Meet …Amber. I grew up in Manhattan, far from Greece, but very much like it in some important ways. TriBeCa and SoHo were completely self-contained- we all knew each other, and nothing you could ever wish for was more than a half-hour’s stroll away. Every single thing we bought had a special place to buy it. I think the only thing we got from the supermarket was laundry soap- everything else, it had a story, a provenance, a person. “Convenience” was simply not a meaningful concept. There were no chain stores of any kind. Nothing about our life was anonymous, and that made everything special. After living in Hamburg a little after college (Smith) and then going to graduate school in Architectural History and making hardcore and punk records on West Broadway in SoHo for ten years, I realized that the lifestyle I knew growing up was disappearing, so I had to go looking for it. Very conveniently, I had married someone from Greece, a country that could offer me everything I pined for- big city life with all the happy chaos, the provincial small town charm I grew up with, and beautiful food.
TBG: What is your blog about?
AC: Celebrating the everyday pleasures of the table in Greece, and, through these, celebrating authenticity of experience.The cultural connection to food in our corner of the Mediterranean is complex, intense, and really, really fun- more blood, more booze, more flopping fish, more muddy vegetables, more fasting and more feast days. There is also a structure, ritual, custom. I enjoy sharing the pleasures of urban Greek lifestyle through experiences, recipes, and vignettes of the refinement and chaos of contemporary life in an ancient place. We lead a life of such luxury here, even amid the current hardships. Greece is not a wealthy nation, but it is very rich in things that matter.
TBG: Why did you start your blog?
AC: I love analog life- postage stamps, vinyl LP’s, card catalogs, notebooks. I love this level of engagement, and Greece for me is all about that. Life here takes engagement, a little effort if you want to do things right, and that makes everything more worthwhile. I keep a dining journal with my two daughters in mind (Charlene is 21 and Mei Mei is 17)- hard-bound sketch books of what we got at the market and how we fixed it, what we talked about during dinner, the best keftadakia with fennel and just the right amount of salt, how we made the sangria, festive birthday cakes, impromptu cocktail snacks, how we decorated the terrace with some jam jars and a handful of rice for a party. There are sketches of the herbs and the eggplants, and the vanilla apricot tarts that we liked. So basically I already had a blog- an analog blog, just for us. A friend of mine, dear Janet, said she would help me with the technical stuff because it is a shame to not share. So that is the blog- sharing these experiences and recipes and thoughts about everything that makes our everyday life in Greece beautiful.
TBG: What is one of your most viewed posts you’d like to share with us?
AC: I went to a small dinner party (the very evening after I met our TBG Elena!). It was a most unexpected evening that made me think about food, and socializing, in a raw and elemental way, as refined as the evening was. Also I have never had so much fun, or been more truly engaged, both as a guest and as a… primate.
The most viewed was the post I did after making my favorite cake on a tv show:
TBG: What was one of the most memorable trips you’ve taken and written about on your blog — and why?
AC: I generally write about my everyday experiences, which, as they are all in Greece, are therefore all exotic and memorable! I live in Thessaloniki, so although I am quite often in Athens (which I so truly adore), I am still there as a visitor, with my perceptions perhaps more keenly alive than when in my home city. I came down to do some food for a friend’s fashion event and wrote about it here: https://www.blog.provocolate.com/2015/02/green-acres.html -it was a fabulous weekend. I love how the urban and rural experiences smash up against each other in Greece
TBG: What do you like most about blogging about Greece?
AC: The endlessly beautiful material- the stuff of life is so abundant here. Every day is filled with texture, experience, flavor. Also people in Greece engage with one another very fully- there is abundant warmth, and abundant temper. Public life is invariably filled with vibrant, meaningful encounters. Then we go home to a glorious meal, even if that is just a tomato with some salt.
TBG: Give us one travel tip for those who have not travelled to Greece yet.
AC: Perhaps to try giving yourself over to the pace of life and the rhythm of the day here. And what a day, especially in summer- there are so many moods in 24 hrs- try to get up with old men before the sun hits the pavement and the light is all lavender colored. Eat dinner after ten or eleven and linger at the table until one with ouzo and melted ice cubes, enjoying the radiant heat the stones soaked up during the day. Sleep hard from 4 to 6 in the heat and wake up like it is a new day and then go out for promenade.
TBG: Any advice for new bloggers?
AC: I am a sort of new blogger myself. This is what I try to remember- it’s actually very simple to share your analog experience with the virtual world, bring those two things together at the very moment it is happening. It takes only a few seconds to put something on Instagram, and as they say, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. It also gives me a record of my experiences to reflect on. Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to write about until after it happens.
TBG: One place in Greece AND in the world you’d love to visit in the future that you have not been to yet.
AC: I have not been to any of the islands with neoclassical architecture- I think that contrast of the formality of the structures against the wild and rugged splendor of the natural setting must sharpen the beauty of each. I imagine in winter it would be all the better.
In the world? Well, this is perhaps cheating because it is not one place by any means, but I would like to take the Trans-Siberian railroad. The vastness of the landscape would be enthralling. and I would love to be in places whose indigenous character remains at least partially untouched by, say, Ikea or Walmart.
TBG: One place in the world AND in Greece you could visit over and over again.
AC: In the world, Rome, where I have already been so fortunate to be many times. I like the Villa Borghese with that Canova and all the luscious Berninis I studied in Art History. Rome sounds great- Vespas and the compressed steam from espresso machines- you close your eyes and it is like it is 1950 and you are in an Audrey Hepburn movie. And it smells great- coffee and pastries and perfume. And I have never eaten a single thing that wasn’t so delicious I wanted to faint.
Greece is filled with places each more spectacular than the last, staggering natural beauty everywhere, and yet I have to choose Athens (also filled with natural beauty!), for the many different moods, urban vibrance, and yet so many places of contemplative tranquility. I said to an architect that as many times as I have been here, whenever I glimpse the Parthenon between some buildings it still gives me a thrill and she said she grew up in Athens and it does the same thing for her, every single time, day after day. How can something so ancient be so fresh and exciting? Athens is like that for me.
TBG: If you could invite five famous people to your fabulous upcoming dinner party — who would make your list?
AC: It was very tempting to invite Marie Antoinette but I think I will keep to a guest list that is 20th C- people who lived through a time nearly but not quite accessible, easy to romanticize about. The photographer Robert McCabe who took such fabulous images of Greece in the 1950’s, Paul and Julia (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) Child, composer Dave Brubeck, and industrial designers (and architects filmmakers artists, etc. ) Charles and Ray Eames- more or less contemporaries from different fields of interest, they have all made the world a richer place, and I think they would have fascinating conversation.
What do you think?