Monthly Archives: September 2014

Marie Curie, Reluctant Feminist?

Marie Curie, Reluctant Feminist?
Marie Curie

Marie Curie in her lab

When the World’s Fair opened in 1899, the Eiffel Tower stood at its entrance announcing peace and prosperity for France. This was the Belle Époque Era when the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, literature, and filmmaking prospered.

Marya Sklodowska arrived from Poland during this period of creativity and scientific and technological innovation.

She was born in Warsaw in 1867 during the Russian occupation of Poland. She was the youngest in a family that included four sisters and one brother. Her parents were Polish patriots and teachers who encouraged their children’s academic studies. When Marya was 11, her oldest sister of died of typhus and a shortly after, her mother died of tuberculosis.

Marya became depressed after her mother’s death but managed to attend the Floating University, a secret school unknown to the Russian government. The Floating University allowed women to study unlike many European universities like Warsaw University. When she was 17, Marya left home to work as a governess, supporting her sister financially through medical school. But after a failed romance with the oldest son of the household, she left Poland for Paris.

Marya was one of 23 female students in a student body of 1800 studying at the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne. She lived during a time in history when few women attended high school let alone college. Marya lived in a garret that was very cold in the winter and studied so hard that she sometimes fainted because she forgot or couldn’t afford to eat.

In spite of the fact that she was poor, she grew to love Paris and all it had to offer. She changed her name to Marie.

She met Pierre Curie when she asked for space in his laboratory so she could study the magnetic properties of steel. They fell in love and married, forming a scientific partnership.

Marie continued her research influenced by Henri Becquerel who developed the x-ray and Wilhelm Roentgen who discovered that the x-ray could travel through the human body and be used to take pictures of human bones. Marie used their ideas as the basis of her doctorate.

Marie Curie  achieved many “firsts” in fields dominated by men. For starters, she became the first woman in France to earn a doctorate. (Later, she became the first woman whose daughter also became a Nobel Prize recipient.)

France became her adopted country but many Frenchmen disliked foreigners and Marie Curie was often the object of their hatred. Many fellow scientists resented the fact that Marie was a prominent scientist and she often had to defend herself against their attacks. Hers was like the life of the modern woman we know today yet Marie Curie didn’t see herself as a role model for other women. She was not a suffragette or a pioneer for women’s rights although she once signed a petition protesting the arrest of certain leaders of the movement.

Perhaps she was not consciously a feminist but much of what she accomplished indicated otherwise. She never sought to “succeed in a male-dominated arena” according to her granddaughter. Rather “she simply loved science above everything else.” (Emling, pp. xi, Marie Curie and Her Daughters)

Although her research consumed her time and despite poor health, Marie gave birth to two daughters, Eve and Irene. She juggled motherhood and her career. “I have been frequently questioned especially by women, how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy,” she once said. (Redneiss, pp. 76, Radioactive)

In 1903, she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics which she shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel. She was not invited to speak at the acceptance ceremony because she was a woman.

Science was her passion. Marie discovered that radiation came from the interior of an atom. She called her discovery radioactivity. Radioactivity occurs when some types of matter give off rays of energy. She also discovered two new elements, polonium (named after the country of her birth) and radium.

One Thursday in 1906, Pierre Curie, limping in pain, was hit by a carriage while crossing the Pont Neuf and died. Years later, there was speculation that the limp was result of exposure to radiation.

After his death, the Sorbonne asked Marie to assume Pierre’s place as professor. She became the first woman to teach there, a position she accepted because she needed a paycheck to raise her daughters. Marie continued Pierre’s research on radiation and gravity and radiation’s effects on various substances. She also established a lab in honor of Pierre’s memory at the university.

Four years after Pierre’s death, she began an affair with Paul Langevin, a family friend and former student of Pierre’s. Unhappily married, Langevin’s wife made the affair public on Nov.4, 1910, while Marie and Langevin attended the International Solway Conference in Belgium. Three days after the conference, the Nobel committee announced that she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering new elements and separating a sample of radium. She was the first woman to win a second Nobel Prize in a second field.

The  press in France scorned and criticized Marie once the affair with Langevin became public knowledge. They more interested in her private life than in her accomplishments. The French were not alone in their hostility. Before the acceptance ceremony, several Nobel committee members asked Marie to avoid attending the ceremony and embarrassing the Royal family of Sweden and the Nobel Committee.

