The Olympic Hymn
Ancient immortal spirit, pure father
Of the beautiful, the great and the true,
Descend, appear, and emblaze this place
With the glory of your own earth and sky.
In the race, the grappling, and the toss,
Kindle the impulse in all noble contests,
Crown with the perennial wreath,
And fashion the steely and worthy body.
Plains, mountains, and seas glow in your presence
Like some great clear porphyrous shrine,
And every nation hurries here to your temple
In supplication, ancient immortal spirit.
- Costis Palamas (1859-1942)
Translation from Greek by: Sotiris Sotiropoulos,
Two thousand seven hundred and eighty four years ago, in 776 B.C., the ancient Olympic Games were born. The very first Games were a simple affair consisting of only one event: a 200 metre footrace known as the ‘stadion’ from which we get the English word ‘stadium’. Over time, the Games developed to include many more events such as wrestling, jumping, discus and javelin throwing, chariot racing and boxing. When the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I abolished the ancient Games in 394 A.D., he not only put an end to a quadrennial pagan athletic festival, but he also put an end to a calendar system that reckoned its dates according to the succession of Olympiads since 776 B.C., a period of some 1170 years. Let us hope that the Modern Olympic Games will last as long.
The history of Greek gastronomy is inextricably linked to the ancient Olympics in three ways. First, and literally so, there was the amateur athlete who claimed the sole wreath of victory in 776 B.C. A cook or mageiros (μάγειρος in Gk.) by the name of Coroebus of Elis was proclaimed victor of the stadion race in the first Games at Olympia. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has made the mad dash for the kitchen at the slightest hint that something was burning…
Ancient Olympia, August '07 sporting my wild olive wreath - Click to Enlarge Image
The second point of confluence between the history of Greek cuisine and the Olympic Games was the traditional victory prize for athletes in the ancient Games. Victors were awarded a wreath or kotinos (κότινος in Gk.) fashioned from a small branch taken from a wild olive tree that stood in Zeus’ sacred grove at
The third and final point of convergence between the history of Greek food and the ancient Olympic Games was the ritual feeding of the victors at ancient
In tribute to the origins of the Olympics and as a dedication to the first gold medalist of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Katerina Emmons of the
4 cups flour
1½ tablespoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ - 2 cups lukewarm milk/water
1 cup of good quality Greek honey
Oil for deep frying (I used vegetable oil)
Cinnamon powder for dusting
- In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup lukewarm milk/water then cover the bowl with a cloth and let it stand for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to rise.
- Then gently add the flour and salt to the mixing bowl in stages and continue to mix well; sparingly add the remaining (and/or any additional) lukewarm milk/water while continually mixing. The resulting batter should end up as soft and sticky dough, soft enough to be able to drop from a spoon.
- Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for a couple hours, or until it has doubled in bulk and has bubbles forming on the surface.
- When the dough has risen, heat oil in a deep pan/fryer and prepare to fry the loukoumades in batches. You will need a teaspoon and a cup of cold water for this part. Dipping the teaspoon into the water before using it to spoon up portions of the dough will ensure that it does not stick to the spoon.
- Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough directly into the hot oil, helping with your fingertip if the dough does not easily slide off the spoon. (Just remember to wipe your finger before the next spoonful).
- Fry each batch of dough balls until they puff up and achieve a golden brown colour. When they are ready, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and set them on a platter lined with paper towel to drain for a couple minutes.
- Place the loucoumades on a serving platter and drizzle the Greek honey overtop to cover. Dust with cinnamon powder and serve immediately.
Many recipes for Loukoumades call for a boiled sugar-honey-water syrup bath, but I prefer not to mix sugar with my honey as I like it pure and unadulterated. As well, you can sprinkle the Loukoumades with some crushed walnuts before serving. Lastly, Loukoumades are best eaten on the same day as they are made.
Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)
Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.