Food is one of these factors that gives us a sense of our identity. It is an essential part of people’s lives and as such is much more than just a mean of survival. It is a medium to communicate and bring people together. There is no closer relationship than the one with the family, and food plays a large part of it!
Born and raised in Athens, I consider myself as a city-girl. However, I was fortunate to come from a family of farmers. My grandparents used to live in a village, two hour drive from Athens, located at the foot of the mount Parnassos. There, they had a small but big enough farm to supply the family with all the goodies. They had livestock, sheep, goats and chickens, a beautiful garden with seasonal veggies, their own olive oil and wine, they were totally self-sufficient. For over 15 years, a huge box used to arrive periodically at our home, containing fresh eggs, seasonal vegetables, meat, homemade jams, pasta and pies. The senders were my grandparents.
Scientists tell us that our sense of smell is the sense most closely related to memory. I have to say I agree. It only takes a whiff of freshly baked pie to transport me back to my childhood. I grew up eating pies. My grandmother Zafira used to welcome us with a pie. Sweet zucchini pie for me, spinach pie for my brother and cheese pie for my mother. We all were kids for her.. One of my most vivid childhood memories is to watch my grandmother make phyllo dough. Her ability to make phyllo dough was amazing, she could make it so thin so as to use it for baklava. Grandma Zafira, like most Greek grandmas, was a marvelous cook. Cooking was her way to take care of us and express her warmth and love.
Courses like this hold within them the stories of times gone by. They are a beautiful way of keeping family history and values alive – they give us the ability to carry people, memories and wisdom into the present, much more efficiently than if we relied solely on words and imagination.
So, let’s try to keep tradition alive and sit for a meal with our loved ones. Cooking to share. Cooking with love. And sweet childhood memories.
Ps: What follows is not my grandmother’s traditional recipe for Spanakopita but a most simple and easy version of it that I am able to make! Forget the pies that pose in the freezers of supermarkets and dare to prepare your own!
Written by Nefeli Papageorgiou
1/2 kilo flour
250 grams yoghurt
250 grams margarine
Half a teaspoon salt
To make the pastry:
Mix all the ingredients together to form a ball. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Cut in half and roll each half into a shape to fit a rectangular baking tin. Line the tin with one piece of pastry.
1 kilo spinach
200 grams feta cheese
100 grams milk
2 large onions
Small amount of dill, mint and parsley
To prepare the spinach pie:
Mix all the ingredients together and cover the pastry in the tin, leaving the edges free of the mixture. Cover with the other piece of pastry and press the edges together.
Bake in the oven at 200C for 45 minutes.