On Dec. 5th, Marie wrote to the Nobel committee: “The steps that you advise seem to me a grave error…There is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of a private life.” (Pp.134. Redniss) Marie accepted in person anyway. The affair with Langevin was over by then.

Many believed that the press and others criticized Marie because she was a woman. Her friend Marguerite Borel noted that “none of this would have happened if Marie were a man.” (Pp.9 Emiling, Marie Curie and her Daughters.)

When Marie returned to Paris from Sweden, she entered the Family of Saint Marie convent where doctors operated to remove lesions from her kidneys. She lost weight and wrote her will. Lingering rumors and the need to recuperate, compelled her to leave Paris for the countryside and later, the south of England.

World War I broke out in 1914. She returned to France and established military field radiological (x-ray) centers for wounded French soldiers. She converted her savings into war bonds and managed to take her radium supply to Bordeaux where the French government had established itself in exile.

After the war, she worked for the Radium Institute studying the uses of radioactivity in medicine. Pierre Curie had guessed that radium could be used to treat cancer but after his death, scientists found out that too much radioactivity could cause cancer, too.

On a visit to America, the reluctant feminist became aware of her influence when she met young women who aspired to study math and science. She also achieved her goal for coming to the United States: she was given a gram of radium bought by donations from Americans from all walks of life. She also raised funds to set up research and treatment centers at the Radium Institutes of Paris and Warsaw. In 1922, she was the first woman elected to the Academy of Medicine.

For most of her life, her love of science made her oblivious to the effects of radiation on her health. Doctors and others began to realize that radiation could do bad as well as good to the human body but Marie Curie refused to accept the facts. She never stopped working until the end when she felt so ill that she finally agreed to enter a clinic.

Marie Curie died there on July 4, 1934 of “aplastic pernicious anemia.”

ADDITIONAL FACTS: Pierre and Marie Curie were laid in the Pantheon in Paris. The Pantheon is a mausoleum which also houses the remains of Voltaire, Zola, Rousseau, Hugo and Langevin. Marie is the only woman interred in the Pantheon based on her own merits. The Bibliotheque Nationale continues to store the Curie’s laboratory notebooks where they are still radioactive 100 years later. Stamps and coins the world over feature their profiles and countless schools, streets, subway stops and even holidays bear the Curie name. There is even a Marie Curie crater on Mars and the Asteroid 7000 Curie orbits inside the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MARIE CURIE: Emiling, Shelley. Marie Curie and Her Daughters. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Lin, Yoming S. The Curies and Radioactivity. NY: PowerKids Press, 2012 Meltzer, Brad. Heroes for My Daughter. NY: Forty-Four Steps, 2012 Redniss, Lauren. Radioactive. NY: It Books, 2012 ART PROJECT:

WYCINANKI: POLISH CUT-OUTS

Paper Cut-out: Heart

Wycinanki or Paper Cut-out: Heart

Wycinanki is a craft popular in Poland. The complex designs, cut out of thin paper, included plants, animals and people. When completed, the cut-outs looked like delicate lace. Traditionally, women and children made the paper cut-outs in the spring when the walls of homes were freshly white-washed. They would then glue the wycinanki high on the wall where it met the ceiling.

Pattern: Heart for Paper Cut-out

Wycinanki are still popular today and made for the tourist trade and collectors.

Materials: Pattern for the heart cut-out

Colored paper – light-weight is best

Soft pencil like a No. 2 or an HB pencil

Paper clips

Embroidery scissors

Masking tape

Tracing paper

Spray adhesive or glue stick

  1. Anchor the pattern on a flat surface with masking tape.
  2. Place tracing paper over the pattern; tape the corners of the paper down and trace the design carefully.
  3. Measure the design. Double the size. Measure and cut the colored paper to that size and fold the paper in half.
  4. Flip the tracing paper and blacken the back of it with the pencil. Wash your hands of pencil smears.
  5. Flip the tracing paper again so that the original tracing is on top. Place it on the colored paper. Align the fold of the colored paper and the left side of the design. (See diagram above.) Tape all four sides of the tracing and colored paper on the board. Or clip everything together with paper clips. Maintain margins of about ½” on the other three sides.
  6. Trace again and press hard so that the lines of the design show on the colored paper.
  7. Remove tracing paper. Clip or tape the sides of the folded paper and cut. Look at the design carefully when cutting.
  8. Carefully unfold the wycinanki and press it as flat as possible. Using spray adhesive or glue sticks, mount the cut out on a piece of contrasting colored paper. Frame it and hang it in your room.

