Only two days after my previous post about how 2016 has been a very odd year, Carrie Fisher dies and her mom, the legend Debbie Reynolds follows just a day later. Even though 2016 only has two more days in it, I’m still somewhat cautious until 2017 rings in!
I’ve always been ridiculously superstitious, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why. It makes for a very funny topic of conversation. There are plenty of superstitions in cultures, and Greece certainly doesn’t lag in that department.
It’s so fascinating as many believe superstitions are for weak minds, but I beg to differ! Personally, odd superstitions like this connect me to my culture and I enjoy that so much. My father, who was highly educated and accomplished, was very superstitious and didn’t hide it either… I think I may have bonded with him on that growing up.
There were superstitions about nearly everything: you didn’t make any important decisions of Tuesday the 13th. The first fall of Constantinople to the 4th Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13, 1204, and the ultimate fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, ironically also took place on a Tuesday… May 29, 1453. Friday the 13th is like any other day, really.
Another example of a superstition that you shouldn’t walk under any scaffolding as it is very bad luck. You can imagine how difficult that was for me when I lived in New York and worked in the city… which was always under some form of renovation and construction. Walking in the street was not an option, so I found myself compromising my luck a great deal back then…
My favorite is the salt and broom in the kitchen, but it doesn’t work in modern open spaces anymore — you need a door. The superstition says that if you have guests at home that have overstayed their welcome, you can sprinkle some salt on the floor and turn a broom upside down behind a door. If you don’t have a door, try the pantry. It worked every time! Within half an hour guests would finally take their leave.
We have talked about Greek coffee and reading the grinds once the cup has been inverted. I can’t say that the coffee reading was a popular one in our home, but it was always fun listening to the old ladies who took the time to read each others’ stories.
Another superstition that is followed fairly religiously in Greece is the idea of the “podariko” which I cannot really translate, but it takes place during the New Year. Supposedly, once the New Year rings, you’re supposed to enter any home you visit with your right foot (i.e., best foot forward). Oddly enough, I could care less about this superstition, probably since I am left handed and fed up with being right all the time. So, I don’t follow this one much but it sure is popular throughout Greece from the most remote village to the city center of Athens.
There are others too that I admit are part of my daily life, like keeping all the closet doors shut before going to bed, because they resemble an open grave. It’s not that I can’t go to sleep if the closet door is open, but I will feel uneasy. Poor Michael has gotten used to my silly quirks and already shuts everything for me before I head to bed. Oh, and always make sure you keep scissors closed when you finish using them. That one I learned from my neighbor Maria in Kifissia who used to say that open scissors are especially bad luck.
Some of my friends know of my superstitions and make fun of me, but later admit that it’s part of my charm. Who knows? Every quirk we have makes up who we are and there’s nothing wrong about being yourself and standing out 🙂
By request, I’m posting my grandmother’s recipe for Almond Cake. Walnut cake (karydopita) is traditional for the New Year, but almond cake is one of my favorites!
MAD ALMOND CAKE
Prep time: 25 minutes – Cook time: 45 minutes – Yields: 1 cake
12 eggs, separated
3 cups superfine sugar
2 cups ground almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb almonds, finely chopped or slivered
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven at 350F
In a bowl, mix the baking powder and almond flour and set aside.
Beat egg yolks with sugar until lemon colored. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites in the yolk mixture and add the extracts. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the crumbs and 3/4 of the almonds (save the rest).
Prepare a 9×12 pan by greasing and flouring it and pouring in the mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top and bake for about 45 minutes. Let cook and cut into squares. Serve with sprinkled powdered sugar if you like.
Happy New Year!