A pie that reveals lost stuff: a pre Greek Easter story of lost and found

In the five months of this blog’s life, it has sort of branded itself as an all (genre) inclusive, writer-friendly place, and I never felt that random musings or personal experiences would make a good fit. Therefore, this post is an exception.

This week (the week leading to the Greek Orthodox Easter) is the most spiritually and traditionally rich time of the year. My parents have always been big on upholding tradition. The problem was that they weren’t exactly democratic as to the extent my sister and I were supposed to be involved; it had to be all the way, no questions asked, or else they’d meticulously work on our guilt complex. Of course, growing into my own skin, I soon revolted, and ever since, I retain my respect but keep my distances from traditions. One instance when I’ll consciously bring them forward is when I feel that my octagenarian parents need some soothing. And that’s what made me bake the Saint Phanourios’ pie last week.

Saint Phanourios pie

Saint Phanourios’ name means “the one who reveals” (the same etymology as “phenomenon”) and, according to the tradition, if you’ve lost something valuable and you’re in despair, all you have to do is bake his pie (which is more a cake than a pie) pray for his mother’s soul to find rest (there is no relevant evidence, but apparently she was sinful) and whatever you seek for will be revealed to you. In many occasions this has worked, but I was always skeptical, thinking that, of course, if you’ve exhausted all possible locations where you might have misplaced an item, you bake a pie, and resume searching, then the chances for the item to turn up afterwards are definitely better. Last week, though, I was forced to reconsider.

My dad is a prostate cancer patient and he has to have a very expensive shot twice a year. In spite of the recession, the state still provides for this particular shot. Last week, as he was going to visit his doctor for the shot, riding his antique motorbike (a wonderful conversation piece wherever he goes) the paper bag where he kept his insurance papers, the shot prescription with dozens of state stamps of approval, his cell phone and various documents, apparently slipped from the handle and he lost everything. No paperwork meant no shot. Reproducing it could take weeks. When I saw the state he was in, I thought he wouldn’t make it. To an eighty-six-year-old man, every little thing he owns is as valuable as a life line, not least the documentation that guaranteed his on-going treatment. Losing it equaled a small death. My sister and brother in law went out in a vain search, but I couldn’t do much as my little one was ill, plus I don’t own a car. Seeing my father white as a sheet, the only thing I thought of offering was the reassurance that I’d bake a Saint Phanourios pie, which I managed to put together in no time at all, hoping to assuage his fear.

And then, things started happening: a teenage girl called my mother, claiming to have found my dad’s cell phone. She’d gone through his contacts and located his home number. She hadn’t found anything else. My dad met up with her, got his phone back, and then together with my sister scanned the entire area, as the paperwork scattering near where the phone fell would make sense. They found nothing. When they returned empty-handed and desperate, my mom had another phone call. This time it was a man who had stopped at a red light and saw paper strewn on the street. He got off his motorcycle, thinking that someone was in need of those papers (because that’s how everybody thinks and acts, right?) picked everything up, went home, read through them, located a random phone number, called and got my dad’s home number from them. Every single item was retrieved.

Coincidence? You could say so. But check this out:Β the girl’s name was Io and the guy’s name was Ionas (both names are very rare in Greece)!! Well, I give up. The pie worked big time, and now I’m a convert.

The pie/cake is ridiculously simple to put together, delicious and also 100% vegan, so if I piqued your interest here is the recipe and the ritual:


  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup virgin olive oil
  • 750 grams (1.65 pounds) self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons cognac (brandy)
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup blonde raisins (sultanas) – roll them in flour first
  • 1 tablespoon mixed cinnamon and clove (ground)
  • icing sugar on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Mix sugar and oil well until sugar melts. Then add all ingredients apart from raisins and mix well. Add floured raisins and give batter a toss. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted at cake’s center comes out clean. Leave to cool. Sprinkle icing sugar on top if desired. Distribute to family members and pray that Saint Phanourios’ mother’s soul finds rest.

