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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
When Americans think of Greek food, we usually think of the ubiquitous Greek salad or stuffed grape leaves or, if from the Northeast, of street vendors selling gyros or diners offering pita sandwiches stuffed with grilled chicken, feta cheese, and a tangy yogurt sauce. For quite some time, Greek cuisine has been lumped into the general Mediterranean category, with little emphasis on its diversity. The esteemed food writer and international authority on Greek food Aglaia Kremezi has made it her business to set us straight with her book The Foods of the Greek Islands: Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean.
Those of us who remember our classics know that Greece has been the center of the Mediterranean for centuries. The fact that the islands about which the author writes are located between Italy and Turkey serves to heighten her interest in the influences of these cuisines on her own. Many of the recipes in the book have been handed down from her family, who originated in the islands of the Cyclades. The rest have been gathered over the past eight years as Kremezi traveled throughout the islands, eating, tasting, talking, and observing. Many of these recipes have never before been printed, making The Foods of the Greek Islands a unique treasury of food and lore.
Kremezi feels that Greek cuisine has yet to be truly discovered in America. "It is simple, straightforward cooking based on fresh ingredients which are easily translated to the American kitchen. Seasonal vegetables, leafy greens, grains, olives, olive oil, beans, local cheeses, fish (fresh and cured), occasionally meat, and fresh herbs and seasonings like fennel, dill, thyme, and garlic are the ingredients for everyday cooking on the Greek isles. "The sharing of food whenever a whole family or a bunch of friends gather around the table is typical of the traditional Greek way of life. The meal begins with alcoholic drinks and a communal course of meze, little plates containing various kinds of cold and hot foods: green and black olives; feta and other local cheeses drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano; raw, cured or simply cooked seafood and fish; pickled vegetables and spreads; garlicky dips; intensely-flavored rice-and-herb-filled grape leaves; and vegetable and or meat stews." Now, don't you think that the Greek way sounds far better than our American cocktail party fare? What a way to celebrate good times and friendship.
Not only does Kremezi give us undiscovered recipes; The Foods of the Greek Islands also tells a story through tales of the local cooks and the history of the islands, all enhanced by the author's amazing photographs of islanders preparing their meals. Rather than just a cookbook, it is an anthropological study of a cuisine that might have been lost to history. Combined with the author's first book, The Foods of Greece, The Foods of the Greek Islands will serve as a valuable compendium for cooks interested in learning the cuisine of this rich culture. (Judith Choate)