At this very moment, I’m sipping tea from a favorite mug, nibbling on baklava, and reading a fine book of poems: Yaya’s Cloth by Andrea Potos (Iris Press, 2007).
I’m loving Andrea’s family stories and the celebration of her Greek heritage. I appreciate the nod to domesticity and strong women — matriarchs who passed on their skills and knowledge to each succeeding generation.
Andrea had a very special relationship with her grandmother (Yaya). As I read Andrea’s lyrical depictions of their time together, I can picture them baking, chatting, and laughing in floured aprons, bonding over loaves of bread and batches of cookies. It is easy to feel the love.
Today, I’m honored to feature a poem from Yaya’s Cloth that I’m sure will whet your appetite for more. Andrea has graciously shared a bit of backstory as well as Yaya’s recipe for baklava. And special thanks to her for the wonderful personal photos. Yum!
Yaya, you tell me
how every morning you wait for sun
to light the blue dome of the Greek church
outside your window.
You prepare your table — cups and saucers,
spoons on handstitched linen,
for your friends in the apartments downstairs,
women you’ve known longer
than your husband or your three daughters.
They will gather in your kitchen,
bedrock under your days, these women
who brought the sweets to your house, sat with you for hours
after your son Tommy
died, fifty years ago this year;
sweets you learned as a girl
in Athens with your mother,
and what you have shown me to make —
Baklava steeped in honeyed syrup then sliced
into diamonds; kourambeides,
like buttered crescent moons
powdered with sugar; and
koulouria, touched with anise and best
for dunking. Winter afternoons in your kitchen,
the ivory walls burnished by low blonde light,
I’d wear your apron strewn with pale cabbage roses, the cotton soft
as the flour I poured into the bowl
when you’d tell me it was time,
the air dusting white around us
while you turned and mixed the dough with your bare hands,
what we would shape and braid
into wreaths, circles, figure eights.
~ posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2007 Andrea Potos. All rights reserved.
My maternal Greek grandmother Aristea Kosmopoulos was my first and only inspiration for baking. Anything she made tasted like some kind of heaven. We all thrived on her outstanding Greek cooking and baking, though somehow I always thought it was love that perfected her every meal. . . When I was in my mid-20s, she and I embarked on a weekly baking lesson in her small kitchen in her Milwaukee apartment, where she lived with my darling grandfather George.
Nearly every Saturday for one year I learned something new from her; some of our adventures included baklava, melamakarona, kourabiedes, koulouria, galatabourico, and many others. I copied by hand her every recipe. My husband even got on board and learned how to make Kefthedes (Greek meatballs) from her too! Those afternoons in Yaya’s kitchen were precious hours; the only way I knew to even begin to express my love for her and our times together was with this poem.
Yaya's Rolled Baklava
Melt butter. Mix dry ingredients. Use 3 sheets of phyllo per roll; the recipe makes five rolls, which you will cut into diagonal pieces before baking. But first, alternate each layer of phyllo with a handful of the dry mixture. When you have done this with three sheets, fold in the phyllo sides a little and roll into a long roll. Place into a 9×13″ baking pan. When done, after you have cut the rolls into approximately 35 to 40 pieces, pour the melted butter over the top. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about an hour, until golden brown. For the syrup: Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add honey while it boils a little. Take off burner and add lemon. When the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over all the rolls in the pan. Let steep and sit until coolish. Relish.
Melt butter. Mix dry ingredients.
Use 3 sheets of phyllo per roll; the recipe makes five rolls, which you will cut into diagonal pieces before baking.
But first, alternate each layer of phyllo with a handful of the dry mixture. When you have done this with three sheets, fold in the phyllo sides a little and roll into a long roll. Place into a 9×13″ baking pan.
When done, after you have cut the rolls into approximately 35 to 40 pieces, pour the melted butter over the top.
Bake in a 325 degree oven for about an hour, until golden brown.
For the syrup:
Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add honey while it boils a little.
Take off burner and add lemon.
When the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over all the rolls in the pan. Let steep and sit until coolish.
~ from Andrea Potos (adapted from the kitchen of Aristea Kosmopoulos), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
Andrea Potos is the author of seven poetry collections, including most recently Arrows of Light from Iris Press; An Ink Like Early Twilight and We Lit the Lamps Ourselves, both from Salmon Poetry in Ireland; and Yaya’s Cloth from Iris Press. Another collection A Stone to Carry Home is coming out from Salmon Poetry this spring! Andrea has received numerous awards, including the 2016 William Stafford Prize in Poetry from Rosebud Magazine. You can find her poems widely in print and online. She lives for poetry, books, traveling, and musing in cafes!
Thank you so much, Andrea! We’re looking forward to sharing more of your poetry here at Alphabet Soup soon. 🙂
🌺 ANNE OF GREEN GABLES COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER! 🌸
Thanks to all who stopped by for tea and liniment cake last week. It was nice to hear your thoughts about reading the Anne books and watching the various film adaptations.
We are pleased to announce that the person who has just won a copy of the cookbook is:
KAREN HAMMONDS of REVOLUTIONARY PIE!!
🎉 CONGRATULATIONS, KAREN! 👏
Please send along your snail mail address to receive your prize.
Thanks again, everyone, for commenting!
The lovely and talented Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting the Roundup this week. Shimmy on over to check out the full menu of delectable poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere. Enjoy your weekend!
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and join the fun!
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