Kourabiedes and the birth of Perseus

kourabiedes
Greek christmas sweet

 

Birth of Perseus

In the time of the heroes, Perseus was born to Danae and Zeus, in the city of Argos. Danae was a beautiful princess, but her father Acrisius kept her in a room in his palace and did not allow her to marry. He did this, because an old oracle from Apollo’s temple had warned him that his grandson would kill him. When Danae gave birth to Perseus, her father was very alarmed, for he remembered the warning. He put his daughter and the newly born born baby in a large wooden chest, and tossed them into the sea, expecting that they would soon drown. The chest did not sink, but ravelled all night until it reached the island of Serifos, and was gently washed out on a lonely beach.

Diktys, a local fisherman, saw the chest on the beach, and was surprised to find Danae and Perseus in it. He was a kind old man,  and asked them to stay with him. Diktys was the brother of Polydectes, the King of Serifos.

The old man raised Perseus as if he were his own son, and the boy grew up into a tall, strong lad. He was taller by a full head than the other boys of his age, and he excelled in the sports of rowing, javelin and discus. He also liked to sing, paint, and play the lyre. In short, he was an unusual young man, a true god’s son.(from here)

Kourabiedes

51

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: Many (approximately 100 kourabiedes

Ingredients

  • 500gr (17.5oz) European type butter
  • 250gr (9oz) unpeeled almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Greek Metaxas spirit or cognac
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 kgr (35oz) all purpose flour
  • 1 kgr (35.274oz) icing sugar for dusting
  • Abour ¼ cup rosewater for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Chop the almonds coarsely or pulse in a blender in small batches and with just 1 or 2 pulses.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter with the sugar for about a quarter of an hour (that’s the whole trick for delicate kourabiedes).
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time. Lower the speed and add almonds, Metaxa and little by little half of the flour. Stop the mixer and add the rest of the flour by hand. The dough must be delicate and not sticking to the hands. It may not absorb all of the flour. It all depends upon the moisture of the rest of the ingredients and the humidity of the room. Mine absorbed almost 900gr (2 pounds) of the flour.
  4. Roll the dough into small balls (the size of a ping pong ball is fine but you can make them smaller-keep in mind that they don’t rise too much) and place 1cm (½ inch) apart on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake them in a preheated 180*C (356*F) for 15 to 20 minutes. They do not brown much. Just a bit at the edges.
  6. Take out of the oven and leave to cool for about half an hour.
  7. Now if you like rosewater, fill a sprinkler with it and sprinkle them here and there. Do not soak them, just a light sprinkle. If you hate rosewater, omit this step.
  8. Dust them with the icing sugar and keep them covered in a cookie jar. They keep for over a month, if stored properly.
http://www.greekcooking-funsharing.com/kourabiedes-and-the-birth-of-perseus/

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Chestnut and potato casserole

chestnut potato casserole

 

Alpheus and Arethusa

In Ortygia, an island which formed part of Syracuse, the greatest city of Sicily, there is a sacred spring called Arethusa. Once, however, Arethusa was not water or even a water nymph, but a fair young huntress and a follower of Artemis. Like her mistress she would have nothing to do with men; like her she loved hunting and the freedom of the forest. One day, tired and hot from the chase, she came upon a crystal-clear river deeply shaded with silvery willows. No more delightful place for a bath could be imagined. Arethusa undressed and slipped into the cool delicious water. For a while she swam idly to and fro in utter peace; then she seemed to feel something stir in the depths beneath her. Frightened, she sprang to the bank-and as she did so she heard a voice; “why such haste, fairest maiden?” Without looking back she fled away from the stream to the woods and ran with all the speed her fear gave her. She was hotly pursued and by one stronger if not swifter than she. The unknown called to her to stop. He told her he was the god of the river, Alpheus, and that he was following her only because he loved her. But she wanted none of him.; she had but one thought, to escape. It was a long race, but the issue was never in doubt; he could keep on running longer than she. Worn out at last, Arethusa called to her goddess, and not in vain. Artemis changed her into a spring of water, and cleft the earth so that a tunnel was made under the sea from Greece to Sicily. Arethusa plunged down and emerged in Ortygia, where the place in which her spring bubbles up is holy ground, sacred to Artemis. But it is said that even so she was not free of Alpheus. The story is that the god, changing back into a river, followed her through the tunnel and that now his water mingles with hers in the fountain. They say that Greek flowers are seen coming up from the bottom, and that if a wooden cup is thrown into the Alphaeus in Greece, it will reappear in Arethusa’s well in Sicily.

