AN ACT OF GRATITUDE: BAKE A CAKE.

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.

st-fanourios-trays

 After Mass, they are offered to the faithful.

offering-st-fanourios-pie

pieces-of-stfanourios-pie

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.)

FANOUROPITA

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)

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PISPILITA, A NETTLE-PIE

Forty years ago, a typical woman from Greek rural area spent all day cleaning the house, preparing meals, baking, sewing, milking, making butter and cheese, raising poultry, rabbits, sheeps, goats, pigs, gathering olives, harvesting greens and fruits, cultivating small vegetable gardens, preserving food for year- round consumption…. being wife, mother, guardian of her children’s health and moral purity. In the beginning of 20th century the situation was even worse. Food preparation was labor intensive and time consuming as based on cooking over an open fire or on wood stove or in wood fire oven. Since few houses had indoor plumbing, water for cooking and cleaning was carried in from outside.
In this world where hard work and tireless dedication were almost routine, the making of a pie seemed like a good idea. A pie is a simple way of enclosing a filling in a dough or pastry or flour crust and cooking it in various ways even if the making of some pies involves a great deal of work. On the other hand, a large pie feeds a family for a couple of days, as a meal or as a snack and a good pie becomes a source of pleasure.
Pispilita’s name derives from the Greek word paspalizo = sprinkle and is a wild green pie with cornmeal layer instead of phyllo sheets.
Pies with cornmeal layers have long tradition in Western, Central and Norhtern Greek corn producing areas. They are rough, ‘poor’ pies with a combination of seasonal wild greens gathered from the fields and home made dairy products. Moreover, they are unbelievable tasty and can be prepared very quickly. Pispilita is made in Epirus, however is found throughout corn producing areas under various names.
A basic ingredient for a pispilita ‘made in Epirus’ is the nettle. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), the most common nettle species, has a flavour similar to spinach when cooked. A thick soup made from the young nettles is considered a delicacy in Rhodes island and in Pontos while nettles pies are common in Central Greece, Western Macedonia and Epirus.

pispilita_larger

½ k. nettles

250 gr. wild sorrels

250 gr. white beet leaves

2 large onions, finely chopped

6 scallions, white and tender green parts, finely chopped

1 medium leek, white and tender green part, finely chopped

½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped

200 gr. feta cheese, crumbled

3 tbs sour trahanas or bulgur or rice

olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper

3 ½ cups yellow cornmeal

2 cups olive oil

2 cups water

olive oil to brush the baking pan

Wearing gloves wash the greens thorougly, drain and chop. Transfer to a colander, add salt, rub the mixture and let it aside for 1 hour. Press with your fingers to extract most of the liquid and transfer to a bowl. Add leeks, onions, cheese, mint, pepper, trahanas (or bulgur or rice) and ½ cup olive oil. Mix all together. In a bowl mix 2 ½ cups flour with some salt, 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup water. Make a pulp. Brush a baking dish with olive oil, pour in the cornmeal pulp and spread the greens mixture evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cornmeal over the surface, drizzle the remaining ½ cup olive oil and 1 cup water. Bake for one hour or until the pie is dense and golden. Let the pispilita cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve. It can be served warm or at room temperature the next day.

Stinging Nettle on Foodista

Refreshments 1. LEMONADE

Apart from the fruit or spice – flavored syrups that are diluted with water and served chilled (lemonade, cannelada etc.) there are some more refreshments that give welcome relief from the hot weather. They are made in a moment and are sometimes fruit based; vegetables, seeds, almonds or yogurt can be used as well. These non-alcoholic drinks are usually homemade except those made with melon or watermelon, which are also found at cafeterias. The fruit based ones are not juices, since they have water added. Despite this, when they are served in cafeterias the word juice is also applied to them. If they are made at home, they are called as follows: peponada from peponi = melon, karpouzada from karpouzi = water melon, etc. Some of them are lightly sweetened with sugar but fruit refreshments may not require any at all. The yogurt drinks are lightly salted. They are ideal cooling drinks for hot summer days but only the salted ones accompany meals.

marchand-de-limonade-greek-postcard. 1900

Lemonada

Squeeze one large lemon into a glass, add 1 ½ tsp. of sugar, or more if you like it sweet, stir well, fill the glass with water and stir again. Don’t add ice cubes, just use very cold water. For a foamy result add 1/3 tsp, or less, of baking soda.

During 60ties this sort of lemonada was not only fashionable but it was also thought of as effective assistance for digestion problems.

Serve the lemonada accompanied by a warm or cold piece of a watermelon pie.

Karpouzenia, καρπουζένια, karpouzopita, καρπουζόπιτα, watermelon pie.

This pie is found in Kimolos, Milos and Folegandros. It is usually made with the local very tasty small watermelons that are grown up waterless.

Flour

a little sugar, depending on your taste

1 tbs. cinnamon powder

the flesh of 2 ½-3 kg seedless, not very sweet watermelon, cut into 3 cm. pieces

6 tbs honey

sesame seeds

Mash the flesh with a fork. Place a strainer over a bowl and strain watermelon pulp for 1 hour; reserve juice, it will be a wonderful drink. Mix all of the ingredients well, except 3 tbs honey, until the pulp is medium smooth.

Pour mixture into a greased pan and sprinkle the sesame seeds.

Bake at medium preheated oven for 45 minutes. When karpouzenia comes out the oven, spoon the honey over the top.

Tags: non – alcoholic drinks, watermelon, lemon, fruit pies