Pizza in Greek

Greek pizza (640x427)

Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and the home

HESTIA was the virgin goddess of the hearth (both private and municipal) and the home. As the goddess of the family hearth she also presided over the cooking of bread and the preparation of the family meal. Hestia was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and received a share of every sacrifice to the gods. The cooking of the communal feast of sacrificial meat was naturally a part of her domain.

In myth Hestia was the first born child of Kronos and Rhea who was swallowed by her father at birth. Zeus later forced the old Titan to disgorge Hestia and her siblings. As the first to be swallowed she was also the last to be disgorged, and so was named as both the eldest and youngest of the six Kronides. When the gods Apollon and Poseidon sought for her hand in marriage, Hestia refused and asked Zeus to let her remain an eternal virgin. He agreed and she took her place at his royal hearth.

Hestia was depicted in Athenian vase painting as a modestly veiled woman sometimes holding a flowered branch. In classical sculpture she was also veiled, with a kettle as her attribute. Continue reading

Cumin lamb

cumin lamb

Pan, god of the mountains

Pan, god of the mountains, protector of hunters and fishermen, son of Hermes and the nymph Dryopi had α goat’s horn on his head as well as goat’s hoofs instead of feet.  When he was born, his mother horrified from the look of the hairy child smiling at her, deserted him.  His father, Hermes wrapped him in a hare’s skin and took him to mount Olympus.  All gods were enchanted by his charm and playful demeanor, so Dionysus named him Pan (“All” in Greek) since all gods adored him.  Pan was cheerful, amorous, always in love with a nymph and played his flute in such a melodic way that sounded like the song of a nightingale.   His favorite place was the caves of Arcadia where he lived dancing and scaring away the goat herds, with his shrieks.  The word “panic” is derived from Pan and the sudden flight from the dreadful situations he brought about. Continue reading

Fried green peppers

fried green peppers

Centaurs and Lapiths

A Centaur in Greek mythology is a savage creature, half man and the lower half, horse.  Centaurs, usually resided in the mountains of Thessaly, southeast of mount Olympus. According to Pindar, an Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes (c. 522–443 BC), the first Centaur was born from the union of Ixion (king of Lapiths, the most ancient tribe in Thessaly) and Nephele (the cloud Zeus created to resemble Hera in order to test Ixion’s integrity when he realized that he was lustful for her) where none of the Graces (Charites) was present at his birth.  The Centaur mingled with the mare at the Magnesian peninsula (where the city of Volos is, today) thus engendering a whole nation of mythical monsters.  The myth says that they were extinguished by the brave and civilized nation of Lapiths when they tried to abduct Hippodamia during her wedding to their king Pirithous.

The abduction of Hippodamia was not an uncommon subject of Western art in the classical tradition, including the sculpture “The Abduction of Hippodameia”  by French artist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and a painting by Rubens. Also in the pediment of the temple of Zeus in Ancient Olympia (Peloponnese) one can see the depiction of the war that took place between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Continue reading

Greek taverna octopus

greek taverna octopus

Hercules and Hydra

Hercules’ second labor was to go to swampy Lake Lerni, near the city of Argos in the Peloponnese and kill a creature that lived there, called the Hydra.  Hydra was a huge snake with nine heads, all poisonous.  The middle head was immortal.  Every time she came out of the swamp hissing, her heads swayed and swinged in frantic wrath.  With the help of Goddess Athena, he tried to chop off the heads of Hydra, but each time he chopped one off, a couple of others emerged.  It seems this wasn’t enough; a huge crab dashed out of the swamp and bit him fiercely on the leg.  Hercules immediately killed the crab and with the help of his nephew Iolaus who had come along as his guide, started a fire.  Each time Hercules chopped off a head, Iolaus burned Hydra’s wounds, so no more heads could spring forth.  Then he reached for the middle head, which as soon as he chopped it off, he buried in a big hole and covered with an enormous rock.  Then he tore Hydra’s body and in her gushing blood he dipped his arrows that became forever, poisonous.

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Corfu’s Pastitsada

Corfu's pastitsada

Corfu

Corfu’s olive trees, spreading and gnarled with luxuriant age, dapple the island in a silvery green mist, punctuated like exclamation marks by dark, slender cypresses.  The hedges are garlanded with honeysuckle in spring, and fireflies flash green globes through the nights of early summer, when the fields are carpeted with wild lupine and cyclamen, daisies and celandines.  Corfu is the only place I can think of where the bird song is sufficiently strident to wake you at dawn, and it is certainly the only place where I have felt impelled to photograph sheep.  Grazing at the roots of olive trees, they are rather special, not like plain sheep at all but with long fleeces, narrow, rather intelligent faces and a coronet of curls on top their heads.  Although only about forty miles long and two miles wide at its narrowest point, Corfu is too unwieldy to be toured in haste.  Its very separate areas, each on different routes out of town, should be savored one by one.  Some beautiful landscape borders the east coast corniche road that follows the mountainous shoulder of the island, facing the Albanian coast.  Beyond Dassia and Ipsos the objective is Nissaki, a little hamlet of great charm, wondrous views, one tavern, and a steep, gray-pebbled beach from which one plunges into deep, buoyantly clear water.  (Extract from “Gourmet” magazine of an article written by Doone Beal in 1972).

