It is an enormous pleasure to have Aglaia Kremezi join us for April’s Taste Talk. She is not only a dear friend but also a mentor in the delicious, healthy and tradition-rich foods of the Mediterranean. If you are looking to eat and live a long and healthy life, turn to Aglaia’s cookbooks, articles and wisdom to get started. You can even cook and learn from her directly through a cooking vacation at Kea Artisanal in Kea, Greece.
Aglaia Kremezi is a journalist, food historian and author of five cookbooks, including her first book, The Foods of Greece, which won the Julia Child award. Her latest book is Mediterranean Hot and Spicy, while The Cooking of the Greek Islands is her best selling. Aglaia is currently researching and testing recipes for her upcoming book—her sixth in the U.S.—a collection of the best seasonal and healthy Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Aglaia writes for the Atlantic Monthly Food and Health site, Saveur, LA Times, Gourmet, BBC Good Food magazine, Bonne Appétit, Food and Wine, Food Arts, and Epicurious.
JoyFoodly: Tell us about your first food memory. What do you remember about it?
Aglaia: I have been told by my parents and other senior members of my family that when I was 8 months old, laying in my crib, I uttered my very first word: ‘patáta’ (potato). My younger sister still teases me, saying that from that very moment my path in life was set—although food only became my actual profession relatively recently. My strange choice of a first word has a very logical explanation: I simply repeated the word I heard from an itinerant greengrocer, who every morning passed our house with his donkey, selling seasonal vegetables and fruit. I grew up in the outskirts of Athens, surrounded by gardens, and my mother’s relatives—grandparents and aunts and uncles. I was the first baby of this extended household, and grownups observed and noted my progress, cuddled me and devoted considerable time answering my endless questions, while relating harrowing stories from the famine and the terrible civil war that followed World War II in Greece. The word ‘patáta’ alone probably doesn’t qualify as a food memory.
Trying to recall the earliest taste I remember, I will have to go again to the very first years of my life. My parents were trying to stop me from sucking my finger—the ring finger of my right hand—by dipping it in salt and later in pepper. But, to their amazement, I seemed to have enjoyed both these flavors enormously, even asking for more dipping! I think I remember that, although I may have convinced myself that I do. The fact is that I never craved sweets, not even as a young child. Savory and spicy foods were, and still are, my preferred tastes.
JoyFoodly: What about food inspired you to make it your career?
Aglaia: Food inspires me because there is an almost instant gratification and fundamental pleasure that comes from offering a flavorful dish to people I love. As it happens, I didn’t choose food as a career. I was a successful journalist and editor in Athens when I took it upon myself to publish a book about Greek cooking in the U.S. It annoyed me that there were so many fabulous Italian cookbooks and not a single beautiful Greek one. I have been cooking for as long as I can remember, starting by helping my mother, my grandmother and my aunt in the kitchen. From them, I learned the basic rules of traditional cooking and a bit of classical French cooking. Even when I was an editor in chief and working endless hours, I found time to cook and entertain. I really enjoyed creating new dishes for my husband and friends. I never considered the long hours needed to prepare an interesting dish that was devoured in minutes a waste. After my first book came out in the 90’s, earning a Julia Child award, I gradually left all other areas of journalism and concentrated on food. Teaching my favorite seasonal dishes to visitors came naturally, and I have to say that I enjoy it enormously!
JoyFoodly: Imagine your best friend is coming to dinner tomorrow night. They are bringing their 9-year-old child with them. What would you want to cook for them?
Aglaia: Not having kids of my own I often despair when I see 9-year olds choosing to eat real garbage, simply because it is cleverly advertised on TV. But I saw what an enormous difference a first-grade teacher made to our neighbor’s 9-year-old twins. She very cleverly introduced real food to them, and managed to get them to ask for carrots and dismiss the candy and chocolates they used to munch on all the time. I believe kids love to create things, so I would make sure I have some proofed bread dough ready when my friends arrived. I would invite them all to make small savory breads stuffed with their choice of vegetables, nuts, cheese, and maybe even fish. I am sure that when they would see the breads they had shaped themselves coming out of the oven, even the most finicky young eaters would devour them instantly.
More about Aglaia Kremezi
Author Aglaia Kremezi was born in Athens where she lived and worked as a photographer, journalist and editor before devoting her time entirely to food writing and studying the history of the cuisines of the Mediterranean. Eleven years ago she moved permanently to Kea, an island of the Cyclades, with her husband Costas Moraitis, a Yale graduate. Together they garden, cook, write, and teach cooking to travelers at www.keartisanal.com.
Aglaia takes part in and presents papers at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California. She has taught at Macy’s Degustibus, at the French Culinary Institute, and many other US cooking schools. Aglaia was a consultant for Molyvos, the first upscale Greek restaurant in New York, which was awarded three stars by Ruth Reichl of the NY Times.
Before concentrating on food, Aglaia was the editor in chief of news, women’s, and lifestyle magazines.
Anglaia’s Blog: www.aglaiakremezi.com
JoyFoodly highly recommends Aglaia’s book: The Foods of the Greek Islands
JoyFoodly highly recommends Kea Artisanal’s weeklong cooking program :
To get a taste for the amazing foods you can learn to prepare with Aglaia on the Greek Island of Kea or through her beautiful cookbooks, see our photographs on the post about our week-long cooking experience with Aglaia. It is a life changing experience!
Read more about Hollie