Alexandra Stratou, author and publisher of «Cooking to Share», is Greek but «not the most conventional type». She is cooking to share «Greek recipes from my family to yours», using food as a medium to communicate and bring people together. Does she cook well? She learned how to cook professionally in Spain. Through a Kickstarter campaign she launched in March 2013 we are all invited to this growing community of people who wish to keep tradition alive and sit at the table to eat with those they love. Cooking to share. Cooking with love. And sweet childhood memories.
- Could you please name your three favorite recipes and explain why?
- I hate having to pick my favorite recipes. Each recipe evokes different emotions in me and I choose to eat or cook them depending on my mood. But if I have to .... Mmmmm... Today I would go with green beans with prawns in tomato sauce, lentil soup, tomato sauce for pasta.
- Which recipes did you have to leave out of the book?
- I don't really feel I left recipes out of the book rather I left my own interventions to the recipes out of the book! In general it is quite a complete compilation of the recipes I grew up eating.
- How about family tradition? Flavors, memories, colors, ingredients, recipes that you are cooking to share? What makes your family cooking different than cooking in any other Greek house?
- The thing that make my family's cooking different than any other house is the role it played in my little microcosm. I grew up much like a foreigner in Greece, so food for me is what has given me a sense of Greek identity. Ok, I also think that we cook amazingly in our family, but I am sure everybody would say that about their family cooking....The reason I wrote the book was never because I thought my family cooking is unique it was more of a personal need and gesture. Recipes hold within them the stories of times gone by. They are a beautiful way of keeping family history and values alive - they give us the ability to carry people and memories and wisdom into the present much more efficiently than if we relied solely on words and imagination.
- How long did it take you to create the book, find a way to publish it and promote it? Where can we find it?
- I started working on the book in April 2013. I had promised my kickstarter backers that I would have it ready by September and as you can imagine that never happened; but on the 15th of December 2013 after having worked non-stop for 9 months it was ready to go out into the world. It is a self published cookbook - which means that I am not only the author but also the publisher. The promotion kind of happened alone and I went with it - Cooking to Share seemed to have a destined path that I have just responded to.
• What inspired you to start the project?
- Circumstance, personal need to explore my past through food, Kyria Loula – a fighter of a woman, the birth of my first niece, love of connection.
• What is a typical day in your life?
- That is one of the hardest questions to answer at the moment. There is no typical day. Being a freelancer in all areas I work in, gives me days that are completely unexpected, up to my whim and different. I do though always start my day with a coffee for me and a walk for my dog.
• How would you describe yourself as a person?
- I would say I am passionate, patient when I want to, stubborn, argumentative, creative, romantically unrealistic, determined and loving.
• Is your perspective on design ever affected by your age?
- It is not age that defines what I like but the needs I have at each stage of my life. I think that what I need to see around me is an expression of what I need inside and when that need has been satisfied I am ready to move on to something new.
• What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
- I can’t think of one best piece of advice. I usually pick up piece of advice in various random instances that guide me for a while, and which I forget once they are no longer relevant.
• Favorite place in Greece? Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
- It is not a place but a constantly moving body of water – the Aegean. At the moment I am totally enthralled with Mets.
• What are the things you love to do in your hometown?
- I love walking around the city on a weekend without much destination allowing the city to dictate my stops and starts.
- Do you take any inspiration from the city?
- More than anything I take inspiration from the people that bring the city alive and the moments that make me feel lucky to be in this place right now like when I watch the sunset sky between the buildings or I happen to be on a hill and I can see until the sea or the moment when the street lights flicker on.
• Most surreal experience to date?
- Professionally by far the fact that a Kickstarter backer of mine, called Chris, who has never met me, took my self-published cookbook to a bookshop in Harbor Springs Michigan (a place I had no idea existed), that the owner of the bookstore Katie showed the book to a representative of a branch of a large US publisher, that the publisher ordered a book on Amazon, that I got offered a deal in the first videoless skype call I had with them and then 2 months later signed a deal with them. There are still moments that I can’t believe this is actually happening.
• What would your super power be?
- I would just love to fly; anywhere, over anything, into anything.
• If you had a theme song, what would it be?
- I am trying to search for something musically interesting or intellectual but the truth is that my theme songs are always something cheesy that for some reason make me feel good - like Kygo Firestone… This one is actually my most recent theme song, as on a work trip to Berlin this year, every night I finished work it would play on the radio.
• What do you do to get away from everything?
- I go out by myself to do something without my cell phone whether that is to go to the sea or for a walk around the city.
• The Kickstarter campaign. How did you manage to get the support of 500 people? What next?
I put all my effort in communicating in an honest way what I wanted to do and in creating a campaign that really represented my aesthetic, my ways, my creative skills, my ambition. I think this is what people saw in my project along with the fact that they related to my dream – if childhood is a time of sweet memory, we all want to visit our childhood once in a while and food is a great way to do it. Next is in the making right now – I have a grand plan and am figuring out the small steps that I need to take to get me there. The ultimate idea is to create a physical space that will be able to house the multiple things I love – and it isn’t a restaurant. Cryptic sounding, I know, but I am not ready to start saying…
• Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
- Right now I would like to bring a group of people that would never have the opportunity to eat together to the same table and use food and care to make them equal for a moment.– i.e. a Syrian refugee, the head of a large multinational bank, the German minister of Finance, a Chinese multinational factory worker, a child of 9 with his parents, an old Greek woman from a village somewhere in the forgotten rural areas of Greece, an influential figure from Hollywood, a 20-something unemployed youth… And I would like to have the opportunity to create these types of dinners more than once.
* Greece is.
* The book is sold at the Athens International Airport, Evripidis, Booktique, Forget me Not, Philos Athens, Atlantis Books Santorini, on cookingtoshare.com