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Stuffed zucchini blossoms

stuffed zucchini blossom

Leda and the swan

Art has been interested in Leda since ancient times.  In Renaissance only, there was almost no great artist that had not been inspired by her story.  Leonardo, Raphael, Correggio, Veronese, Tintoretto, Rubens (to mention some).

Leda was the daughter of king Thespis of Aetolia.  She was so beautiful that, allegedly, many cities claimed her.  Her father gave her as a bride to Tyndareus, king of Sparta, as he had helped him in his fights with trespassers and other surrounding enemies.  In accordance, one very nice day, as Zeus, father of Gods and Men, looking down from mount Olympus discerned her strolling about the Taygetos mountain was, of course, utterly drawn to her!   He asked the advice of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, and it seems, he, in accordance, took the form of a beautiful swan and, to make it more ‘real’, Aphrodite herself took the form of an eagle that pursued the swan.  The tender-hearted Leda as she saw the beautiful bird trying to escape the fatal eagle grip opened her arms and engulfed him in her bosom.   The result was that she was impregnated and, according to (one of the versions of) the myth, she gave birth to two eggs.  One of them contained the twins Kastor and Polydefkis and the other the beautiful Helen of Troy.  The twins were protectors of seafaring men and did many heroic deeds.  In time, Zeus himself granted them immortality by turning them into the two brightest stars of the constellation of Gemini (May 21-June 20).  [Leda had one more notorious daughter, from her husband Tyndareus this time, Clytemnestra, queen to be of Mycenae and wife of Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks in the besiege of Troy]. Continue reading

Green beans in tomato sauce

green beans in tomato sauce

Crete

Whichever gods and satyrs, nymphs and muses still inhabit the peaks and glades of Crete, they smile benevolently on visitors to their island home.  Crete is, after all the home of a dynastic soap opera to top all dynastic soap operas.  The cast of characters includes Zeus, born in a mountain cave to keep him out of reach of his father, Kronos, who considered him a threat to his throne; Pasiphae, wife of king Minos, who fell head over horns in love with a handsome bull and gave birth to the part-man-part-bull creature known as the Minotaur; Theseus of Athens, who entered the labyrinth built by Daedalus, killed the Minotaur, and escaped to tell the story with the help of a spool of thread supplied by Ariadne, Minos’s daughter-whom he seduced, carted off to the island of Naxos, and promptly abandoned, thus inspiring Richard Strauss to create one of the twentieth century’s most glorious operas, Ariadne auf Naxos. (Extract from “Gourmet” magazine of an article written by Ian Keown in 1987).

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Sour cherry spoon sweet

Sour cherry spoon sweet (640x427)

The Greek language

Let us guide you through a wonderful journey into the magic of an exceptional language the Greek language.  Seen from every aspect, the Greek language is one of the richest, most accurately structured and logical languages of all times.  It is a language that every word has a meaning and a reason for its existence.  There is a direct connection between the “word” and the “meaning” of the word.  At the same time it is considered a rather difficult language for a foreigner to comprehend and learn.  Thus one often uses the expression “it’s all Greek to me”.  Yet, once you take a closer look you will see that you already speak Greek, you just don’t know it.  One out of four words in the English language is Greek or of Greek origin.  When it comes to medical terminology, more than 50% of the words or the word elements used, is Greek.  Let us start with the “Alphabet”.  It is the absolute word “Alphavita” which describes the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Vita.  Are you familiar with words such as analysis, angel, atmosphere, automatic, bible, cinematography, democrat, diagram, diploma, echo, ecstasy, ethics, galaxy, grammar, gymnastics, hormone, hypocrite, icon, idiom, kinesis, logistics, lyric, marathon, mechanic, megaphone, monopoly, nausea, neon, oil, Olympics, pathology, phenomenon, philology, phobia, phrase, physics, practical, protein, rhapsody, scene, sphere, sympathy, thesaurus, trauma, utopia, zone.  Do you ever use Greek prefixes or suffixes in your vocabulary such as tele-scope, astro-logy, electro-cardio-graph, thermo-meter?  Then, you speak Greek, you just don’t know it.  These are only a few examples of the 40,000 Greek words that are used today in the English language.  So is it really all Greek to you?  You can read the whole article here.

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Cold stuffed tomatoes

stuffed tomatoesBlogging is fun and part of it is everything that happens in the blogosphere, eg contests, give aways, etc.  So this is a post for a competition that takes place for the best recipe called “Taste of Spain.  Nothing to do with Greece this time but with Mediterranean ingredients.  So here is my recipe as a contestant for my version of a fresh Spanish dish that can be served as a salad or appetizer. Continue reading

Stuffed eggplant slices

stuffed eggplant slices

Thales from Miletus

Philosophy began in the small Greek cities of Ionia on the west coast of Asia Minor around 600bc.  There some men first had the freedom and audacity to ask fundamental questions about the universe.  Their answers, if sometimes inaccurate, were never absurd.  However most of our knowledge of them comes only through Aristotle, writing 200 years later.

One of them, Thales from Miletus (c.625-547bc) is considered the first known philosopher and natural scientist.  He predicted the solar eclipse of the 28th of May, 585bc which stopped a battle between the Lydians and Medes, both being superstitiously terrified.  He also regarded the earth as spherical,  a truly radical idea, reaching this conclusion not through divine revelation or Scripture but by observing and thinking. Extract taken from “the Ancient Greek World-People and places” by Nigel Rodgers Continue reading