Do you remember your first sip of coffee?


Do you remember your first sip of coffee? I do.

It was 1997, give or take a year. I was spinning round, round, round on a wooden stool in my grandmother's kitchen – you can call her yia yia – catching flashes of the television before slowing to a stop. Chatter, erm, maybe that was gossip, filled the kitchen, only to be broken with laughter and the occasional slurp of a mug. 

Most Sundays were spent here. Yia yia and the rest of the "grown ups" would sit around a glass table long after dinner had ended; sometimes there was Uno, frequently there was a "scata," or another relevant expletive, but there was always coffee.

My cousins and I occupied different real estate, lining the kitchen countertop picking at hilopites while we (im)patiently waited for the main attraction: cookies. One Sunday, as yia yia rummaged through Tupperware housing melomakarona, kourabiedes, and koulourakia – my personal favorite – she poured each of us a mini mug of coffee. 

"Here," she slid the mugs across granite, "dip."

One by one cookies plunged into piping hot coffee, like synchronized swimmers diving into a routine. The verdict was in: cookies? Good. Coffee? Well, it would take a few more tries before that would stick. 


Today I'm sitting at the same countertop. The same photographs are lining walls and ledges. The same smell wafts through the home – yia yia's home. The wooden chair is still there, only it's shorter now; Papou trimmed the legs so it would be the perfect height for mixing cookie dough. 

"Flour," yia yia commands. 

"How much more, yia yia?" 

"Eh, you'll know." It was a quintessential yia yia response. No recipe can tell you. No measurement can suffice. You'll know when you know. 

"Neh, neh." Yes, yes. 

A roll. A twist. No, not like that, like this.

Trays upon trays fill the kitchen as yia yia reminisces on years spent doing these same rolls and twists, until finally, we stop to review our work. 

"See! Who said you cannot make koulourakia?" 

Eighteen to twenty minutes later, the same familiar smell filled the kitchen. I slid my mug across granite, cookie plunging into coffee like synchronized swimmers diving into a routine. The verdict was in: cookies? Good. Coffee? It finally stuck. 


Yia Yia's Koulourakia Recipe (Makes Roughy 83,977 Cookies – Kidding.)

12 egg yolks
3 c. sugar
1/2 c. orange juice
1 lb. butter (room temp)
1 tsp. baking soda
5 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. Metaxa
Enough flour to make a soft dough

Beat butter until light and fluffy in a mixer. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together, then fold into whipped butter mixture (let it whip for about 30-45 minutes). Stir baking soda into orange juice and beat into the mixture together with Metaxa. Sift baking powder into part of the flour, and, in a large bowl, combine the mixture and flour. Continue adding flour to make a soft dough that does not stick to your fingers. Mold small amounts of the dough into circles (or twists), top with a brush of egg yolks, then bake at 360* for about 20 minutes (or until light brown in color).



Ellie Eckert