Below is a Wycinanki for advanced cut-out artists with pattern:

Traditional Wycinanki

Traditional Wycinanki – for advanced paper cut-out artists

Paper Cut-out Pattern

Wycinanki Pattern

 

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Autumn Votive Candle Holder

Autumn Votive Candle Holder

 

Autumn Votive Craft

Autumn Votive Craft

Welcome the fall season with a fun craft project! Use the Autumn Votive Candle Holder as a decoration for autumn or Halloween or Thanksgiving! Super easy and cheap to make too!

 

Materials:

Large clear vase with a neck (See photo)

*Pine cones in different sizes

Strand of beads in various colors (sample in photo utilizes gold, black and red)

Small votive/candle holder (make sure that fits into the opening of the vase)

Small candle that fits into the votive holder or tea light; use autumn fragrances, of course

*Apples and pears

Artificial leaves in various colors

Potpourri in fall fragrances and colors

Candle for votive or candle holder

Optional: Ribbon (the size of the neck of the vase determines the width of the ribbon) in orange, brown, dark red, green, gold or dark yellow

*Craft and dollar stores sell real or artificial pine cones and similar fall items.

 

1. Wash and dry the vase and candle holder/votive so that they shine. Refer to the photo of the finished craft if necessary. You will be layering the objects listed above in the vase.

2. Fill about a half to an inch of the bottom of the vase with potpourri. Leave room for the other objects.

3. Let the shape of the vase dictate where and how to place the pine cones, apples and pears.

If the vase is narrow at the bottom, and widens just below the neck, place the small ones first. Don’t fill up more than a half to one inch of the vase with apples, pears and pine cones. Mix everything with your hand

4. Intertwine one strand of beads.

5. Add some leaves and potpourri. Mix again.

6. Place the larger pine cones, apples and pears next and then intertwine another strand of beads.

4. Finally, arrange the medium objects on top. Add the last strand of pearls and a handful of leaves and finish with potpourri. Mix. Make sure there is enough room for the candle holder/votive which should protrude above the neck of the vase just enough so that it is noticeable.

5. Optional: Tie a bow around the neck of the vase

Variations:

Substitute for the vase:

Tiny pumpkins or squash

Twigs

Small pieces of artificial straw of grass

Fall or Halloween stickers; place randomly on the outside of the vase

Mix it up!

Substitute for the candle:

Fall flower buds

Tiny beads in fall colors

Colored water

 

 

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The Early Life of Alexander the Great

The Early Life of Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, in the city-state of Macedonia on July 20, 356 BC and died under mysterious circumstances in 323 BC in Babylon.

Alexander was the product of a dysfunctional family. His father was King Phillip of Macedonia. His mother was Olympias, daughter of the King of Epirus, a city-state in northern Greece. She was a beautiful eccentric woman who did odd things like worship snakes. She also sought power in her own right and was willing to use her son to get it. Olympias would tell Alexander that the great warrior Achilles who died fighting in the Trojan War was his ancestor and Alexander believed her.

His parents’ conflicts with each other placed a strain on Alexander and taxed his loyalties. Alexander was a mama’s boy yet he was also influenced by his father who was a brilliant warrior, scholar and statesman.

Alexander showed his genius at a very early age so Phillip hired the best teachers to tutor him. Leonidas, a relative of Olympias’, taught Alexander, who was a natural athlete, physical endurance. Lysimachus taught him reading and writing. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught Alexander a love for the Greek playwrights, law, medicine, natural and physical science, philosophy, and more importantly, how to think critically.

When Alexander was ten, Phillip took him to see war horses offered for sale. One particular horse was very wild and his owner wanted a lot of money for him. Phillip was furious that anyone would think he would want to buy such a horse but Alexander was confident that he could tame it.

Alexander noticed that the animal was afraid of his own shadow. He took the bridle and turned the horse to face the sun. He stroked it to calm its fears, mounted it and rode the horse down the length of the field. Phillip and the owner looked on nervously until Alexander and the horse returned.

“My boy,” Phillip said, “you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you.” Alexander named the horse Bucephalus (“Ox head”) and Alexander rode him through most of his military campaigns. Bucephalus became one of Alexander’s best friends.

When Alexander was sixteen, Phillip appointed him as regent in his absence. During this time, Phillip and the Macedonian army fought one Greek city-state after the other. When Phillip’s attempts to defeat the rebellious cities in southern Thrace were not doing well, he summoned Alexander who successfully beat them. Phillip’s confidence in his son’s abilities grew so much that he sent Alexander back to Macedonia to continue to rule as regent.

