I seem to have chosen the same time to publish my “Kitchen” book as Tonia Buxton who has just released her book “My Greek Kitchen” For those of you not familiar with the name, Tonia is a Greek Cypriot based in London and has made several Greek cookery programmes shown on the Discovery channel. As her website states she is a “Presenter, Historian, Writer, Gourmet Cook and Beauty Expert which she balances with being a wife and mum to four children!” In fact an all round superwoman, she even looks amazing. One of her cookery programmes was called “My Cypriot Kitchen” and I am going to buy her book – as soon as Amazon restock must be a good sign!
I was quite daunted and dismayed when I saw all her publicity (I follow her on Twitter) . But then I got my thoughts back into perspective. “Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate” in spite of its name did not set out to be a “cook book” I love cooking but I’m not a cook nor an expert on cooking. My initial idea for the book, was to find out some information, as a layperson, on the subjects that interested me about Cyprus. I thought that if I wanted to know these things, there must surely be others who would be interested to read about my discoveries.
I grew up in London in the East End and my dad was the only Greek Cypriot who lived in our area. He didn’t speak Greek at home, my mum was English but he did teach us the Greek alphabet and how to count. Although there were no Cypriots living near us, my dad knew a few Cypriots in London, he had a cousin who lived in North London and a very well-educated Greek lady used to come to visit, but we didn’t really have much contact or knowledge of Cyprus or Greece. Occasionally we would receive parcels which contained, to our eyes, very exotic unusual food that my dad’s family had sent. I remember the large tins of halloumi that would show up occasionally, the hard, folded parcels of cheese floating in mint flavoured brine, large bags of shelled almonds, soushouko and pickled birds. There was no Green Lanes then, with its vast array of Turkish and Greek Cypriot shops, where you can buy all the Cypriot food, as there is today; even bread is flown over every day. Occasionally there would be a trip “up the West End” to pay a visit to a delicatessen or two to purchase olives and coffee.
My dad cooked sometimes and my mum learnt a few recipes, so the food in our house was a bit different to your average house locally. My brother used to get a bit of stick from his friends at school when they talked about what they had eaten for their teas. When I was about 10 my dad’s youngest brother came over to the UK to live and stayed with us for a while, then several years later another Uncle also came with his wife and family and they all lived close by to us so we started to understand a bit more about the Cypriot way of doing things.
I had been to Cyprus for holidays of course, in my adult life and when I was 21 I decided I wanted to go and live in my dad’s village Yerolakkos for a year with relatives, so that I could learn the language fluently, a bit of a gap year I suppose you’d call it now. It was a completely different way of living as in those days very few houses even had bathrooms, the toilet was a closet with a hole in the ground. I cannily chose to stay with a cousin who had a modern house with all mod. cons. which was built as her dowry. This adventure did not turn out as I had planned and I returned after 9 months as I was ready to come home.
Over the years, from time to time, many questions would pop up in my mind and researching for the book gave me the opportunity to find out some of the answers. They’re not grand philosophical or historical questions, just little bits of information about this and that. Tid bits of knowledge and as I describe on the cover of the book “a meze of Cypriot culture from art to crafts to food” can be found in Androula’s kitchen.