Setting the Table
Around Easter, after Holy Saturday, Greek Christians make a traditional dessert called Koulourakia. Koulourakia is a butter-based pastry with egg glazed on top. This dessert has a hint of vanilla and is well known for the sprinkle of sesame seeds and distinctive ring shape. They are commonly eaten with morning coffee or afternoon tea (Revolvy). Koulourakia has been known to hold great religious significance. This dessert was made during the time of Minoan civilization in Crete. These pastries were made like small snakes, because they worshiped the snake for its healing powers. The Minoans ate these cookies to keep healthy. This tradition has been carried out for years and has spread all throughout Greece. Later, this dish was adopted by Christians and has been part of Easter celebration. After fasting and Holy Saturday, Greeks celebrate by preparing large meals in which Koulourakia is traditionally included. One of Koulourakia’s main ingredients is eggs, which is often prohibited during fasting. Since eggs are not consumed during fasting, Koulourakia is included in the festivity to celebrate Greek Easter, and the end of fasting and Holy Saturday.
To prepare Koulourakia, one must obtain a few simple ingredients. To make this pastry I will need 2¼ cup of flour, ½ cup butter, ½ cup of sugar, 3 eggs, ¼ cup of half-and-half, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 3 tbsp sesame seeds. One of the most important steps in making this dish is kneading the mixture until it is smooth and making the “perfect” Koulourakia shape. To make the perfect pastry shape, pinch off an inch ball and roll into a rope. Bring the ends of the rope together and twist (Stamos). This traditional recipe seems to be fairly easy to make. Some may encounter the problems of it being too time consuming and having difficulty making it into “just the right” shape. There are various reasons as to why I choose this dessert. First, I choose this dish to better understand the Greek culture through my upbringing of Christianity. Although I am not a Greek Christian, I think it is interesting to learn more about other branches of Christianity. I also was curious to do more research and learn more about a religious dessert that is not as common and individuals may not know too much about.
Koulourakia is a well-known and common Greek dessert that is typically presented for Easter. Although this dessert is known as a Greek Christian dish, it can be traced back to the Minoan civilization. This time is much older than Christianity, but was the beginning of the Koulourakia cookie. Koulourakia can be traced back to what is now known as Crete during the Minoan period. The broad idea of this dessert is that they were eaten to maintain their health. The Minoan worshiped the snake for their healing powers. Thus, the creation of Koulourakia was made into a twisted pattern to represent a snake. The idea of this cookie was to be healed and maintain a healthy lifestyle (Revolvy). Over time, Koulourakia spread outside of Crete and throughout the entirety of Greece. This dessert has been adopted by Christians and is still prevalent in modern time. Koulourakia is a popular dish that is eaten for Easter, after fasting. “Many practicing Orthodox Christians fast for 40 calendar days before Easter. Of these 40 days, the week before Easter is complete fast- where no meat, dairy, fish or poultry dishes are prepared or consumed” (Popken). These 40 days of fasting represents Christ’s sacrifice during the 40 days and 40 nights He spent in the desert. Greek Christian Orthodox practice fasting to grow closer to God and serve Him by emptying themselves from cares and concerns (Nicolakis). The last day of fasting is called Great and Holy Saturday. “On Great and Holy Saturday the Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades, the place of the dead (Great). After fasting and Holy Saturday, Greeks celebrate by preparing large meals in which Koulourakia is traditionally included. One of Koulourakia’s main ingredients is eggs, which is often prohibited during fasting. Not only is Koulourakia a tradition due to fasting, but it is a common meal that could be made with the entire family. This dessert is now commonly made any time of year, but traditional Greek families enjoy making this dish with their loved ones during Easter celebration.
These newly founded traditions can be linked to the element of individual well-being. In modern times the idea of making these cookies is to enjoy with family and friends. This can be easily associated with well-being. The idea of these traditions is to be surrounded and celebrated with loved ones and to overall have a positive well-being. Participating in the making of Koulourakia after fasting and Holy Saturday can also contribute to having a positive spiritual well-being. Incorporating family in the making and celebration of this dessert can also have an affirmative correlation in emotional well-being. Overall, the idea of this traditional Greek Christian dish is to provide well-being within the religious community.
