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Learning the economics of dough
January 26, 2011
St. Olaf students taking Classical Studies in Greece are seeing firsthand how reverence for tradition, along with a desire to innovate, has shaped Greek art, architecture, lifestyles, and literature. Case in point was a recent visit to watch George Sakellarakis (at right) make phyllo dough by hand in Rethymnon on the island of Crete, in one of the last remaining handmade factories. “When the artisan ‘Mr. George’ dies, the trade dies with him,” says Associate Professor of History Timothy Howe, who is leading the group.
The students are visiting Greece at an interesting time, explains Howe, with the current economic crisis having put the country at a “cultural crossroads between pragmatism and preservation.” Products like handmade phyllo, for example, are coming to be seen as a luxury by many consumers.
“By comparing and contrasting Greek culture across time, students have the opportunity to see for themselves how humans balance the competing needs to preserve and innovate,” says Howe. “At the moment pragmatism seems to be winning.”
The 600 students currently studying abroad on a variety of programs soon will return to campus for the start of second semester.