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Salmon lentil salad and myth reality

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Myth reality

Myths work the illusion of recording reality. Even modern scholars, falling under their spell, go in search of Priam’s Troy or Odysseus’ Ithaca. Until it can be demonstrated that myths are tied to a sequence of actual events and deeds of living persons, they will lack the essential element of a historical narrative: referentiality to real happenings. The word “history” denotes what happened in the past, the analysis of the evidence of what happened, and the creation of a narrative describing what happened; respectively, history denotes real events, a branch of knowledge, and a literary activity. That Athenians and Persians fought on the plain of Marathon in 490 B.C., no one seriously denies. A historian – Herodotus first in this case – gathers, sifts, and evaluates evidence for the battle to reconstruct, as far as his research allows, what happened. He then creates a narrative of the battle, which his imagination, literary talent, and prejudices influence. Every fighter that day fought his own Marathon. Those Marathons, although real for individuals involved, perished with them. The Marathon that exists is the Marathon of the historian’s sources and craft; it is historical by virtue of its embodiment in a narrative written by a historian. If the evidence did not permit analysis or no historian chose to analyze what was available, Marathon, no less real, would not be a historical event.(from here)

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Thessaloniki and the Amphipolis tomb

The amphipolis tomb

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Pita bread BLT and Semele

pita BLT
Pitas and cucumbers

Semele

One of Cadmus’s daughters, Semele, is a ravishing creature, like Europa. Zeus carries on relations with her, not briefly but fairly long term. Semele sees Zeus lie down beside her every night in human form, but she knows that it is in fact Zeus, and she wants the god to appear to her as himself, in all his brilliance, his majesty as the king of the blissful immortals. Endlessly she implores him to show himself to her. Now, of course, though the gods may occasionally come to humans’ celebrations, it can be dangerous for men to ask such a being to appear to their unprotected eyes, as a mortal partner would. When Zeus yields to Semele’s entreaty and appears in his thunderous splendor, Semele is consumed by the radiance and the blaze, the divine brilliance of her lover. She burns to ash. She is already pregnant with Dionysus by him; without a moment’s hesitation Zeus lifts little Dionysus out of Semele’s body as it burns, slashes his own thigh, spreads the wound, converts his thigh into a female womb and sets the six-month fetus inside it. Thus Dionysus is doubly Zeus’s son – he is called “the twice born”; When the time comes Zeus reopens his thigh, and the infant Dionysus emerges the same way he was taken from Semele’s belly. The child is bizarre, abnormal from the standpoint of the gods, since he is simultaneously the son of a mortal woman and the son of Zeus in all his brilliance. He is bizarre because he was nurtured partly in a woman’s belly and partly in Zeus’s thigh. Dionysus will have to battle the unrelenting jealousy of Hera, who does not easily forgive Zeus his peccadilloes, and who always resents the fruits of his clandestine amours. One of Zeus’s major concerns is therefore to keep Dionysus out of Hera’s sight, entrusting him to nurses who’ll hide him. (from this book) Continue reading

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Tuna pasta salad and Hephaestus

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Hephaestus, the ugliest god

Hephaestus is the god of fire and patron of smiths and weavers. He had been born from Zeus and Hera but most probably from Hera, alone. That is why Zeus became so mad that flung Hephaestus off mount Olympus which left him lame. He landed to the island of Lemnos, where he was cared for and taught to be a master craftsman by the Sintians—an ancient tribe native to the island.  His workshop was in his palace where he made all the weapons used by the gods. He, also crafted the thrones of the gods in mount Olympus, Zeus’ thunders, the chains that confined Prometheus, Achilles’ armor, Hermes’ winged helmet and sandals and the invisible net in which he trapped his adulterous  wife, Aphrodite while in the arms of the extremely handsome god of war, Ares.Even though Hephaestus was ugly and crippled, he fathered more than seventeen children with mortals and immortals alike.

