The story behind Mia Kouppa


If you cross the Harvard Bridge in Boston and happen to be with a tour guide, you will learn that in the late 1950’s MIT student Oliver Smoots came up with a unique unit of measure as part of a fraternity pledge. By lying head to toe across the bridge, Oliver determined that its length was 364.4 Smoots. Interesting…but pretty useless, because unless you can express Oliver’s height in a language we all understand, it’s hard to know how long the bridge actually is. This is the premise behind Mia Kouppa.

You see, we have spent years trying to replicate the delicious Greek foods coming out of our parents’ kitchen. Although we have had some successes, most attempts fall short. The difficulty is that recipe giving in our family is an oral tradition, not a clearly documented sharing of ingredients and directions. And this oral tradition is fraught with challenges because our parents don’t measure anything. Correction…they measure lots of things, but they do so by plucking a coffee cup out of their cupboard and using that. “Mia kouppa” literally translates into “one cup”, and it is the most often heard phrase in our parents’ Greek kitchen.

Our mom, the eldest of 4 children and many cousins (all of whom lived under the same roof), learned how to cook at a young age, spending hours in the kitchen with her mother and aunt. She watched and learned as they prepared simple, frugal and wholesome meals for the many mouths they were responsible for feeding. When married, our parents continued to cook together in this way. There are no recipe books. There are no measuring cups, spoons or scales. There is practice, intuition and natural instinct. Lovely, but like the Smoot, not very helpful.

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Random units of measure are not the providence of our parents alone. “Mia kouppa” seems to be very popular in most Greek kitchens. Similarly, we have heard people of all backgrounds lament the fact that their parents and grandparents can’t share a recipe without making reference to using “a plate of this” or “a soup can of that”, or other amusing but entirely unhelpful instructions.  So, Mia Kouppa is our attempt to demystify these vague units of measure; to standardize them so that one metric cup actually equals 250 ml, no matter whose kitchen you are in. We cook with our parents, jotting down notes, taking photos and videos, and chasing after them with proper measuring instruments so that their delicious offerings can be re-created easily by us…and you.

You’re welcome,

Helen and Billie