Saint Fanourios pie is a fasting pie made in memory of August 27th.
According to tradition, fanouropita is made with seven or nine ingredients. These numbers symbolize the mysteries of the church, the days of creation, and the angels’ battalions. Seven or nine ingredients seem to further enhance the strength of the pie. According to popular tradition, Agios Fanourios is a great finder of lost objects. It is precisely this attribute that has created the peculiar worship practice during the day of celebration. Fanouroptia, after it is being blessed by the priest, it is shared to those who are present at the church.
The connection of the Saint to the lost objects is quite popular and comes from the paretymological alliteration of his name with the verb fanerono which means reveals in Greek. It is the Saint who reveals lost animals or things and good fortune. That is why in the Christian icons is depicted holding a candle in his hand, while in the faith of the people he has an oracle. The worship of Saint Fanourios appears to have originated in Rhodes, where, according to tradition, his icon was found when they excavated into the ruins of an old temple outside the city walls. His attire referred to a military saint. His worship was later spread to the nearby islands and mainly to Crete, where there are now three major monasteries dedicated to him and several Christian temples.
The offerings of bread and pastries to Saint Fanourios reveal the echoes of Modern Greek funeral customs, since the tribute to Saint is related to the posthumous fate of his relatives.
The fanouropita pie is usually small and round and is made from pure flour, sugar, cinnamon, oil and after all these ingredients have been mixed and kneaded, they are placed into a round shape and the pie is baked at a moderate temperature in the oven. It is a light pastry that can be part of a healthy and nutritious breakfast.

The traditional rusks: heritage from the Minoans

Rusks are ideal for breakfast, consumed with cheese, butter and honey, sausages or tomato and feta cheese. Traditional rusks are made from various cereal flours: corn, barley, wheat, rye or even carrot flour. They are made from bread baked twice to eliminate all its liquids in order to be preserved longer. This is because at the past, families were not financially able to have fresh bread daily. Rusks were in other words the bread of the poor, those who spent their day in the field or in the farms.
Rusks are also found in ancient times. Their name was “Dipyrite Bread” because they were twice burned in the oven. It is no coincidence that they have been identified with the Cretan diet, having accompanied the Minoans on their sea voyages. It seems that several varieties of rusks originate from Crete and have slowly spread throughout the country and adapted to the conditions of agricultural production and the preferences of the inhabitants of those areas. Nowadays one can find rusks made of barley or wheat, sweet rusks and rusk bites. Moreover, we can find salty rusks or flavored with anise, mastic, with orange zest or other citrus fruits or alcohol, usually wine.
One of the most popular rusk is ntakos (also called “koukouvayia”, which means owl), based on the PDO Cretan barley rusk. After the rusk has been soaked and moistened, a generous amount of grated tomato is spread on the rusk and top with cheese. Pepper is sprinkled and a good amount of oregano, drizzled with olive oil. Some add olives or capers. Dakos is considered one of the easiest and nutritious snacks of Greek diet. Rusks, with their pleasant and neutral taste give excellent tea and coffee company.

Τahini, a delicious superfood

It is nothing more than a thick paste of roasted, grated, peeled sesame, used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. In these countries tahini is a common ingredient in sauces and soups, and in particular in the preparation of hummus, tahini salad and tahini soup.
The name “tahini” is of Arabic origin and probably comes from the word “tahana” which means “grind”. Sesame cultivation dates back to 1500 BC, when, according to Herodotus, it was cultivated in Mesopotamia, on fertile soil along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and it was mainly used for oil production.
Tahini is of exceptional value because it comes from 100% ground sesame, which results in the preservation of all the beneficial ingredients of sesame that is proteins of high biological value and many vitamins (B1, B2, E, etc.).
In Greece, tahini is used as a spread on bread, either alone or with honey or jam. It is also used as an essential ingredient in the preparation of tahini soup, fasting walnut pie and ice cream. Tahini is also the main ingredient of halva, which is mainly consumed during religious fasting, as a main food or as a dessert with cinnamon or lemon.
In addition to the common tahini that has no additives, we can find other products such as honey, stevia or cocoa tahini, tahini with orange or mastic flavor, whole grain tahini and enriched products such as calcium or prebiotic tahini.