Koulourakia can also be linked to other elements such as environmental justice. The making of these cookies can be considered by some as environmentally justified. Although individuals may find this dessert as environmentally friendly, some may not. To many, the ingredients of these cookies incorporate ingredients that are friendly. There is no harm or suffering being done to obtain the ingredients that are necessary for Koulourakia. On the other hand, some may find this environmentally unjust. Individuals are against the idea of the release of greenhouse gasses and the contamination of soil to obtain one of the ingredients, eggs. Although the making of Koulourakia can have a negative input on the environment, this problem can be resolved and make this dish environmentally justified. Due to only one the ingredients being environmentally unjust, this problem could be resolved. If one is concerned, individuals can purchase organic eggs before the preparation.
Koulourakia is a common dessert throughout Greece in which it can be associated to social justice. Although this dessert is a traditional Christian Greek dessert, it can be assessable to everyone in and out of the religious community. Since Koulourakia has spread and has been adopted throughout Greece after the Minoan Civilization, this dish has been made not only inside of their country, but throughout the nation. Koulourakia is a dish that could be made in almost any community. The ingredients can be easily accessed and can be made with various elements. Since this dessert has been adopted, it has developed into a tradition that is shared with the entire family. Since this dish has been altered and adopted throughout several regions, I find this dish socially justified due to the access of the dish and the ability to be made in various communities and religions. Although it is made in symbolism for Greek Christians, it is a dish that can be made in any region.
Some may find that Koulourakia can be made by anyone despite their religion, and some may say that this dessert is made just for celebration of Greek Christians. Due to the outspread of this dish throughout time, anyone has gained the ability to make Koulourakia. There are no regulations that restrict any one person to make Koulourakia. On the other hand, this dish could be considered not allowing religious freedom. The meaning behind Koulourakia is to celebrate Holy Week and the accomplishment of fasting. This celebration is done through Christianity and the origin of this cookie started in Crete and has been predominate in Greece throughout history. Although anyone can create the dish, the idea of Koulourakia has just founded and celebrated within a tight knit community. Overall, each individual will have a different view on the religious aspect of Koulourakia and the values that the dish offers.
Since the dough did not stick together nicely, it took a while to not only roll out the dough, but to make it into the well-known Koulourakia shape. This was the most challenging and time consuming part due to the breaking of the dough. Although this section was quite challenging, this portion made me realize part of the celebration. Koulourakia is largely celebrated by making the dish with loved ones. While making the dish, I realized how simple it is to incorporate others in the making and what makes the cooking more of a celebration.
All these steps lead to the creation of the Koulourakia cookie. The cookie tasted identical to a sugar cookie. Although the taste and smell were sweet, the cookie itself was incredibly dry which made it difficult for some to eat. Although they are dry, this is common for this dish because Koulourakia is often times celebrated and eaten with tea or coffee.
Overall, the creation of the dish went relatively well. The process of creating the dish took a bit more time, but the taste of the cookie was sweet. The hardest part of the baking was getting the dough to a smooth consistency. I would be willing to make the dish again, but I would ensure that I ate the dish with a side such as tea or coffee due to the dry texture. All-in-all I think that the overall making of this dish went smoother than anticipated and reflects the Greek Orthdox celebration.
When comparing the various viewpoints in regards to Koulourakia’s relationship to well-being, social justice, environmental justice, and religious freedom there are several opposing views. When individual’s think about celebrating with a religious dish, they think about the several benefits such as unity, festivity, and euphoria. Although there are several positive aspects to Koulourakia, there are many negative features in regards to individual’s well-being. One aspect that can harmful to an individual’s well-being is that Koulourakia contains an immense amount of sugar and butter. This can be harmful for those who suffer from diabetes and for those who need to watch glucose levels. Having a large portion of butter, which contains saturated fats, can be destructive to any person’s health and increase the risk of health deficits. According to Harvard TH Chan, “Saturated fats raise the total blood cholesterol by raising the harmful low-density lipoprotein.” Not only can Koulourakia effect those with diabetes and increase cholesterol levels, but the dish can also be detrimental to those with gluten and dietary allergies. Although there are risks to making the dish I believe that Koulourakia can promote a positive well-being due to its celebration and unity. Not only can Koulourakia cause controversy for individual’s well-being, but this religious dish can stir up conflict between various social groups.
