A difficult book to categorise, with it being a mixture of food writing, travelogue, memoir and general humorous reading, here the author takes a light-hearted, yet serious look at Greek cuisine and what goes on at table.
Eight key elements of Greek cuisine, namely olives, bread, fish, cheese, beans, wine, meat and honey are investigated, examined and reported in the book's 18 chapters, wrapped and mixed up together. This book is a journey or experience, if one pardons the travel metaphor, akin to a long, intense high-end restaurant tasting menu. It is not a quick "grab and go" snack or takeaway hamburger. To get the most out of the information you need to immerse yourself within the book, rather than quickly look up a specific ingredient or take out a recipe.
That said, there are a few recipes within the book, but they are more for example rather than being a collection of recipes with a bit of writing tacked on at the side. Books of this nature are horrendously difficult to review because it relies so much on the perceived requirements, interests and prejudices of the reader. You may either love it, hate it or remain stony-faced neutral. Personally this reviewer prefers books of this kind to be more on the factual side of things than prosaic, novel-like. More of a travel guide with cold hard facts than an illuminated travelogue. However, the book manages to be engaging, charming and interesting without being burdened down by the author's character taking over. The author, whilst central to the story, remains still in the shadows and the subject is allowed to shine.
This book won't be for everyone. This is a book you need to focus on as it is mostly textual in nature. The style encourages you to think and consider rather than just passively consume - and that is rather a good thing overall. You are certainly left wanting more, without feeling short-changed, and you do feel that your brain cells have received a fair load of information that might even be retained, rather than a more mundane stream of filler material.
The price tag might rule this book out from being a mainstream holiday read but for those with an open mind to matters might still consider it a worthy investment for a rather different, unique kind of book!
on 20 July 2013
Not knowing what to expect, I started reading with caution but soon I was gobbling up Christopher Bakken's prose, stories and wishing I was sitting at all his tables feasting with him. I live in Greece now and the book brought home once more how wonderful the Greek people are, how simple but delicious and healthful the food is and how living simply can be hard, yes, but also bring much happiness in life. Now I am hunting for locations in Athens that sell the foods, honey, olives and wines he highlights in the book. I highly recommend this book and hope for more by him.