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The Olympics: Invented by the Greeks

5 Aug

Ancient Olympics Nikolopoulos

We Greeks like to claim we invented just about everything.

The most famous? We invented democracy.

If you’ve watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding — 1 or 2 — you know that Greeks invented any word you can think of. This is not an exaggeration. I grew up hearing my father explain to me the Greek root to English words all … the … time.

We even invented cheesecake.

And, we invented the Olympics.

You’re welcome, by the way.

Today is opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s always an exciting event, with a lot of intense political and social history.

I had the amazing experience of attending the Summer Olympics when they were in Athens, Greece! You can see a few photos from that trip here.

I’ve also been several time to the site of the Ancient Olympics. The first Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece. This happens to be on the Peloponnese peninsula where my father grew up, so I grew up visiting there and then as an adult brought my own friends there. You can see my Ancient Greek Olympics photographs from over the years here.

The Greeks invented the Olympics in the 8th century BC to celebrate the mythological Greek god Zeus. Consequently, they were not just about athletics but were highly religious: there were two temples and an altar built. During Antiquity, the games were held every four years. The Olympic games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire during the Roman rule. The games were held until Theodosius I, a Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, banned the pagan rituals of the Olympic games in the 4th century AD. After him, Theodosius II had the temple to Zeus destroyed. For details on the Ancient Greek Olympics, read up here.

For the official modern-day Olympics, visit the Olympics website.

 

Sometimes it’s fun to think of what Olympic games I’d invent if I were in charge of the games today. Here are my picks:

 

  • Olive wreath crown-making
  • Subway turnstile hurdling
  • Best personal essay about gym class
  • Speed typing
  • Freestyle walking

Go, team, go!

 

 

 

 

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The Starving Artist: Savory Nectarine Salad

3 Aug
SavoryNectarineSalad 
I am so mad! It was raining on Sunday, and I desperately wanted to avoid having to lug my grocery bags home in the rain. Ah, the perils of a fabulous Manhattan lifestyle! So, the starving artist, though trying to be better about pinching pennies, caved and bought lunch out on Monday. (Dos Toros, if you want to know.) So, I wrap up work later than intended (it’s ALWAYS later than intended), walked across town (my exercise plan), and went to the grocery store.
My neighbor, E, had left fresh basil on my doorknob so I knew I wanted to make something with that. But what? I remembered seeing a peach caprese appetizer on Pinterest (the recipe was from Say Yes and re-blogged on Bloglovin’), and it occurred to me I could riff off that. I decide, what if I make something like that but with nectarines instead and turn it into a more savory and filling salad by adding tomatoes?
So, I get all the ingredients, go home, wash everything, and make the salad. I’m feeling very proud of myself for adulting so successfully—brown-bagging it instead of eating out? Check! Salad instead of pasta? Check! Adding a new recipe to my repertoire? Check! Tuesday morning arrives, and I take the pre-made salad out of the fridge and place it in my bag … and then I get distracted, AND LEAVE THE SALAD BEHIND. I of course don’t realize this til I’ve already gotten on the train. There’s not enough time on my lunch break to go back for it, I won’t be home til late in the evening, and my apartment is a summer sweatbox so I don’t trust eating anything left out of the fridge for twelve+ hours. I ended up at Pret and will have to throw out the salad I put all that time and money and effort into. Sigh.
 
My saving grace is that I had enough to make two salads! So guess what I’ll be eating tomorrow? The salad—unless, of course, I forget it too. In that case, I might need to have my brain checked out.
 
Here is a salad recipe for those of us who hate lettuce.
Savory Nectarine Salad
 
  • Wash nectarines and cut into slices
  • Wash Campari tomatoes and cut into slices
  • Cut fresh mozzarella into slices
  • Wash the basil and use only the leaves
  • Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!
 
I know, I know, for all my moaning about the work that went into it, it’s super easy to make! 
 
