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

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

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

Spaghetti with Greek tomato sauce

greek spaghetti sauce

Hercules

Hercules was actually the offspring of Alcmene and Zeus who took the form of her husband in order to deceive her, when Amfitrion was away in battle.  When the child was born, Hera, Zeus’ wife who hated Alcmene would not allow it to live.  She sent two huge snakes to kill the baby in its crib.  Little Hercules woke up from the hissing sound, grabbed the snakes and killed them by just squeezing them with his palms.  This was the first sign of his divine power.  When Alcmene and Amfitrion realized what had happened, called for prophet Tiresias  to foretell the baby’s future.  Tiresias predicted that Hercules would become immortal after having accomplished brave deeds and majestic labours. Continue reading

The Antikythera mechanism

In 1901 near Antikythera – a small Greek island south of the Peloponnese a shipwreck of major archaeological importance was firstly discovered and recovered by Greek sponge divers and the assistance of the Greek Royal Navy. Later, in 1976, a second underwater research was carried out by the Greek Archaeological service and J.-Y. Cousteau’s oceanographic “Calypso”. The wreck is dated approximately to 60-50 BC, though its cargo of statues, coins and artifacts, from the 4th to the 1st century BC.  Among the objects were also found the severely corroded remnants of
an Astronomical device that is called the world’s oldest known analog computer,
the Antikythera mechanism. It contained at least 30 gearwheels as well as dials, scales, axles and pointers. The greek, astronomical inscriptions on the surface of the Mechanism refer to astronomical and calendar calculations, while the inscriptions on its metal protective plates contain instructions for its use. The Mechanism was protected by a wooden case, which had a bronze plaque on the front and the back side.

My Greek bread

greek bread

How it all begun

At the beginning there was only Chaos; the vast immeasurable abyss.  When this evaded, the first divine couple, Ocean and his wife Tethys, appeared – the grandparents of all the other divine beings of the Greek Mythology.  From the above two, Earth (Γαία) and her husband and brother Heaven (Ουρανός) were born.  They gave birth to twelve children – the Titans who were gigantic and rather primitive.  The youngest Titan, Cronus dethroned his father and became the master of the Universe.  He feared that he would have the same fate as his father Heaven thus he swallowed his own children that were born from his wife Rea.  The only child that escaped through a trick that his mother arranged, was Zeus who later on was the Father god of the twelve Gods that reined from mount Olympus. Continue reading

Stifado

stifado

….and its origin

Stifado is a famous Greek dish that can be enjoyed in most Greek tavernas and restaurants all over the world.  It is actually a stew, cooked with lots of spices and onions which release their wonderful juices, always in a covered pan.  Some may think that has an old Venetian origin-stufado, but in reality this method of cooking dates back in ancient Greece and its name is a derivative of the Greek word tifo («τύφω») which means “to burn slowly” as well as “to fill with fumes” (Dorbaraki etymology dictionary of the Ancient Greek language). Both translations are used in preparing stifado because the fire has to be the lowest possible and the meat is actually cooked from its fumes. Back then the dish was cooked without tomatoes since the tomato was introduced to Greece after the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, the 16th century.  Continue reading

Candied orange peel

Candied orange peel

The apples of the Hesperides

Hercules during his 11th labor, according to Greek mythology had been ordered by king of Tiryns, Eurystheus to steal the golden apples of the Hesperides, which are regarded as the oranges of today.  These apples were offered by Gaia (the goddess of Earth) to Hera as a wedding gift for her marriage to Zeus.  Probably that is why oranges are supposed to be the symbol of fertility and a happily married life.  Hera in order to protect the apples entrusted them to the vigilant, hundred-headed dragon Ladon as well as the Nymphs Hesperides.  After many adventures during his travels to the place the sun sets, Hercules brought the golden apples to Eurystheus who refused to keep them. Hercules gave the apples to goddess of wisdom, Athena who returned them back where they belonged since their theft was an impious act.   Continue reading

Greek chicken soup

chicken soup

Hens and roosters in the backyard was a common sight some decades back, when Greece was still in the rural era.  And the scene continues back in the Ancient times.  Chicken dishes were considered a special treat for guests.  The chicken was made soup, stew or in the oven for centuries.  Today, chicken soup is particularly comforting and nutritious, excellent for colds and runny noses.  A great addition to chicken soup is an egg and lemon sauce (avgolemono) which gives the soup a delicate lemon tang.  My use of corn flour could be considered sacrilegious by many Greek cooks but it prevents the soup from curdling. This soup can be served either hot in winter or chilled as a surprising start for a summer dinner.  The full Greek approach to the dish means you have to make the broth from scratch but you can do quite well by diluting 3 cans of condensed chicken broth with 2 cans of water.  What is not negotiable is lemon juice.  It has to be from real lemons, preferably Greek.  They have a special taste and they are loaded with vitamin C.

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My cabbage salad

Cabbage salad

…..and a few words about cabbage

Cabbage in Ancient Greece was not eaten as a vegetable.  It was used as a remedy for various illnesses.  Since it is packed with vitamin C and other phytonutrients it fights free radicals, cholesterol, asthma, even cancer of the large intestine, breast cancer and prostate.

Modern Greeks eat cabbage very often, especially in winter, in the form of lahanodolmades(minced meat wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves with an egg and lemon sauce) and cabbage salads usually with an oil and lemon dressing.  This is my version of a cabbage salad, modern and more elaborate than the version above.  The appropriate cabbage for a salad must feel heavy for its size with bright leaves. Continue reading