refers to a flour and lemon sauce that is used as a thickener, especially in chickpeas, black eyed beans, salted cod and artichoke dishes. In Casos, the term derbiye is used for the dish that is eaten on the Easter Sunday morning after the midnight church service. It is made with the offals, head and legs of the Easter Sunday lamb, rice and onions.

Egg, red: it symbolizes birth and rebirth, long life and immortality and hence Christ’s Ressurection. The red colour of Easter eggs links Jewish and Christian tradition. It reminds the lamb’s blood with which Jews marked their houses and signifies the blood of Christ. The cracking of the eggs was known in Byzantium by 13th century. It symbolizes the breaking of the tomb, but it is also a wish for a new, better life issuing from Christ’s Ressurection. The owner of the last uncracked egg is considered very lucky though.

Flowers: in islands, the Easter cookies are covered with orange and lemon flowers before being stored in tightly closed containers. Home bakers also enjoy the flavoring of orange or lemon flower water in their Easter baking.

Garlic: chopped fresh garlic, olives, soaked broad beans and rusks soaked in water is an easy dish to make and a favorite meze or appetizer with raki and ouzo.

Hyakinth: the bulbs of the genus Muscari comosum are pickled and then served with virgin olive oil and fresh chopped onions. A Lenten delicacy.

Intestines: well washed lamb intestines are used for kokoretsi and mayiritsa.

J: a common shape for Easter cookies in Crete.

Kokoretsi: it is traditionally consumed in mainland Greece, where is the main appetizer on Easter Sunday table. Though it is  related with Easter period, it can be found all year round. Small pieces of lamb’s liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, spleen, suet are pierced on a skewer and covered by well washed small intestine wound around. Kokoretsi is roasted over charcoals and served chopped and sprinkled with salt, pepper and oregano.

Lamb: it is the traditional Easter meat served throughout Greece. Spit-roast lamb (mainland Greece), lamb (or goat) stuffed with rice and herbs and then baked (Aegean islands), baby lamb fed on its mother milk cooked with artichokes in egg-lemon sauce or baked with potatoes (Crete), lamb-pie (W. Crete) etc. are delicacies enjoyed during Easter Sunday lunch.

Mayiritsa: It is egg-lemon soup made with Easter lamb offal and optional chopped lettuce and /or rice. Mayiritsa is eaten in mainland Greece, early on the Easter Sunday morning.

Olive oil: on most days of Holy Week no olive oil is permitted in the cooking.

Pulses: they are much eaten during Lent in a array of delicious dishes, soaked in water or boiled or cooked with or without olive oil.

q: another shape for Eastern cookies.

Roe of cod: it is the basic ingredient of taramosalata, a favorite meze traditionally eaten during Lent, though it is found all year round.

Sesame seeds: they are sprinkled on the Easter cheese and meat pies and on the surface of layers of fyllo dough for sesamopita, a delightful syrup pie.

Tsoureki, sing. tsourekia, pl. (also known as lambropsomo = bright bread): though the word derives from Turkish çörek, this brioche- like bread is the traditional bread of Easter. It is baked on Good Friday and a red egg is placed in its center symbolizing the resurrection of Christ and the eternal life.

Voutyro: butter, in Greek. One of the basic ingredients used in the making of Greek Easter cookies and tsourekia.

Wheat flour: it is used for making Easter cookies, tsoureki – traditional  Easter sweet bread- and savory and sweet cheese pies.

Yeast: sourdough starter, brewer’s yeast and chemical yeast (baking powder)- or a combination of these- are used to make Easter cookies and tsourekia light and fluffy.



A Christmas meal



A  dinner after Christmas



A New Year’s Eve dinner


Holiday season is finally over…

No more tables filled with mountain of delicacies.

Though  they hid us for a few days from world’s despair and Greece’s economic depression.

Holiday season is over…  And we cannot longer pretend that poverty, desperation and hopelessness don’t surround us.

PAPARA (Παπάρα)

Hard, old bread combined with milk or other liquid (sauce, olive oil, butter, stock, wine etc.) is found for centuries all over Mediterranean as a way of transforming leftovers into a dish in its own right. The ancient Greeks gave the name maza to those bread- based foods; later they were called by various names such as papara, panada etc. Being food for rural and poor urban families, for hungry kids and shepherds, they made their first appearance in cookbooks at  the late 20th century,  due to the growing interest in regional and traditional cuisines within Greek national food culture.



Papara is particularly popular among Sarakatsáns, nomads who are found all over central and northern Greece and also beyond the Greek frontiers that sprang up after the Balkan Wars but failed to confine them. Until 1960, they had not villages from which to migrate in search of pasture, though all of them considered some range of mountains as their home.

1 ½ cup bread cubes

 1 ½ cup milk

 3 tbs sheep butter

 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  hot, red pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add bread and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually add milk, cook, whisking, until mixture comes to the boil and add crumbled feta. Cook, stirring until thickened. Sprinkle with red pepper and serve while papara is still slightly warm.



One must sacrifice to the gods for three purposes: to give honor, to show gratitude, or because of one’s need of good things. (Theophrastus, On Piety, frag. 12, Potscher, 42-4). And in return, the ancient gods were pleased with the expressions of human gratitude (sacrifices, libations, offerings, dances etc.) to them.

