Thursday, 25 April 2013

Koulourakia (Κουλουράκια)

In my youth, I remember my mum making tubfuls of koulourakia before Easter. They would last for a long time in airtight containers, and when they ran out, we'd make some more. The most important implement in making koulourakia was koulourakia maker.

My mother never shaped her koulourakia by hand, like I do. The koulourakia maker was very important in our home, as it was in other Greek homes, both in Greece and abroad. It remains a popular tool in the homes of older cooks.

Another thing my mother also used a lot was baking parchment, again something I hardly ever use (olive oil does an excellent cheap and very clean job).

Making koulourakia in large batches is still done these days, but because of a greater emphasis on health and more women working, the idea of many women coming together to produce koulourakia is usually relegated to women's cooperatives and charity organisations. It remains a way for women to connect, both in urban and rural contexts, by being involved in activities that women generally like doing. Cooking, baking, and providing hospitality for others is not necessarily a woman's domain, but it is still something women do more successfully than men.

Koulourakia making can also be a way to show off your artistic talent. Shaping koulourakia is a favorite pasttime of children of all ages. Shaping cookies is popular all over the world among children but making traditional Greek Easter koulourakia has one advantage over making Western-style cookies: koulourakia are a completely natural product that do not need artificial flavourings or colours.

You can find the basic recipe for koulourakia here, which happens to be one of the most popular recipes on my blog. It's easy to produce in a small batch, and you can multiply the recipe as you see fit.

These koulourakia were made for the Special High School of Hania (Ειδικό Γυμνάσιο Χανίων) for children with special needs in the suburb of Mournies, along with Easter candles (lambada) which were also being made here.
The women who made the koulourakia are those being cared for at an old person's home (who have not lost their mobility), together with their daughters and the caregivers at the home (which is called ΚΗΦΗ - Κέντρο Ημερίσιας Φροτίδας Ηλικιωμένων - Centre for the Daily Care of the Elderly). This centre belongs to the local council of Eleftherios Venizelou in Mournies (Δημοτική Ενότητα Ελευθερίου Βενιζέλου), run by ΚΕΠΠΕΔΗΧ-ΚΑΜ (ΚΟΙΝΩΦΕΛΗΣ ΕΠΙΧΕΙΡΗΣΗ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΜΟΥ - ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΟΣ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΧΑΝΙΩΝ - ΚΕΝΤΡΟ ΑΡΧΙΤΕΚΤΟΝΙΚΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΜΕΣΟΓΕΙΟΥ). These ladies are all experienced koulourakia makers, as they have all grown up with the tradition in their own home, in the same way as myself. The koulourakia were distributed to the children just before schools break up for Greek Orthodox Easter.

Thanks again to Eirini for supplying me with the photos.

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