Close your eyes and I'll take you once more to the wind blown steppes of Eastern Europe where we wander by fields of golden stalks of wheat waving in the wind. Fear not, the sound that the wheat stalks make is soothing and melodic as they blow to and fro in the breeze. Listen to the music it produces and understand why my people chose it as a symbol of their culture. Beautiful, strong, sustaining and enduring. The wheat was once feared by my people as they walked into the fields grown by the Romans.
The Greeks had very close ties with my people, as their granaries were the steppes of the ancient Ukraine called Synthia. The Greek people had colonized the western regions of the Ukraine and along the Black Sea. The Ukrainians adopted the ancient Greek traditions that were common some two thousand years ago and these traditions were well known amongst my people for many centuries. One such shared tradition is the offering of bread and salt to guests as a hospitality ritual.
Bread and salt were once considered necessary ingredients for health in daily consumption. Guests were offered a circular loaf of bread (Kleb) and a mold of salt (sil) on an embroidered ceremonial cloth called a rushnyk by their hosts with a heartfelt greeting, "With this bread and salt, we greet you".
Bread represents hospitality; the warmth of Ukrainian hospitality from their rich black fertile soil. The salt symbolizes friendship; an eternal friendship that will never sour because salt is never corrupted by time therefore, never loses its taste. When guest accepted the bread and salt in this manner, they would bow their head slightly in thanks, kiss the bread and hand it back to the hosts. Often, a small piece was broken off by the guest and dipped into the salt and then eaten. If part of a family gathering, then the bread may be put aside to be eaten later or taken home.
Last month I sat with my good friends of our Barony in Lady Jessimond's kitchen and enjoyed fresh Paska and tea as we created Pysanky. Well, let us fire up the Pich and enjoy another bread together from our Greek cousins.
Mix together warm water and yeast and let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 3 C each of whole wheat and bread flour, salt, orange rind and thyme. Make a well in center. Add yeast mixture, olive oil, orange juice and ouzo to the center of the well. Add olives. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined, then turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding some of the remaining flour if necessary, until a smooth, silky dough is formed. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover and let rise until doubled for about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Gently punch down the dough to the original size and divide into two portions with a knife. Shape dough into 2 round loaves. Place in prepared sheet pan, cover, and let rise again until doubled. Brush with water, gently draw a knife down center of the dough, and bake for 45- 50 min. or until golden brown. Remove from pan and cool.
Serving Suggestion: Make a Feta Cheese spread by blending in a bit of olive oil and fresh minced garlic. Spread thickly on toasted slices of bread and top with Marinara Sauce.
Forever shimmying ~
Lady Xenia Hurrem