Ancient Greek Nutrition

The nutritional habits in ancient Greece are saved either in ancient Greek and Roman literature or in artistic depictions of the time. Cereals and vegetables ranked first in their preferences. Wheat, barley and oats, but also lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, greens, onions, garlic, mushrooms, pumpkins, legumes such as beans, lentils and the chickpeas were served on a daily basis. Fruits made up the next largest food group within ancient Greek nutrition, such as grapes, apples, pears, pomegranates and figs. Nuts, olives, but also dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), eggs, honey, as well as herbs and spices (oregano, thyme, mint, parsley, silfio, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, cumin etc.) complemented the rich range of raw ingredients. Trade and the exploration of the East also brought new foods to the area such as citrus fruits, peaches and peanuts. Apicius, an ancient Roman traveller-cook and gourmet lover, reports that in classical Greece, three to four spices were used in a dish. Cooking in Greece, until 200 BC, was based on specific ingredients: wine, honey, vinegar, cabbage, dry and sweet wine, coriander, caraway, oregano, cheeses (mainly goat cheese), lamb, game birds, fish, dried figs, raisins and fennel. The consumption of red meat was initially occasional. Due to its high price it was mainly consumed at festivals or after sacrifices, and then with the trade development from the 4th century. B.C. and onwards along with the increase of wealth, meat consumption becomes more common while poultry, gamebirds, seafood and fish, especially in coastal and riparian areas, were more accessible.
Wine had a prominent place in the ancient Greek diet, and it will become one of the main ingredients of Greek and Roman gastronomy. In the 4th century. B.C. the first professional cooks appear in the ancient texts, while recipes of pastry and bakery travel all over the territory of the Greek world. The earliest compositions of cooking are referred to as mixes or mixtures, which is why the cook was called “magician” at the time and “mageirike” meant the art of cooking.
The philosophy of Greek gastronomy, rich in materials and techniques, consisted of balancing bitter and sour, moderate seasoning and sweetness in sauces. The secrets of ancient Greek cooking and gastronomy were documented by the philosopher and poet Archestratus from Syracuse (4th century BC) in the poem ” Hedypatheia”(Life of Luxury), as it is referred in Athenaeus of Naukratis work “The Deipnosophistae”. According to Archestratus, the five golden rules of gastronomic art are summarized in the use of raw food materials of good quality, combine them harmoniously, avoid hot sauces and spices, prefer lighter sauces to enjoy the meal and use spices moderately, so as to not interfere with natural flavours pure materials for food preparation, the harmony of materials between them, and in light sauces.

Ypovrichio (‘Submarine Sweet)

This is a traditional Greek treat, associated with summer evenings and visits to friends’ homes. Vanilla is named “submarine” because it is served in an ice-cold glass of water with a spoon of vanilla dived in it. There are many varieties of flavours such as mastic, vanilla, pink rose, pistachio.
Tradition says that this aromatic sweet was inspired by a Chios pastry chef in Constantinople. They called it “white sweet” and became the favourite treat in the Constantinople ‘s mansion houses. When the Chios refugees returned to their island, they added a mastic scent. Vanilla is a white and fragrant sweet, served as a treat for visitors to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In the past, every home had this treat in its closet, especially in the summer when the rest of the sweets could not be preserved out of the refrigerator. This is how vanilla, starred in every household and was served in a glass of cold water. Vanilla is a simple sweet: it is based on sugar syrup with added flavour and a pinch of lemon. You can find it in many parts of Greece, but Chios is the protagonist, due to its large production of mastic in the island.

Trahanas energizing breakfast that tastes village

Trahanas or tarhana is one of the oldest foods in the eastern Mediterranean. It looks like a tiny gravel and it has many variations. Trahanas is produced with a variety of ingredients, such as semolina or wheat flour, groats or broken wheat, mixed with milk, sour milk, yogurt or even peppers or vegetable pulp and hot peppers.
The story of trahanas goes back to ancient times, as an evolution of the porridge that fed Greeks and Romans. Marcus Gavius Apicius, the Roman author of cookbooks of the 1st AD. century, refers to tractae (a type of viscous slurry used to coat any kind of sauce). According to another historical version it is believed that the trahanas originated from the eastern Mediterranean, had the name tarkhaneh and meant grainy food made from cereals and dairy products.
The preparation of trahanas begins in the first summer months, a period of excessive milk production. It is the ideal time to dry and get packed for the upcoming winter. The last phase of drying trahanas on a large surface for at least a week gave the name to a popular saying “spreads trahanas” which means that someone is very slow. When the ingredients have been mixed, they break into irregular pieces, dry and then crumble into smaller granular or gravel pieces (or passed through a sieve to achieve the same texture). Milk-based trahanas comes in two types: sweet and sour.
Although associated to village life and to our grandmother’s cellars, trahanas is back on the spotlight in recent years, and this is by no means accidental. It is a healthy super food and seems to attract the interest of nutritionists, researchers and chefs.
Greece is claiming the title of the country with the most extensive variety of trahanas and dishes based on it, while it may well be a delicious, energetic traditional breakfast.

