Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Loukoumatha Machine

Spent about 6 hours last weekend at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church festival here in Miami; it was the 35th Edition...I have always considered the St. Basil's Greek Festival as the gold standard of Greek church festivals, but St. Sophia is moving rapidly up the list. 

I discovered that for the third year, free and very popular cooking lessons were being offered.  They have been organized by the tireless Renee de Ramirez (with Salonika roots!), who also developed a very informative book on CD for $5 benefiting the church. There were a total of 12 lessons over 3 days -- including recipe handouts, samples and wine tastings. Something different and tasty was the Fennel/Eggplant Salad. Excellent program, I couldn't stay away.

The ouzo slushes available at the bar have, of course, a special place in my heart.  But I was especially taken with The Loukoumatha Machine. Yes, a mechanized way to mix the dough and drop the right amount into bubbling cooking oil.  And voila! Dozens of loukoumathes to fish out and drain in a colander layered with paper towels, then the syrup and cinnamon.  Brought back many memories...

The volunteer cook above did not know the origin of the machine. Was it invented for loukoumathes or donuts or what? In any case, it definitely made the cooking easier and faster for bigger quantities -- not to mention quite a show. No more mixing bowls of sticky dough or frying on hot plates while the customers wait.  What would Yiayia Sarris think about all that?

As I ate my little bowl of loukoumathes, I remembered New Year's Eve at my grandparents house circa 1958-60.  We kids spent it there along with Bishop Demetrios, who would come to Stockton the day before St. Basil's Day and to the house for a snack and loukoumathes. Then we would watch "Gunsmoke" and the Bishop would fall asleep in the rocking/easy chair.  We'd snicker quietly, my Yiayia would wake him up, and my Aunt Libby would drive him (always nattily attired in his black cassock, fedora and bishop's staff) to the Hotel Stockton. Those were the days...

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