I had intended to send a personal note to the children of my beloved friend, Angeliki Daskalakis— known since my childhood simply as “Angelikoula.”
She was my mom’s koumbara and close friend and confidant and one of the first people my mom embraced into her life when she arrived from Hania in 1962 as a married teenager to my father— a man she hardly knew who was twice her age.
Angelikoula provided familiar comfort to my mom as she hailed from Hania, as well. More specifically, she was from the village of Sternes, where my maternal grandfather came from. Who knows, they might have even been related.
But it didn’t matter— because over time, they became family. The good kind of family. The kind you can’t choose. The kind that happens magically.
Stella, Chrysoula, Katina, Argy and George— her children— were like “cousins” to me growing up and her husband Dimitri was not only our family jeweler, he was like my uncle.
We celebrated holidays with them and although lived an hour away, they were our “go-to” family that we included in our close family celebrations, funerals, weddings, baptisms and intimate gatherings.
We also made this family bond sacred by becoming “syntekni” as we say in Crete, or koumbari in the rest of Greece, when my mom baptized one of Angelikoula’s daughters.
Angelikoula was the force of that family— a quiet, humble, massive force, whose sweet voice on the other end of the phone with that slight Cretan dialect in which the “k” had a soft “ch” sound when she said words like “koulouracha” instead of Koulourakia.
Speaking of koulourakia, Angelikoula’s “ladokouloura” were the best I’ve ever tasted. She used to brings bags of these Cretan oil cookies to our house when she visited. I’d get in trouble for devouring them so quickly.
I asked her daughters to share the recipe, which they generously did. I’ve linked it here, in her own handwriting, straight from her recipe book. I’ve also included it below.
The last living visual I have of Angelikoula is from my own mother’s funeral, when she was lifted up by her family to say farewell to my mom, who was inside the coffin.
Angelikoula couldn’t walk by herself by this time— her body had been battered by decades of serious health issues that she fought with dignity.
Still, she made the trek to say goodbye to my mom and as her family lifted her up one step where the coffin lay at the foot of the church’s altar, her words— the most powerful whisper I had ever heard… “Tha se do syntoma, koumbara mou. I’ll see you soon, my koumbara.”
Even after my mother passed away, Angelikoula stayed in touch, calling me regularly to check up on me while I was undergoing chemotherapy. I actually saved one of her voice messages which I’ll cherish forever. It was typical Angelikoula. Just calling to check in and say hello. It was right around Easter of 2019.
I intentionally waited for some time to pass to write this tribute because I remember how overwhelmed I was after my own mother passed away. The onslaught of messages, phone calls, emails… It’s all just a blur now who called, who emailed, who texted… To be honest, I don’t even remember.
But I want the family to remember this tribute because as we say in the Orthodox Christian tradition, αιωνία η μνήμη is our wish for the deceased. Eternal memory.
And for those of you who didn’t know her, Angelikoula’s memory will live on— at least with her famous Ladokouloura recipe. Since it’s true what they say about things on the internet. They’re forever. And forever is exactly what my friend’s memory deserves to be.
1 cup olive oil
1 cup water lukewarm
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Juice or one lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp ammonia
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp baking soda
Flour as needed*
2 cups sesame seeds
Dilute the ammonia in the lukewarm the water.
Dilute the baking soda in the lemon juice.
Add sugar in a mixing bowl.
Add cinnamon and cloves and mix well.
Add olive oil, water-ammonia mixture and the lemon-baking soda mixture. Mix well.
Begin adding flour and mix until hand kneading is necessary to create a pliable cookie dough.
Boil sesame seeds in enough water to cover them. Boil for one minute. Drain water.
Lay sesame seeds in a flat pan and begin rolling Koulourakia to cover completely with the sesame seeds.
Place in pan and bake on medium heat until brown.
*Some notes on the recipe: I remember growing up that Greek olive oil was hard to come by in Pittsburgh. We didn’t have the luxury of imported Greek food products the way we do today. As a result, many Greek women (my mother included) used Mazola corn oil instead. As you will see in Angelikoula’s recipe for Ladokouloura,, she uses Mazola corn oil. Naturally, since olive oil is much more available these days and since olive oil was the oil used in these recipes in Crete, the “cup of Mazola” should be replaced with olive oil.
Print a PDF of Angeliki’s recipe in her own handwriting. Click here.
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