But Alexander never stopped aiding his father in his campaign to conquer Greece. Phillip, emboldened by his victories, marched south toward his last opponent, Athens. Phillip extended an offer of peace to the city. The city rejected the offer. The two armies squared off. Although their armies were equal in strength, the Greeks had no important generals. Macedonia had Phillip and Alexander. Phillip divided his army into three sections with Alexander on his left and the Macedonian army on his right; in the center were his allies. The formation worked and Alexander and Phillip marched into Athens victorious.

Thus in 338 BC, Phillip achieved his dream of conquering Greece with the help of his eighteen-year-old son. But Phillip’s victory celebration wouldn’t last long. Shortly after his conquest of Greece, he married a Macedonian noble woman named Cleopatra. (Phillip had many wives in addition to Olympias.) This caused a rift in Alexander’s relationship with Phillip. When Cleopatra gave birth to a son, Caranus, Alexander felt even more isolated from his father.

Phillip’s next goal was to conquer Persia. He sent his generals ahead to plan this next invasion while he celebrated the wedding of Alexander’s sister. But on the second day of the wedding festivities, a Macedonian nobleman, Pausanias, murdered Phillip. Alexander inherited the throne as his father’s rightful heir but he first eliminated anyone who posed a threat to him including Caranus.

These events molded Alexander’s later life and character. They lay the ground work for his later leadership of Greece and his conquest of the known world. His greatest battles lay ahead.  

To read more about Alexander:

Doherty, Paul. The Death of Alexander the Great. Carroll and Graf Publishers, NY, 2004.

Hammond, N. G. L. The Genius of Alexander the Great. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1997.

Lamb, Harold. Alexander of Macedon, The Journey to the World’s End. Doubleday and Company, Garden City, NY, 1946.

Macdonald, Fiona. The World in the time of Alexander the Great. Chelsea House Publishers, London, 2001. ,

Tsouras, Pete G. Alexander, Invincible King of Macedonia. Brassey’s, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2004

 

ART PROJECT

Alexander the Great of Macedonia and Greece

Alexander the Great of Macedonia and Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the few known images of Alexander the Great is his profile on a gold coin. Other images include statues, busts and mosaics. Do you think those images are correct? What do you think he really looked like? Use a search engine to see the existing images of him and draw a portrait of him.

For more help in drawing faces, here are links with tutorials on drawing faces:

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The Life and Death of Joan of Arc

The Life and Death of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc grew up during a difficult time in French history. The Hundred Year’s War with England, which began in 1337 as a dispute over the French throne, destroyed the country’s economy. England occupied much of France and the part it didn’t occupy was frequently at war.

Joan was born in Domremy, France in 1412. She was one of five children. Her parents, Jacques D’Arc and Isabelle Romee, were peasants who owned a 50-acre farm. Her father was also a minor official who collected taxes and headed the local watch.

Life for Joan followed the same pattern as that of her parents and grandparents. The center of that life revolved around hard work, family and the Roman Catholic church.  Society expected young women to marry but Joan had resisted her parents’ attempts to arrange a marriage for her when she was sixteen.

Joan was about twelve-years old when she started to hear voices. These voices instructed her to defeat the English army and crown Charles VII king. After the death of his father and four brothers, Charles, known as the Dauphin, became the uncrowned king of France. By this time Joan was sixteen. French tradition dictated that the King of France be crowned at the Cathedral of Reims but the English occupied Reims. Charles and his court, instead, lived in Chinon, located 226 miles away.

Joan asked her cousin, Durand Lassois, to escort her to nearby Vaucouleurs so she could ask the garrison commander, Count Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to visit the French court at Chinon. Single young women like Joan were not allowed to travel alone. The count said no. The next January, she had a second interview with Baudricourt where she made a remarkable prediction about a military victory in Orléans.

When news from the front confirmed her prediction, Baudricourt provided her with an escort to visit Chinon. She traveled through hostile territory in male disguise. When she arrived at the royal court she impressed Charles VII during a private meeting revealing something to him that no one else could know.

Charles granted Joan permission to travel with the army and wear the armor and carry the equipment that knights carried.

Her habits as a soldier were eccentric. Once she became a French soldier, Joan no longer wore dresses. She decided she was too young to marry and would stay a virgin, calling herself The Maid or Jehanne la Pucelle. On the battlefield, Joan ate very little food and her periods stopped.