Due to the demands, utensils, and ingredients needed to make Koulourakia, this can cause social controversy. Koulourakia can be classified as socially unjust because not every one person may have access to the needs to make this dish. For some, it may be effortless to go to the store and get all the necessary ingredients. For others, such as those in different countries or even individuals more locally, it is possible that they do not have access to the various ingredients to make Koulourakia or they have to work harder to make or obtain the ingredients. Not only may some groups or people struggle to attain the ingredients, but they might also not have access to the utensils to make Koulourakia. As a concrete example, “In 2017, 40 million people struggled with hunger in the United States and 45 million Americans rely on stipends from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy food each month” (Do Something). Due to the amount of hungry people globally, it is evident that not everyone has access to make these kinds of dishes. According to food aid foundation, “1 in 7 people are hungry. The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.” Because of the lack of availability to many, this dish can be classified as socially unjust due to the unviability of all resources. Personally, I think with such high numbers of food insecure individuals, this dish can be classified as socially unjust because it is challenging for many to have the ingredients to make Koulourakia.
There are several reasons as to why Koulourakia can cause destruction environmentally. One of the essential ingredients to make this specific dish is eggs. With such high demand of eggs this can lead to several environmental risks such as the production of greenhouse gasses. Greenhouse gasses are “defined by their radiative forces which change the earth’s atmospheric energy balance. These gasses can prevent heat from radiating or reflecting away from earth, and thus, may result in atmospheric warming” (Dunkley, 2015). Not only can Koulourakia be involved in the production of hazardous gasses but they can also cause contamination that can effect individual’s health. According to Waegeneers, “Uptake studies have shown that chicken foraging on soils contaminated with environmental pollutant accumulate these compounds into their eggs” (2009). Overall, an incredibly common food that is found in Koulourakia contributes immensely to the environmental dangers. Eggs contribute to greenhouse gasses, contaminated soil, and contaminated eggs that can effect health globally. Although there are risks to Koulourakia, I think that there could be alternatives, such as organic eggs, that could make Koulourakia even more environmentally friendly. Overall, I believe that this dish is more environmentally just.
Many people believe that Koulourakia is a dish that allows religious freedom and can be made by anyone no matter the time of year. Koulourakia is a common Christian Greek dish that is often celebrated for Easter. This can cause conflict between various groups of people outside of the Greek Christian community. Due to Koulourakia being a religious dish, this can cause controversy if others outside of this specific community make the dish. Although anyone has the right to make Koulourakia and share with others, this may cause conflict to those who solely celebrate it for religious purposes. Koulourakia is made and celebrated by one religious group, Greek Christian orthodox. Members of this religious community may find it disrespectful if people outside of this specific community adopt this recipe and use it outside of the Easter celebration. Not only may people in this religious community find it disrespectful if others make the dish, but people of other religions such as Jains might not be comfortable eating Koulourakia. For example, Jains have more strict eating patterns to follow. This includes not eating any foods that contain eggs in them. This could lead to Koulourakia not providing religious freedom. All-in-all I think that people outside of the Greek Orthdox Church can make this dish because it has been widely adopted throughout the years and has become more popular as just a regular dish rather than a religious dish.
I initially choose Koulourakia because I wanted to learn more about a dish that very few knew about. I thought Koulourakia would be interesting to learn more about because it is a Christian dish that is celebrated with on Easter. Since Easter is a holiday that I enjoy celebrating, I thought it would be fascinating to learn how other cultures celebrated the same holiday. I knew from the beginning that I did not have any sort of relationship with this dish but I knew Greeks viewed Koulourakia as a special dish. This project taught me that this dish is not incredibly different than to foods I have eaten. Although the dish had a different name and shape, it was made similarly to a sugar cookie and tasted identical. While the making of the dish was comparable to what I have baked in the past, the meaning behind Koulourakia was much different than an ordinary sugar cookie. The religious significance behind Koulourakia has to do with Christian fasting and the celebration of Holy Saturday. This dish is eaten on Easter Sunday in relation to the overcoming of fasting. After fasting and Holy Saturday, Greeks celebrate by preparing large meals in which Koulourakia is traditionally included. One of Koulourakia’s main ingredients is eggs, which is often prohibited during fasting. After doing research on Koulourakia, I can more closely relate the religious significance about the dish and in every stage of the making. Although I think of Koulourakia as a religious dish, I can now more closely evaluate how specific foods can have more significance. For example, I didn’t understand how eggs could hold an immense amount of significance for not only the making of Koulourakia but for different other different religions. Overall, this project made me more open minded to the foods I eat and made me more aware of the various themes that could be related to Koulourakia itself. I think this project benefited me by learning how everyday encounters with food can hold an immense amount of meaning.