This complex of ideas ‘ man asks, gods give, man gets and shows gratitude, gods are pleased’  is expressed in ancient  greek with the term charis (χάρις). Charis means favor, a favor which is expected to be repaid. The idea of charis plays a particularly important role in Orhodox Christianity as well.  That’s why the ‘oral’ statement becomes more prominent when there is an exchange between God or  Saint and the offerer.

The photos are from St. Fanourios’ celebration (Kalamaki, Hania/Crete). As his name implies,  Saint Fanourios reveals lost things, people, animals, even solutions to problems if one invokes his name (Fanourios < ancient greek verb Faino = reveal).  The promised offering in return for Saint’s help is a sweet pie, a fanouropita. Sweet breads and cakes are  important part of many Christian traditions and their origins are traced back in time.  In ancient Greece they were a very common form of offering ; many different kinds of them are mentioned in ancient  literature.

According to St. Fanourios’ custom, the pies are brought to the church (especially those dedicated to the Saint) where they are blessed by the priest.


 After Mass, they are offered to the faithful.



Today, as in ancient times, these sweet offerings are not only objects which are given as gifts to the Saint but also unify the community, bringing it together for a solemn and also festive occasion.

(Not much is known about Saint’s  life, except that his icon was discovered in Rhodes, around 1500 AD. The torture scenes on the icon shows Fanourios being stoned, in prison, being slashed, standing in front a Roman magistrate, tied to a frame,  thrown to wild animals, crushed by a boulder, holding hot coals etc.  According to one tradition that is not formally hold by the Church, the pies are also offered to grant rest to the soul of  the saint’s immoral mother. St. Fanourios is commemorated on August 27th, the day his icon was found.)


1 cup olive oil

1 cup sugar

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup cognac

1 tbs lemon zest

1/2 cup  black raisins

1/2 cup  blonde raisins

1 1/2 cup  walnuts roughly chopped.

1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground clove

4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 3 tsp baking powder

Beat the olive oil with the sugar until creamy. Add the baking powder dissolved in the cognac and the baking soda dissolved in the orange juice. Add the raisins and the walnuts, the cinnamon, the clove and the zest, beating all the time.

Add the flour slowly, beating until you have a thick batter.

Pour the batter into an oiled baking pan and bake in a moderate oven for  +- 50 minutes. (recipe: Smaragda Desipri, 1920 -2005)

The Bread Oblations of St. Antonios


In Sfakia, a mountainous area of Southwestern Crete that falls into the sea, and specifically in Loutro village, there is the custom of offering man-shaped breads to St. Antonios on the 17th of January, date of his name’s celebration.

The custom of anthropomorphic breads or foods is found in several cultures. Small anthropomorphic breads, known as “muertitos,” and skulls made of spun sugar, are basic elements in the Day of the Dead in Mexico. The Christ resurrected in paste of almonds is a product of Liguria of Italy, in order to celebrate His triumph on the Death. In Transylvania, breads in shape of baby are known as the small fathers of the house. Despite the prohibition of the Council of Liptin at 743 AD, on the making idols of flour, the small fathers did not stop exist.

In Greece, anthropomorphic sweet breads as Lazarakia and Easter breads are connected with the Ressurection of Christ. However they also symbolize the ressuraction of nature, the abudance and fertility.
The anthropomorphic breads and cakes have their roots in a very distant past, when fertility symbolism was a basic element in several rites and feasts. Arrephoria was an Athenian hidden rite revolving around two virgin priestresses of goddess Athena, called Arrephoroi, which perhaps means ‘Carriers of Unspoken things’. These unspoken things were snakes and phallos made of dough, both symbols of fertility. Haloa was athenian women’s orgiastic festival, in honor of Dionysos and Demeter. The word Haloa comes from the ancient Greek word halos which implies the threshing floor. The feast included phallos and pudenda-shaped breads.
The anthropomorphic bread is strong development of the human sacrifice. Homer describes a such ritual killing saying that Achilleus demanded the sacrifice of 12 noble young Trojans on Patroclus funeral pyre. However, in Greece the human sacrifices were rather scanty. Soon they were replaced by artifacts, personal objects or man-shaped breads.
The difference between breads of St. Antonios and the anthropomorphic Easter breads is that the first ones are oblations, not festive breads. St. Antonios is seen as one of the founders of Christian monasticism but the Sfakians consider him as a healer. If they or their families or even their animals become ill, the Sfakian women make and offer breads in the shape of the sick person or animal, or in the shape of the sick part of the body (legs, arms, etc.) The bread is given after the cure, in exchange of the received health. On the 17th of January, these breads are placed in front of the sanctuary in the cavernous temple of St. Antonios, and after the liturgy are cut into small pieces and offered to the congregation. This custom has been waning in recent years, and the bread-oblations are quite simple, even abstract. However, in past the appearance of these breads was quite elaborated and was a subject of an informal competition between the makers.

Parke H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Cornell University Press, 1994.
Burkert W., Greek Religion, Harvard University Press, 1985.
Adkins L. & Roy A. Adkins R., Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, Oxford University Press, 1997.
 Psilakis N., The Anthropomorphic oblations of Loutro, Crete Geographic, no 1, p. 59-73.
 Wittkop- Menardeu G., Edodimoi anaparastaseis morfon, Image 11, 1972, p. 17-24.