I’ve thought up some alternatives:
 
  • Add some slices of red onion
  • Add a light vinaigrette or flavored olive oil
  • Try peaches instead of nectarines
  • Try haloumi cheese instead of mozzarella 
  • Try grilling the tomatoes and the nectarines
  • Put the ingredients between a baguette and enjoy as a sandwich 
 
I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the possibilities!
Want more possibilities? Check out my other recipes:
 
 

Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie and a Summer Peach Parfait

19 Jul

Every summer when I was growing up in New Jersey, my parents would take my sister and brother and me on a road trip down to Maryland to see our cousins. We loved spending time with our cousins in Baltimore! They were the only cousins we grew up seeing regularly, and we were all fairly close in age. Spending time with my cousins was typically the highlight of my summer. Oftentimes, they’d come back with us and spend some time at our house too.

My cousin who is three years older than me was the coolest! I idolized her. She knew about makeup and hair and french kissing. I wasn’t as into Barbies as my sister was — I was more of a homemaker Cabbage Kids type than sexy Barbie type — but we both were obsessed with our cousin’s Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie. I loved the diaphanous peach dress she wore with the white sparkly top. It was pastel perfection. We spent hours in my basement playing with the Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie. She was the best out of all the Barbies — reigning over even Mika, the beautiful Hawai’ian Barbie, after my little sister had chopped Mika’s bangs off!

PeachesNCreamBarbie

Pinterest proves I’m not the only one who associates this Barbie with childhood

This summer I’ve been eating a delightful peach parfait for breakfast that is so super creamy and delicious!

It’s easy to make too!

IMG_5507

1. Scoop a bit of your favorite vanilla yogurt into a bowl. My favorite is the Brown Cow cream top vanilla.

2. Wash and slice fresh peaches. Leave the skin on. The skin is packed with nutrients:::

Peach skin is full of nutrients and contains both vitamin C and A. Some people think that the skin can irritate the GI track because of the fuzzy/hairy texture of the skin, but this is not true. Peach skin has antioxidants and it is anti-inflammatory. But as mentioned above, avoid the pit as it contains trace amounts of cyanide.

Also, I think it probably is good for your fiber intake.

3. Top with your favorite granola. This will add some crunch and keep you full longer. I’m partial to the Purely Elizabeth and Bear Naked brands.

Voilà! A peach parfait perfect for lazy summer mornings but also quick enough to make if you’re no longer playing Barbies but scrambling to get to work.

IMG_5531

If you like this, you might want to try my other delicious yogurt recipes:::

 

10 Books of Beat Generation Letters

14 Jul

The other day I wrote about viewing Neal Cassady’s infamous “lost” Joan Anderson letter at Christie’s Auction House.. Letters are a great way to get to know and understand the writers of the Beat Generation. The novelists and poets were prodigious letter writers. Here are ten books of collected letters by the poets and writers of the Beat Generation.

1.

CassadyLetters

 Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-1967

2.

KerouacLetters

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956

3.

Carolyn

Jack Kerouac’s Dear Carolyn: Letters to Carolyn Cassady

4.

KerouacGinsberg

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters

5.

YageLetters

William S. Burroughs’ and Allen Ginsberg’s The Yage Letters Redux

6.

GinsbergSnyder

The Selected Letter of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder

7.

GinsbergDad

Allen Ginsberg and his father’s Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son

8.

HettieJonesLoveH

Love, H: The Letters of Helene Dorn and Hettie Jones

9.

DistantNeighbors

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

10.

CorsoBiography

An Accident Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso

Summer Fruit Salad with Mastiha-Flavored Yogurt

12 Jul

 

The other day I spotted Homeric Mastiha in the store, and I had to try it! I’d heard of mastiha but never tried the legendary Greek liqueur. I like anything with a literary connection, and Stoupakis’ Homeric Chios Mastiha Spirit offered a unique intermingling of literature, Hellenophilia, and food and beverage.

Made from evergreen bushes found only on the Greek island of Chios, mastiha — or, gum mastic — is a Greek liqueur with a sweet and herbal finish. It’s known for its health benefits: it promotes gum health and is anti-inflammatory.

It’s a special alcoholic beverage on its own, which I’d say tastes closer to gin than ouzo. It occurred to me, though, that it would be a fun way to jazz up a summery fruit salad. I was right! I love Greek yogurt, but I have to be in the mood for it. It can be a bit sour at times. Mixing it with mastiha gives such a delightful floral taste. I’m not sure everyone would like it. It’s very Greek. If you hate loukoumi (Turkish delight), you probably won’t like anything flavored with mastiha. I, for one, thought it made the boozy fruit salad with yogurt something elegant. Here’s my recipe:::

  1. Scoop out your favorite Greek yogurt. I used plain Fage. This traditional Greek yogurt got its start in Athens in 1926. It’s known for being packed with protein and great for vegetarians, so definitely a winning combination for me!
  2. Wash and slice peaches, nectarines, and strawberries. Leaving the skins on is not only easier (yay!), but it’s also better for you! It’s got great nutrients in it. Toss the fruit over the yogurt.
  3. Douse the fruit-topped yogurt with mastiha.