The story of the frappe

Frappe no matter how one prefers to drink it (sweet, bitter, with or without milk, with ice cream, stirred or shaken, strong or decaffeinated) frappe is always refreshing and stimulating. The ingredients are simple: instant coffee and water, sugar, milk and ice and a straw to enjoy these freshening sips.
Our “national coffee”, as often described, is said to have been accidentally invented in 1957 at Thessaloniki International Fair by Dimitris Vakondios, an employee at the booth of the Swiss company Nestle, which was producing instant coffee Nescafe, which was is largely identified with the frappe. It said that Vakondios could not find hot water to make his coffee, so he used cold water and a shaker to stir the mixture. This is how one of the most widely known coffee beverage, that would then enter the daily lives of Greeks, was created. This story, although adopted by the company itself, is disputed by many, as there are references and advertisements of frappe prior to the event that took place during the Fair. It seems that the company had launched the iced instant coffee some years earlier and what Vacondios actually invented was the rich frappe foam as we now know it. The consumption of frappe was eased and it seems that the company adopted this version of the story as the time the frappe was born.
No matter what the real history of frappe, it is sure that this is the coffee that has accompanied many generations of Greeks in their most enjoyable moments. It is associated with the summer months of relaxation and carelessness, while its birthplace, Thessaloniki, has been linked to the reputation of a city which has a rather relaxed pace, usually accompanied and associated with the slow drinking of frappe.

The traditional Greek household

During the last decades, the fast and continuous changes in the way of living have alienate modern Greeks from previous habits of their everyday life, transforming them into a kind of folklore. But this does not affect the fact that these elements that tend to extinct, used to be an integral part of a forgotten way of living. One of these elements is the old home equipment, aka the devices of the household when electricity and water supply were kinds of luxury, especially on rural areas of Greece.A proper old-fashioned Greek household included utensils such as faucet, washtub, ice bucket, signboard, stove-oven, oil lamp, brazier, iron, mortar, etc.
The old fashioned faucet was a homemade construction, usually a tin, which functioned like the modern fountains for washing. Of course, in this particular case, the water did not come from a water supply system, but from buckets, pitchers or other containers that were transported there from a – near or distant – fountain. The washtub is the ancestor of the modern washing machines. The housewife or the maid (if we were dealing with a wealthy household) undertook the cleaning of dirty clothes using a soap. It is noteworthy that the washboat was also used as a bathtub. The icebucket, the fridge of those days, was the house’s supplier of cool and cold water, which was very important, especially during the summer, thanks to ice pieces bought from street vendors. A necessary ”gadget”, mostly on rural areas was ”pinakoti”, a wooden board used for baking. Other utensils of the old Greek household were the stone-oven which was used not only for heating but also for cooking, the oil lamp, the brazier (a portable and dangerous heater consisting of a pan or stand for holding lighted coals), a flat iron and other utensils suitable for cooking.

The Mediterranean diet

The term “Mediterranean diet” is used to describe the dietary habits of the people who live around the Mediterranean Sea. The special Mediterranean climate, the long periods of sunshine but also the soil conditions and of course the presence of the sea element have shaped the food culture. Olive groves, vineyards and the seabed have provided the raw materials for the Greek and Mediterranean diet. The most important of these remains the extensive use of olive oil.
All the guidelines and rules that one comes across in the Mediterranean diet books are essentially eating habits that the rural people already practiced in the Mediterranean countries. Meat is consumed in moderation; vegetables are included in the daily diet depending on their season of consumption. The dishes are mainly cooked with olive oil and wine which is an essential ingredient of the diet. The fruits are used in sweets or even as a snack, the wheat is kneaded in bread and the fruits if not consumed fresh they become jams and spoon sweets.
Oats, wheat, fruits, honey and tahini give the energy needed at breakfast to start the day. Fresh milk is flavoured with cinnamon and cloves while oat flakes with raisins, buckwheat and almonds add a nutritious and energizing breakfast.
Legumes, fresh vegetables and herbs are combined for the main meal of the day, while in the afternoon something sweeter such spoon-sweet, yogurt with honey is served. In the evening the most common meals are salads, pasta or cheese with herbs.
The Mediterranean diet is nowadays an important intangible heritage that offers significant benefits to health, quality of life and well-being. Recently it has been recognized as an integral part of Greece’s intangible cultural heritage, so in 2013 it was registered in the national index. The same year Mediterranean diet was also included in the UNESCO representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Spoon sweets… delicate offerings for the guests

Spoon sweets hold the sceptre of the most hospitable treat in any Greek household. Served with a glass of cold water it welcomes guests. Today it is also a popular choice for tourists, as they leave Greece, taking with them colourful souvenir spoons packed in small glass jars.
Their story seems to go back many years when there was the need for housewives to preserve fruits all year long either sun-dried or making jam and syrup. Sweeteners, such as honey and later on sugar, are natural preservatives, while they offer fruits a pleasant taste. Maintenance, canning and storage practices may have changed over time. In Asia Minor, women used to finish the thickening process in the sun. With the heat and when even the slightest trace of humidity disappeared, the sweets were ready to be stored. The syrup has a preservative role for it and for this reason the sweets could be maintained outside the refrigerator.
Nowadays people, using the richness of fruits offered by the Greek land, keep the traditions and make various pastries, such as spoon sweets. The recipes and techniques were widely spread, while being further enriched with new imported materials such as spices and sugar. This is the reason honey was later replaced by sugar, while cinnamon, anise, and cloves were added.
Lemon juice is always a main ingredient and the tradition spoon sweets to be offered to guests accompanied by a glass of cold seems to hold up well today.