Hortensia and Haroula are sunning themselves on the terrace of Dina Petsis in the village of Lia, as they watch Dina prepare the bread called "prosphora" for lunch. Dina makes the dough with yeast and flour, kneads it and punches it down and then waits for it to rise. Just before she slides it on a paddle into the bee-hive-shaped outdoor oven, she stamps the dough with a bread stamp. The square in the center presses out the letters "IC XC NIKA" which stands for "Jesus Christ Conquers".
When Dina takes the bread to church, the priest will bless it and he'll cut out the square in the middle of the bread and mix it with wine for those who take communion. The rest of the loaf may be cut up for the antidoron, which is passed out at the end of the service.
It's an honor to bake the prosphora. The cats are proud that their mistress was chosen, and that she's the best cook in the village.
They're sitting under hydrangeas - some of them planted in empty tins from feta cheese and olive oil that Dina uses in her cooking. They love watching the baking and the way the bread smells as it cooks. Greeks call the hydrangea flower "Hortensia" and that's where the cat on the left got her name. Her sister is named Haroula, which means "Little Joy". Learning to cook and eating Dina's food are some of life's many joys in Lia.
Pictures and text come from the book The Secret Life of Greek Cats: Feline Photos and Cats' Tales of Greek Life and Lore by Joan Paulson Gage.