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Peach cobbler and Megara

peach cobbler
Megara, Hercules’ First Wife

After defeating the Minyans at Orchomenos, King Creon offered his eldest daughter, Megara, to Hercules as a bride in reward for his prowess in battle. Together, Hercules and Megara had anywhere between three and eight children. Although many different versions of Hercules’ doomed marriage to Megara survive, Euripides’ Heracles is the most popular account. There still remains much debate surrounding the sequencing of events.

According to Euripides, when Hercules returned home from his trip to the underworld to fetch Cerberus, he found Greece in chaos. During his absence, Lycus had come to Eubea to overthrow Creon and murdered him. At the precise moment of Hercules’ return, Lycus was about to murder Megara and their children. Hercules rushed to the defense of his family and slew Lycus with an arrow. Just as Hercules was about to sacrifice to Zeus, however, Hera interfered, causing Hercules to fall into a state of delusion and rage. Hercules shot their children with his arrows, believing them to be Eurystheus’ sons and not his own. (Although Apollodoros reports that Megara escaped and married Iolaus, Euripides reports that Hercules shot Megara too.) As Hercules was about to kill his own adopted father, Amphitryon, thinking him to be Eurystheus’ father Sthenelus, Athena intervened and pelted Hercules on the chest with a rock, knocking him out cold and sending him into a deep sleep. Once Hercules awoke and realized what he had done, he was horrified by his actions and wanted to commit suicide. Luckily his friend Theseus was there to calm him down, eventually convincing Hercules to go into exile.

Traditionally, Hercules’ momentary insanity is explained by Hera;s desire to make Hercules commit a crime that would require atonement. Some versions say that following the murders, Hercules traveled to Delphi, and was instructed by the oracle to go to Tiryns and to serve Eurystheus for twelve years and perform any tasks that he might ask of him. If Hercules would complete these tasks and serve his sentence to Eurystheus in full, Hercules would be made immortal. The tasks that followed were to be known later as the labors of Hercules. Continue reading

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Zakynthos

The beaches of Zakynthos are hosting the last and most important concentration of Loggerhead “Caretta caretta” nesting sites in the Mediterranean.

Every year, beginning from June through the end of August, the female Loggerheads come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sand and then afterwards cover the nest. After 55 days, the hatchlings start to dig their way out of the nest to find their way down to the sea. Survival rate is very low, only very few hatchlings (1 or 2 out of 1000) will have a chance to adulthood. Thus, it’s very important to protect the nests.

The History of Zakynthos Island

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Pasta with shrimp and Hera

Pasta and shrimp

Hera was sister and wife to Zeus , mother of Ares, the god of war and Hephaestus,  the god of fire; as well as of Eileithyia and Eve, protectors of child birth and youth, correspondingly.

As soon as she was born, she was swallowed from her father Cronus who was afraid that his off springs would rebel against him. The brothers and sisters of Hera had the same fate, except Zeus who was saved due to a trick he did against Cronus, thus ending once and for all his dominance.

As she was the wife of Zeus, Hera was the most important of all goddesses, queen of heaven and of marriage. In ancient Athens, couples got married only the month Gamelion (ancient Greek month that doesn’t exist anymore) that was dedicated to Hera. The apple and the pomegranate were the holy fruits of the goddess and her symbols.

Hera was arrogant, mischievous, wicked, choleric, dominant and very jealous. Her marriage was a continuous conjugal squabble since Zeus was far from a loyal husband. She had never forgiven him for his flirting with all the minor goddesses, nymphs and plain mortals. Even his progenies had to pay for the infidelity of their father.  Hercules was one such example whereas all his life he was trying to escape the wrath of Hera. Once Zeus was so furious from her deeds that hung her from her hands, with anvils tied on her legs, at the highest peak of mount Olympus as a punishment. Continue reading

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Apricot Jam and Rites of Passage

apricot jam

The notion of symbolic death puts these stories of human sacrifice into the context of another important set of rituals, called rites of passage. Life consists of a series of moments that may be conceived of as dangerous and difficult transitions; many cultures construct practices designed to ease the passage between the stages. These transitional rites may share features with one another: for instance, in ancient Greece sacrifice, marriage and death, utilize rites of purification, garlanding, offering of locks of hair, and feasting. As a result, we sometimes see the conflation of marriage and death, or the image of the dead young woman as the bride of Hades. The ritual sacrifice and marriage perform parallel functions in that they both strengthen community ties. (Greek tragedy by Nancy SorkinRabinowitz) Continue reading

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