It’s really that simple! I don’t have suggestions for portion size or how much mastiha I used. It’s really up to individual preference.

I packed mine in a to-go container and ate it in Central Park. It was delightful!

You may like these related blog posts:::

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Picking

5 Jul

Every summer when I was a child, my family would spend time with my cousins in Baltimore. Usually on the way to Baltimore or from Baltimore, my family would stop and go peach picking. My father would reach high into the trees to get the best, untouched fruit. We’d bring home barrels and barrels of fuzzy, squishy peaches. The fruit was so fresh and so juicy! I can remember the juices dripping down my chin and down the length of my arm toward my elbow. I remember the sticky feeling of peach juice clinging to my fingers. The peaches we picked tasted better than any fruit we bought in the sterile grocery store. But we had to eat it fast! The peaches went bad quickly, and our eyes had been bigger than our stomachs as we picked a million peaches.

Peaches are one of the fruits I most connect to summertime. These precious memories of peach picking with my family float through my head when I pick fresh produce in the grocery store as an adult and sometimes I even have the chance to go peach picking with friends.

I try to eat a lot of peaches in the summer. It’s fun to eat seasonally. I know a lot of people do it for health reasons and for the environment and because of the costs, but there’s also something special about knowing that there’s only a limited time you can enjoy something. It makes you savor it all the more.

Last summer I went peach picking at Alstede Farms in the adorable town of Chester, New Jersey, and I recently went back to the farm just to get pie and visit with the adorable farm animals. Here are some pictures from Alstede Farm. I highly recommend picking your own fruit this summer! It’s a great inspiration for eating healthier foods.

 

 

I’m Reading Today with the Greek-American Writers Association 

10 Jun

I’ll be reading one of my favorite stories from my memoir-in-progress tonight at 6:00 at the Greek-American Writers Association at Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia Street) in New York City. Admissions is $9. Opa! 

Redeemer Writers Group Monthly Meeting

15 Mar
writers

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about it, but I’m still co-leading the Redeemer Writers Group. We’ll have a special guest author who will be speaking on an issue related to faith and writing. Our monthly meeting is free and open to anyone interested, on March 15 from 7pm to 9pm:

The Redeemer Writers Group meets monthly to workshop in-progress writing and offer community, encouragement and resources for aspiring and professional writers. Please come prepared with a 1-2 page excerpt of a work in progress to share for instant feedback. Please note: this building has heightened security so you must RSVP at least 24 hours in advance. 

We will meet the Redeemer offices at 1166 Avenue of the Americas (16th floor).

Register here.

 

Photos from the Burroughs Birthday Bash at Cornelia Street

11 Mar
Three Room Press’ annual William S. Burroughs birthday bash at Cornelia Street Café is one of my favorite literary events of the year. I’ve been going for three years straight—since they started it!—with one of my very best friends, Sue. It’s intimate and snarky and creative. It feels like a bunch of intellectual but down-to-earth friends sitting together in a living room and taking turn sharing their favorite works of Burroughs’.
Peter Carlaftes Burroughs
Burroughs Bowie
Steve Dalachinsky Burroughs
Aimee Herman Burroughs
Burroughs Reading
Bowie Album
I won! I won!
Cornelia Street Cafe Food
The delicious food from Cornelia Street Cafe.
Burroughs Cornelia Street Cafe
A William S. Burroughs reading is the perfect place to promote his friend Jack Kerouac! Here are the postcards for Burning Furiously Beautiful (on sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Lulu).
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Cheese Is My Love Language

8 Mar

“I have gotten six different kinds of cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup,” my friend texted me, excited about my upcoming visit. Then she corrected herself: “Actually 7.”

“Cheese is my love language,” I said.

This is the same friend who introduced me to the cheese section of Stew Leonard’s.

You might also like these other starving-artist grilled cheese recipes:::