Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guest Post Day: Vera Marie Badertscher of A Traveler's Library

Most days I can be found blogging about books or movies that inform and inspire travel at A Traveler's Library. That's why I was delighted when Sue invited me to guest post on a blog mostly about food. Besides my passion for travel and reading, I love to cook.

Some cookbooks go beyond just making you hungry. That, in my opinion, is something every great cookbook should do--make you drool. Give me clear instructions, a good index, and mouth-watering recipes and I'm hooked.

Aglaia Kremezi does all of that in spades with her first book, The Foods of Greece (1993). And what's more she lures you to travel to my favorite destination, Greece. When she wrote this book she lived on a different island, with a different mate, than now. Presently, she lives on a small island in the northern reaches of the Aegean--not far from Athens--called Kea.

A journalist and photographer for many years, she now also teaches cooking classes and continues to publish articles and cookbooks for Greek readers and for English readers. She has written four more books in English since I bought The Foods of Greece, the latest, Mediterranean Hot and Spicy, published just this month. Corby Kummer, who frequently writes about food for The Atlantic, says that her fourth book, Foods of the Greek Islands (2000), is "on the short list of books every cook should own."

Kummer had this to say in The Atlantic after his experience in Kremezi's cooking class on Kea: " . . . the logic of cooking vacations [is that they] put you in literal touch with another culture and make you want to try things, once you see up close how easy and sensible they are. Aglaia Kremezi and Costas Moraitis offer cooking courses . . . that are true vacations. The couple welcomes and entertains students, making them feel like friends . . . In just a few days, students come to understand Kremezi and Moraitis’s love of the island and what grows there."

Foods of Greece starts with an introduction to island life as it relates to food and a history of Greek cooking. Next we are introduced to key ingredients--olives and olive oil in all their varieties, yogurt, cheeses, tomatoes. Kremezi also talks about the essential herbs and spices and the wines and distilled liquors of Greece, like the distinctive, anise-flavored ouzo.Then the recipes, followed by hints on where to obtain hard-to-find ingredients, and a well-done index.

The photographs in the book not only show what the simple dishes should look like, the setting of each photo portrays a place you will want to visit. A meal sits on a rock overlooking the Parthenon in Athens; fish soup steams away on a terrace beside the fishing port at the island of Hydra. Several lenten dishes surrounded by gorgeous red tomatoes tempt from a cliff amongst the cliff-clinging monasteries of Meteora. Sigh!

I want to go back to see again all the Greek landscapes that I have visited, and seek out those I have not yet been to. And while I'd prefer to sip my ouzo overlooking the caldera at Santorini, or eat my lamb stew at some mountainside taverna,I can at least retreat to my kitchen with The Foods of Greece and cook up some of these fine foods in my own kitchen.

Photography by Vera Marie Badertscher. All rights reserved.


JessieV said...

i wasn't even halfway through your article when i went and ordered several of these books.!! fantastic - thanks for sharing!

Lisa said...

Mmm, I'm dying to go to Greece someday. That all looks fabulous!