A Glorious V-Symposium

From all over the globe and with no need to travel –confinement not permitting—people had the chance to share many of the marvelous Oxford Symposium experiences from their homes…


I was quite ambivalent when, early Mars, the organizers decided to make the Oxford Symposium virtual. Let us wait, I said, hopefully things will be better by July… As we all know, of course, I was foolishly optimistic and fortunately the wise Symposium team decided in time to undertake the huge task to make everything happen online. They worked tirelessly, until the day of the opening events, and the result was –and still is, as it officially ends August 2– fascinating!

I was so sorry to have to cancel my much-anticipated annual trip to Oxford to meet friends from all over the world, listen to stimulating papers, and share fabulous meals at St Katz College’s stylish dining room. I even had bought my BA ticket to London last January –now it is ‘floating’ and with any luck I will be able to use it next year(!).


It all begun with an emotional greeting by Claudia Roden, the Symposium’s president, who emerged radiant speaking from her garden in London.


Throughout the July 10-12 weekend the plethora of video paper presentations and the Zoom meetings followed the relentless full-day schedule of several parallel sessions, much like the actual concurrent presentations at St Katz’s. (more…)


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The Power of Frugal Greek Cookery

For this year’s Oxford Food Symposium I undertook the huge responsibility to cook the final, Saturday dinner for the 280 participants. Among them were some of the most well-known British and American authors, journalists, historians, scientists, and chefs.

Santorini fava (yellow split peas) topped with capers and herbs.
 David Tanis and Claudia Roden enjoyed the braised snails, which had previously created quite a sensation in St Catz’ kitchen as chef Michael Costa was washing them, trying to prevent them from escaping…

Greek frugal cooking –the simply braised snails in onion-tomato sauce, or the slow-cooked lamb with lemon and oregano– can show its real power in an intimate, family environment. Only when chef Michael Costa, my talented, tireless friend, accepted to leave his very busy kitchen in Washington DC and come to cook at St Catherine’s college did I decide to undertake the difficult exercise of presenting in volume, for 280 people, dishes meant for a small circle of friends and family. (more…)


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Eating our way through the North and South of Greece

Highlights from a sixteen-day exploration of the culture and gastronomy of the two wonderful, diverse ends of the country.

PART ONE: The North and Northwest

I arrived in Kavala one day before the official beginning of the trip.  What a wise decision that was!  It gave me more time to spend in Imaret.

This incredible, five-star hotel, is housed in an historic, 1817 building, a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture.  Hardly a place for those expecting a Ritz-like accommodation, its 26 charming rooms are full of character, one different from the other.  Their appeal is original and uncommon, but quickly grows on you as you get immersed into the charm of this structure which was originally a religious school.

There are pools and serene inner gardens, long marble verandas and arcades that offer spectacular views of the bay of Kavala and the Aegean beyond.  Looking at the bay, I enjoyed my exquisite breakfast as the golden morning sun sparkled on the water, an experience I will never forget!

Caught up in all sorts of everyday chores on Kea, even when we don’t prepare for a program or cook with our Kea Artisanal guests, I haven’t had the chance to travel within Greece for a very long time.  The invitation of Georgeann Morekas and the Baltimore Women’s Guild of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation to accompany them as they explored parts of northern Greece and Crete was a most welcome change.  (more…)


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Eating our way through the North and South of Greece (II)

Spinalonga, Lasithi and Archanes

At Elounda Bay hotel, on the northern coast of Crete, the sea was warm and inviting in the late afternoon as the sun was setting.  We reached this popular southeastern resort of Crete flying from Ioannina, Epirus, to Athens, then to Heraklion, and finally driving through areas I used to know well but found so much changed. (more…)


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Found in Translation: The Food of Istanbul’s ‘Master Chef’

Musa Dağdeviren made me seriously consider learning Turkish. Ever since I met him, six years ago in Napa at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, I was dying to be able to converse with him in his language, the only one he speaks. Like me he was part of the multi-national group of guest chefs and food writers taking part in several Worlds of Flavor Conferences. From the first time I saw him mix herbs and spices to season his kebabs, vegetable stews, and salads, I was bowled over by the unbelievably enticing and complex flavors he created in dishes that looked simple and straightforward, like the liver kebap (the Turkish spelling of the word) smothered in a blend of dried mint, cumin, and Urfa pepper; or his refreshing zahter salad—a fragrant, tangy mixture of minced fresh thyme shoots, parsley, onion, and scallions dressed in olive oil with lemon and pomegranate molasses.


Read also the wonderful NewYorker story about Musa.


I wanted to ask him how he came up with these amazing dishes, so different from the Turkish food I had known all my life. Unfortunately we had to communicate in English through an interpreter who knew little about cooking and ingredients, and this proved quite a challenge. I guess, during these first meetings, the only thing I could surely convey to Musa (pronounced Moo-SAH, stressing the last syllable) was how much I loved his food, and he probably liked mine, because he asked me to write for his magazine. Besides being an incredibly talented chef, Musa is also a passionate scholar, and this is obvious if you leaf through Yemek ve Kűltűr (Food and Culture), his wonderfully produced monthly publication that explores the history and roots of various dishes, ingredients, and cooking techniques. Unfortunately the texts are in Turkish and have not yet been translated.



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