Joan didn’t care that no one understood her because she had a single vision: to crown the Dauphin king of France.

Joan led the army at Orléans riding a white horse and carrying her personal banner decorated with the fleur-de-lis*. Joan never used her sword which she found at the shrine of St. Catherine, and didn’t wear a helmet. She hated killing and instead preferred to encourage the soldiers to fight hard.

The English army surrounded Orléans. The only way into the city was across the Loire River and through a gate in the wall of the fortress. Joan sustained a wound in Orléans but she stayed on the battle field. This act inspired the French army and after an all-out attack, Orléans was finally in French hands.

Joan tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Dauphin to go to Reims for his coronation as King of France. Hoping to influence him, Joan fought a series of battles around Reims which she won and he was finally persuaded. Charles wore gold robes to his coronation at the beautiful Cathedral as the crowds outside cheered. Joan stood next to him wearing her armor and carrying her banner.

But Joan’s work was not finished.

Joan asked the king permission to capture Paris next but King Charles preferred to negotiate a compromise with the English. Disheartened, Joan stopped listening to her voices. She lost one battle after the other even breaking the sword of St. Catherine.

The King again declared that he wanted to make a truce with England and disbanded the army. According to her voices, Joan only had a year to save France.

In the spring of 1430, Joan defiantly moved the fighting north. Joan marched on to Compeigne but the battle there did not go well. Her soldiers fled and enemy soldiers captured Joan.

The French people begged the King to pay for her ransom but Charles refused.

Her English captors charged Joan with the crimes of witchcraft and heresy, punishable by burning at the stake. The English moved Joan to a prison in Rouen, the center of English power in France. They shackled her and guarded her day and night.

Joan’s trial was held at the Great Justice Hall at Rouen. One of the 200 judges facing her questioned why she wore men’s clothing. Joan responded that it was for her safety, and that it was better if the soldiers didn’t think of her as a woman.

“Besides,” she added, “my voices commanded it.”

Another judge asked why saints would speak to an illiterate peasant girl. These voices must surely come from the devil. Joan insisted that they were heavenly because they brought her comfort and courage. The judges were furious at her stubbornness and threatened her with torture and death.

Joan eventually broke down under the pressure and confessed that her voices were from the devil. She expected her captors to free her if she signed the confession but was disheartened when she found out that her punishment would be life imprisonment. The soldiers shaved off her hair and forced her to wear a dress.

Her voices told her how wrong she had been to confess a lie. So Joan tore off her dress and put on the boys’ clothes that had been left in her cell. This action guaranteed that Joan would be burned at the stake. The head judge visited her in prison when he learned about what she had done. Joan admitted that she had signed the confession out of fear and that her voices really had been from God.

On May 30, 1431, ten thousand people watched in silence as the soldiers tied Joan to the stake. A kind English soldier gave her a crude cross made of two sticks which Joan stuck inside her dress. Then the fire was lit, quickly engulfing her. Joan called out, “Jesus! Jesus!” Nineteen-year-old Joan of Arc was dead within minutes.

After Joan’s death, the English began to lose ground on the battlefield and eventually, lost all their French possessions. Later, a guilt-ridden Charles sent for a copy of Joan’s trial. When he saw how one-sided it had been, he ordered a re-trial. The church cleared Joan of witchcraft and heresy.

In 1920, the Pope decreed Joan of Arc a saint of the Catholic Church.

* The fleur-de-lis or “flower of the lily” is a symbol used in heraldry.

* Don’t forget to do the art project below!

To learn more about Joan of Arc:

___________ Medieval World, Vol. 5 House and Home, Joan of Arc. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 2000

Bull, Angela, Joan of Arc. NY: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc. 2000.

Fraioli, Deborah. A. Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005.

Spoto, Donald. Joan: the Mysterious Life of the Heretic who became a Saint. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007

Tompert, Ann. Joan of Arc: Heroine of France. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2003.

 

ART PROJECT

JOAN OF ARC BANNER

Fleur de lis

“I loved my banner forty times better than my sword.” Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc’s banner depicted a fleur-de-lis pattern. The standard was made of white boucassin which is a material similar to bucrum, and fringed in silk. The words “Jesus Maria” were written on it. Banners come in three shapes: banner, standard and pennon. Joan of Arc’s banner was a standard banner. Refer to the photographs below.

