Agios Fanourious. Who?
Ok, probably this is the first time you hear of this man, St. Fanourious, the Greek patron saint of lost things.
After stumbling across your lost object, now you have to bake a bread, more precisely a fanouropita, a traditional Greek cake.
Well, actually locals often use the words “bread” and “cake” interchangeably, because the suffix “pita” can describe both, but this is no a regular baked good, as members of the Greek Orthodox church bake fanouropita after successfully praying to Agios Fanourious for the return of a lost item.
And, interestingly enough, on both sides of the Atlantic, Greeks and Greek Americans regularly bake this cake after finding everything from lost wedding rings to family pets or something else.
The tradition dates back centuries, and Fanourious is a saint and martyr associated with the Greek island of Rhodes.
According to the legend, a perfectly preserved painted icon, depicting a Christian youth and 12 scenes of his torture by Roman authorities, was found in a Rhodes church around the year 1500, even if another version claims that the icon was discovered in Cyprus and not in Rhodes.
In any case, and not by chance, his name means “to reveal,” hence his association with the discovery of all that is lost, while the cake is sometimes said to be prepared in honor of his mother, a cruel, sinful woman, a “lost” soul that her son sought to save.
This is a spiced cake, often studded with nuts, raisins, or both, and It’s always, as referred to in the church, “Lenten”, meaning that it can be eaten also on holy fast days because it doesn’t contain eggs or dairy.
Even if there are several variations, in general, the recipe is olive oil-based, scented with orange juice and spices like cloves and cinnamon, then dusted with confectioners’ sugar to serve.
The number of ingredients also matters and, depending on who you ask, people claim it should be seven, nine, or other numbers significant in the church, with some people also say you should serve it to seven people as well.
Nothing strange, as It’s not uncommon in Greek baking for cakes and breads to take on a sort of mythical symbolism.
Other popular examples associated with saints are the vasilopita, a cake made in honor of Agios Vasilios (Saint Basil) that’s served on New Year’s and Epiphany and contains a coin that will bring good luck to the recipient all year, or prosphora, the communion bread that becomes the body of Christ during Divine Liturgy services.
But no cake or bread has quite the same practical usage as our fanouropita.
Many people, in fact, find praying to Fanourious an opportunity to calm their mind and focus, prompting them to consciously or subconsciously remember what happened to the lost item and where it could be.
In certain areas of Greece, including Crete, Cyprus, Skiathos, and Florina, it is baked even as a prayer for unwed girls to find a husband, and sometimes it is said that sleeping with a slice under your pillow will induce a dream of your future spouse, but Fanourious is also said helps people to find the strength to overcome hardship.
August 27 is the saint’s name day, and it is traditional for parishioners to bake a cake and bring it to church to be blessed by the priest.
However, personally, I believe in the divine power of cakes.
Recently, I lost my ID.
After looking for it everywhere, and after getting in touch with this story, I tried to pray and, a couple of days later, while moving out for the hospital, I found it lying peacefully on the floorboards, staring up at me.
And, of coursem I baked a fanouropita!
Below the recipe I used:
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
100g neutral oil
110g chopped walnuts
Confectioners’ sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a round cake pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, water, orange juice, and sugar.
Pour the ingredients together and whisk gently, just until combined. Fold in the walnuts.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown, or when a wooden toothpick poked into it comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve and enjoy!
Images from web – Google Research