Tessa Kiros‘ books are stunning. Falling Cloudberries and Venezia are rich with photographs of street life, food, culture, and good recipes. Food from Many Greek Kitchens (Andrews McMeel 2011) is no exception. The inside flap shows a photo by Manos Chatzikonstantis of a cupboard jam packed with Greek ingredients: dried herbs, a copper carpet beater are tucked in the corners, and jars, bottles, and packets of intriguing ingredients with Greek names are laid out thickly on the shelves. It sets the stage of being immersed in Greece, not cooking in America – finding ingredients here and there.
The playful tone of the book is firmly set out in the Introduction (pp. 6- 9) in which each Greek letter gets a list of things like a child’s dictionary:
Kk (kappa) Karavi-boat. Or kaiki (caique) – the traditional Greek boat that can safely sway right down on its side and then bounce right back with the waves. Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy). Krassi – wine. And for Kalamata with its wonderful olives.
You can use your newfound alphabet to decipher the signs and packages in all the photos in the book.
The recipes are organized not by region or course, but by type: Traditional, Fasting Foods, Easter Foods, Baker’s Foods and so on. If tradition is the bedrock of Greek life, this makes sense. The first recipe is for Vassilopitta or New Year Wish Cake (p. 18) like Galette des Rois, in this case a coin is hidden in the buttery cake. Next is Yamopilafo (p. 22) a Cretan Wedding Rice dish of lamb and cinnamon scented rice. Tessa often gives more then one recipe for a dish. There is Baklavadakia or Small Baklava (pp. 26-27) followed by larger Baklava (pp. 28-29). There are recipes for two kinds of stuffed vine leaves: Dolmades cooked on top of the stove (pp. 56-57) and baked in the oven (pp. 28-29) both versions are vegetarian. Look at the photo of a picnic spread on pp. 48-49, where a plate of dolmades, bread, Taramosalata (p. 52) and fresh-shucked oysters served with ouzo beckon.
This is a charming book of recipes, made richer by the photographs – a group of ladies sewing lace opposite a recipe for Koulouria or Sesame Bread Rings (pp. 160- 161) And then on the following pages are a photo of a pile of the rings, and another of the bread rings piled up on a bicycle push cart. This may be humble food, but it is delicious and very much in its place.