Banner with fleur de lis design

Banner with fleur de lis design

Materials:

Paper such as sketch paper, bond paper, watercolor paper (any size)

Watercolors

Water/container for water/soft bristle brushes

Colored pencils

Markers

Pastels

Dowel rod

 

1) Joan of Arc’s banner symbolized the fight of the French people for their country’s independence from British rule. Make your own banner design for your team, school, scout troop or club.

2) Utilize designs that symbolize your team, troop, etc. Go to  a search engine like Google or Yahoo and research banner shapes. Decide if the banner will be a pennon, banner or standard and draw an outline first.

3) Draw the designs on the banner and color it  using any combination of materials.

 

For more information on fleur-de-lis designs:

http://www.shutterstock.com/s/fleur-de-lis/search.html

http://www.canstockphoto.com/illustration/fleur-de-lis.html

http://www.sharefaith.com/category/fleur-d-lis.html

http://www.thegrahicsfairy.com/vintage-clip-art-feur-d-lis-3-options

 

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A Restaurant Called Athens (as in Athens, Greece) by Jenny Lis

A Restaurant Called Athens (as in Athens, Greece) by Jenny Lis

 

A Restaurant Called Athens

A Restaurant called Athens

It’s a small diner across from Wal-Mart in North Versailles, Pennsylvania. www.nvtpa.com

Blue tables, white walls (except for the large hand-painted mural of the Acropolis on one wall). No hostess, no wait staff, just the man in the kitchen.

Customers gathered around the counter, bantering with the cook/owner. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, so I helped myself to a menu and sat down at one of the blue tables.

After a few minutes I walked up to the counter and just stood and watched him.  Middle-aged, grizzled, his accent thick but charming. He was alone in the kitchen, but he kept all the orders straight and the food coming.

“What you want?”

“I want to eat!”  I grinned.

He was busy dressing pitas (“Seven-inch, not six-inch like everyone else!”) with creamy cucumber dressing, red onion shavings, lettuce and tomatoes. Then he picked up an aluminum shaker, thumped it on the cutting board and sprinkled the contents over the tomato.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Secret seasoning,” he smiled.

I watched as he sliced some gyro meat, browned it on the grill and placed it on top of the tomato. He wrapped the folded bread in foil, expertly twisted the bottom tightly closed and placed it on a china plate. Then he turned and pulled out a fryer basket. The secret seasoning went on to the fries along with a generous shake of salt.

“Secret seasoning on the fries, too?”

“Best fries you will ever eat.”  He set some napkins on the counter. “Here, you taste the best fries.”  He carefully placed a tongs-full on the napkins.

They were lightly browned, hot and fresh and fragrant with—

“Don’t ask me what is there!” He was angry. “Everyone wants to know what took me 25 years to make. My one big mistake was telling my tzatiki recipe and this one.”

I backed off. I am always open-handed with sharing my recipes but this was an entrepreneur. He was making his livelihood with his unique products. I had crossed a boundary.

“Everyone needs to have his own secrets,” I murmured. A minute or two of silence, watching him work. “Where are you from?”

“Athens.” Still a little curt, a little hurt. “You want feta on your gyro?”

“I love feta.” I watched as he went through the practiced motions. Then he added the fries to the plate and handed it to me with a flourish.

“You want something to drink? Just get it out of the cooler.” I turned and grabbed a can of Sprite and went back to my table.

I picked up the sandwich. But I couldn’t resist the fries while they were still piping hot and yes, quite fragrant. I finally picked up my 7-inch pita, rolled down the foil cuff and took a bite. Real meat, hot and a little crispy around the edges, cooled by the cucumber sauce. I let myself slide between all those layers of flavors and textures.

When I finally came up for air, I had a grin on my face. And there was still a lot of sandwich left over. This is a handheld meal, a man-sized gyro all for only $7.99.

I’ll be back. There is a lot to try and I’m starting to feel adventuresome.

General Info:

Athens Restaurant 1756 Greensburg Ave. North Versailles, Pennsylvania 15137 412 729 3398; 412 646 4132

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm; Sunday11:00 am- 8:00 pm Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Serving the finest in Greek Cuisine! * Gyros * Greek Omelets * Appetizers * Soups and Salads * Sandwiches * Pizza * Desserts * Authentic Greek Buffet Every Saturday

Payment method:  amex, discover, master card, visa (Beware: during my visit, his card reader wasn’t working and he could only take cash—no personal checks)

 

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