Sit back and wait.Β No, actually don’t. As with everything in life, divine intervention works best when you give a helping hand.

Happy Easter!




19 thoughts on “A pie that reveals lost stuff: a pre Greek Easter story of lost and found

    1. Go ahead! If it fails, at least you’ll have something tasty to nibble on with your coffee or tea. This tradition is also Cypriot I believe… Thanks for your comment!

  1. I admit it: I’m partial to Fanouropita (and a firm believer in St. Phanourios).

    I grew to love this pie back in Edinburgh, when we had a couple of Greeks that baked one every single Sunday, bringing it to the church to be “read” (ie the priest reads a brief Paracleses to St. Phanourios over it). It had become a sort of running joke; “what did you lose this time?” πŸ™‚ Still, I’d never heard of the prayer for his mom’s soul, fascinating.

    Anyway, Electra bakes such a mean Fanouropita (following a recipe by Mamalakis), that we often make it without even waiting to lose something!

  2. I got to say Maria, this post has to be the best I have read in this style in a long long time. I am so pleased you decided to write something like this and thank you for sharing this little gem! Please please, more of these!!!!!!! xx

    1. Thank you, Effrosyni! I’ve never kept a diary in my life, and I feel kind of awkward writing posts that read like diary entries. However, if something as extraordinary occurs, I’ll certainly share. Again, congratulations on The Necklace of Goddess Athena being shortlisted in the Indie Authorland contest!

  3. What a lovely story Maria! It restored my faith in fate, as someone who is not particularly religious but believes that some things are just meant to happen. It sounds like this was meant to be and I’m so glad your Dad was able to get sorted out with his medication and your family’s minds were put to rest.

    Also don’t be shy to share posts like this occasionally-I think people enjoy reading things like this: positive and life affirming true stories!
    Have a great day!

    1. I’m a big believer in fate, Clare! Hence the title of my upcoming novel “Fate Accomplis”:) The chain of events in this instance went beyond a mere coincidence plus it’s the right time of the year, that’s why I felt like sharing. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Hi Maria,
    I loved your post. What an uplifting story with a happy ending and I am so glad your Dad got those papers back and got his shot. Fate? Perhaps. I also have great faith in the Greeks and their kindness and ability to pull together in times of strife – helped by lovely saints of course like St Fanourios. Thanks for sharing. Must make that cake sometime!!! Chronia Polla. xx

  5. I’m sure so many of us have St. Phanourios stories – yours was especially moving and I think shows more the power of Faith than fate. Even though you baked the cake only as a gesture to calm your distraught father, even that tiny bit of Faith was enough.
    My koumbara called me one day a few months ago, crying so upset to say that she couldn’t find her daughter/my goddaughter’s baptismal cross anywhere. She’d looked all over and it was nowhere to be found. It was a valuable cross in its own right, a family heirloom and of course our little one’s baptismal cross so we were both devastated. We decided to bake fanouropitas for Sunday, brought them to church and when she got home from church later that day, my koumbara was straightening up her living room and there it was tucked between couch cushions – a place she’d looked already many times over!
    Thanks again for sharing your dad’s sweet story, Kali Dinami for him and to you all, cancer is a long, difficult path. And please post a pic of the motorbike if you get a chance πŸ™‚

    1. Kiki, I just subscribed to your awesome site! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your koumbara’s story! That was indeed an amazing find, especially since that was a place she’d already scanned! I’ll try to find you on Twitter, and I’ll send you a pic of my Dad’s motorbike πŸ™‚ Thanks again, and Kalo Pascha!

  6. This is such a great story! I love the idea of baking it for friends and family who have lost something important. I’m also going to see if I can make a gluten free version. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sally! I’m at work (and really shouldn’t be replying to your comment now πŸ™‚ but I Googled your question and came up with that:

      “The ‘cup’ refers to a measuring cup, not a coffee or tea cup. A measuring cup holds 8 fluid ounces (a measure of volume). A measuring cup is equal to 16 tablespoons – measuring tablespoons, not silverware.”

      Hope this helps!

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