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Honey, Olives, Octopus

Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table

Illustrations by Mollie Katzen
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Honey, Olives, Octopus
    Book Description:

    Combining the best of memoir, travel literature, and food writing, Christopher Bakken delves into one of the most underappreciated cuisines in Europe in this rollicking celebration of the Greek table. He explores the traditions and history behind eight elements of Greek cuisine-olives, bread, fish, cheese, beans, wine, meat, and honey-and journeys through the country searching for the best examples of each. He picks olives on Thasos, bakes bread on Crete, eats thyme honey from Kythira with one of Greece's greatest poets, and learns why Naxos is the best place for cheese in the Cyclades. Working with local cooks and artisans, he offers an intimate look at traditional village life, while honoring the conversations, friendships, and leisurely ceremonies of dining around which Hellenic culture has revolved for thousands of years. A hymn to slow food and to seasonal and sustainable cuisine,Honey, Olives, Octopusis a lyrical celebration of Greece, where such concepts have always been a simple part of living and eating well.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95446-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    I had just arrived in Thessaloniki and was hungry. The college promised me a nifty apartment on campus, but it was still being painted. In the meantime, I’d be sleeping in a storage room in the basement of the gymnasium, where a rudimentary cot and a reading table had been installed. There was nothing in the refrigerator. Everyone else had gone to the beach for the weekend, so it was up to George Kassiopides, director of physical education, to orient me. Like Jack LaLanne, the exercise guru who had kangarooed through the television commercials of my childhood, Kassiopides was a...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Olives: The Throumbes of Thasos
    (pp. 1-28)

    Tasos of Thasos, whose olives we shall pick, has been drinkingtsipouroat a wedding all night—until just hours ago, in other words—so when he greets us at the port we can see he’s a cheerful disaster. The list of things Tasos Kouzis can do is daunting: with equal proficiency he manages to be a restaurateur, farmer, shepherd, octopus fisherman, rabbit hunter, traditional dancer, and wedding singer. The fact that he served in the Greek Special Forces means he has other skills he cannot disclose. He’s also indisputably handsome—black hair, close-cropped beard, irrepressible smile—which helps him...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Bread: The Prozymi of Kyria Konstandina
    (pp. 29-53)

    People who have eaten only in tourist restaurants conclude that Greek bread is bad. I hesitate when people tell me this, but they are right. Baskets of nearly crustless, fluffy white slabs with the consistency of marshmallow and the taste of Styrofoam (the qualities of much American bread) litter too manytavernatables. Most restaurants in Greece buy in volume from factory bakeries. It’s fine for mopping up the mustardy tomato sauce left over in a bowl of musselssaganaki, or for smearing withtzatzikiortaramosalata. And even shoe leather would taste good drizzled with Greek olive oil. But...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Fish: Tailing Barbounia
    (pp. 54-86)

    I’ve been invited to join one of the great food families of Greece for a seaside lunch. My last meal was steamed-mystery-meat-on-plastic-plate, served at thirty-five thousand feet over Greenland, so I’m going in famished.

    Dimitris and Christina Panteleimonitis, my hosts, represent different sides of Greek gastronomy. Dimitris sells John Deere and Kubota farm equipment, and for over thirty years he’s traveled rural Greece, helping farmers modernize their equipment and their approach to agriculture. He knows how to build sanitary milking parlors for sheep and goats, can install state-of-the-art desalination systems, and is capable of taking a small farm from mere...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Cheese: The Stinky Cheeses of Naxos
    (pp. 87-117)

    Of all the Cycladic Islands, only Naxos is worth visiting for the food alone. Whenever I’m there, my desire to get behind a stove supersedes the temptations of the island’s excellent and sophisticated restaurants. So I make sure to have a functional kitchen at the ready, preferably one with large windows in a cottage near Orkos: an unreasonably beautiful stretch of coastline peppered with the kind of small, rocky lagoons my wife and I prefer for swimming over broad, sandy beaches. Nudists—but not of the public variety—we first visited that coast over a decade ago, following its dirt...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Meat: Goats in the Ghost Towns of Chios
    (pp. 118-141)

    During the long winter months in western Pennsylvania—when it snows all day, every day, and low clouds suffocate our valley—I feel most intensely my longing for Greece. The distance is vast and painful and the offerings of the Greek table, all freshness and ripeness, seem inconceivable. By January, I’m starving for the place, having run out of supplies I brought home from the previous summer’s visit: sour cherry preserves, bags ofthroumbes, jars of Kythirian honey, and even the precious bottles oftsipouroand olive oil, which I’ve rationed for months, since in them I horde reminders of...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Beans: Chasing Chickpeas at Plati Yialós
    (pp. 142-167)

    I can’t believe Vitos remembers me. I mean, we had only one conversation, about vegetables, three years ago. But he grabs my hand enthusiastically and welcomes me back to Serifos with a gap-toothed grin. I’m just finishing my first lunch back on the island, nibbling a fewmezedesat one of the mediocre joints on the port, when he stops in to do some business with its proprietor. The name of Vitos’s own restaurant, Akroyiali, is splashed across the side of his pickup truck. It’s on the list of places I want to visit as soon as I have a...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Wine: Another Carafe at Prionia
    (pp. 168-192)

    One afternoon, as I’m about to toss on a blazer and stroll down the hall to teach my poetry seminar, this astounding specimen of Thasian English lands in my e-mail inbox:

    Gia su aderfe,

    i know that we have only 20 days befor seeing each ather, and i have many thinks to tell whats hapen to me the last 10 days. i tell you only one think maybe i will come in America . . . the ather i explein in 20 days when you will be here.

    i whant a feivor i need somethink from America because thear is...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Honey: The Thyme Honey of Aphrodite
    (pp. 193-220)

    It’s not easy to get to Kythira. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who’d actually been there, in spite of the fact that Greeks speak of the island’s thyme honey with such reverence. But no one I asked could account for why it was so good, and so expensive, and it was about time someone went there to find out.

    The island is locatedbetween:out where the Aegean and Ionian Seas dissolve into each other, along the invisible line connecting Monemvasia and Chania, five miles off the tip of Lakonia, the easternmost leg of the Peloponese Another fifty miles...

  14. Epilogue: At the Still in the Hills
    (pp. 221-230)

    The rhythm of harvest on Thasos leaves little time for rest. About the same moment theEvanthoulais backed into its shed and the restaurant has been dismantled for winter, the grapes are ready. Some years this happens earlier than others, and it’s not easy to predict what the weather will do. But just as soon as they are ripe, they must be picked and crushed and placed into vats for a month of fermentation: some for the wine and some for thetsipouro. Right on the heels of that, the olives will be ready and there’ll be a thousand...

    (pp. 231-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-238)