Cookbooks have come into their own. Gone are the days of ‘how many cups of sugar in this, how many grams of diced carrots in that’. Cookbooks are now a story to be told; a journey of the chef writing it. Having said that, this cookbook is extraordinary.
In Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece – the cookbook to accompany the SBS show of the same name from last year – there’s so much more in the book than just recipes. There are little anecdotes for dishes such as how to best tenderise octopus, cultural information like where the first Zorba was danced, historical vignettes such as the ancient Greek sites but most importantly, the journey and the magic of the mother-son relationship between Blair and Lyndey.
Candid shots of the couple are interspersed throughout giving the food written about warmth, sincerity and love that only a mother could give a child. And Blair’s cheeky nature – care of that grin, his engagement with the locals, and his zest to fully engross himself in all things Greek, literally leap from the pages.
The story began as a television series that was to be more than just a cooking show, more than just a travel show, a show that would see mother and son showcase all the best of the Peloponnese – the sights, the tastes, the smells and the locals. Whilst filming, they had a cameraman capturing the moments that are featured in the cookbook. The seven part series was a success, one that Blair, unfortunately, never got to see.
In April 2011, Blair was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and passed away just three days after diagnosis.
“Blair is very much in this book too,” says Lyndey, “and I hope in positive vibrant ways – although it’s horrendously sad – we’ve got a bit of the joy of Blair in there.”
The cookbook features all the recipes from the show, recipes that Lyndey and Blair cooked online, recipes Lyndey has picked up from previous trips to Greece and ones she developed specifically for the cookbook.
“I didn’t want to create an old-fashioned Greek cookbook because the world doesn’t need another one,” explains chef and writer Lyndey Milan, “but I also didn’t want to do a really modern edgy one. I wanted to create a cookbook that had heart and soul and especially because of Blair, I really wanted it to be a really fitting testament to him as well.”
Very traditional recipes are featured in this cookbook, and while so many chefs have tried to capture the food of the motherland, Lyndey does it so well.
“Yianni Kyritsis – chef, from Berowra Waters, Opera House and MG Garage – came to the [cookbook] launch and he said ‘you’ve taught me things I didn’t know about Greek food’ and I am very humbled by that,” Lyndey says.
It’s her honesty in the pages and the generosity of her hospitality through this book that enable her to create traditional fare – a cuisine that she loves, a cuisine that – even though she can’t pinpoint one dish she loves – she embraces wholeheartedly.
“I love the fact that it is a food of the people,” Lyndey exclaims, “that it’s not elitist – it’s accessible to everybody. I love the fact that it’s not some esoteric, alienating, exotic or unachievable cuisine.
“What I love about Greek food is it’s entirely seasonal, nothing is done out of season. It doesn’t use strange ingredients – it just uses what grows.”
What this cookbook does the best is it disregards staged images of food and chefs and replaces them with candid and natural moments between Blair and Lyndey. Flicking through the pages, you see a shot of Lyndey concentrating hard on the game of tavli with the locals, and Blair laughing over her shoulder, or a shot of Blair enjoying a Mythos with his mum whilst travelling down the Corinth Canal.
“The thing is, I believe in hospitality and that is about generosity, and generosity of spirit so as much as I could have done a cookbook, why wouldn’t you want to put in everything else?” Lyndey asks
“I wanted to share with everybody what we were lucky enough to experience in Greece, so it’s all about sharing the joy and spreading it around. And I think it’s lovely for a country like Greece that’s having a hard time at the moment, to show the positive side.”
In June, Lyndey is going to visit Greece again, and this time take her daughter so they can celebrate what would have been Blair’s 31st birthday. She wants her daughter to visit the generous and welcoming Greeks her and her son met in 2010 – and to bring to life the words and moments that are shared in the cookbook.
Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece – a mother and son travel through the Peloponnese, written by Lyndey Milan will be available at all good bookstores on Wednesday 21 March and retails for $39.95. For more information visit booktopia.com.au. For our Brisbane readers, you can sample some of these recipes cooked by Lyndey herself on Friday 30 March at Spring Bistro, contact Jodie on email@example.com to book tickets.