Lauren Panteleimonitis writes about discovering Greece through its food on her blog, laurenaki.com. Originally from Pittsburgh, she loves beer and Primani sandwiches but is glad to have said goodbye to long winters. She lives in Athens with her husband where they cook, walk, and discover the city together.
TBG: What is your blog about?
LP: Laurenaki Blogs is an online cooking/living abroad blog where I write about discovering my host country, Greece, through its food. In each post I try to share a recipe—Greek, American, or a combination—along with a story about how the dish connects to my assimilation here. With each dish, I learn a little more about Greece and the expat experience. My hope is that the writing and recipes resonates with both cooking and travel enthusiasts.
TBG: Why did you start your blog?
LP: When I first visited Greece in 2005 I was impressed by the country’s beauty, the Greek people’s warmth and the wholesome, unfussy cuisine. I believed my thoughts about these things were worth sharing with family, friends, and anyone interested in Mediterranean cooking. It took a decade to get started but I’m glad I finally did.
TBG: What is one of your most viewed posts you’d like to share with us?
LP: My post on Avgolemono soup has received a fair amount of views and was fun to write. An American friend inspired it when he asked me for a recipe using lemon and chicken. I suggested a few Greek recipes but he found Avgolemono soup—which I hadn’t thought of—on his own. The dish seemed so right for the time of year (October) that I decided to post about it. Writing the post took me back to my college days when I first made Avgolemono soup on a cold winter’s day. It was a nice mental trip to the past which resulted in a coming-of-age story of sorts for the blog.
TBG: What was one of the most memorable trips you’ve taken and written about on your blog — and why?
LP: So far I’ve mostly written about my everyday experiences with food and life in Athens so I suppose I’m more of a traveller in my own city. My first post, Cherry Galette, is about navigating a neighbourhood laiki, one of my favorite Greek experiences. Hearing the farmers call or sing their offers, the scent of brined olives, for me is Greece. A walk through the laiki appeals to all of the senses and you know you can’t be anywhere else; Greece is alive there.
TBG: What do you like most about blogging about Greece?
LP: Greece has so much to offer in terms of its food and traditions that I feel I could write forever and only manage to share a portion of everything that’s interesting and delicious. Each island and region has its unique recipes—so a traditional cheese pie from, say, Ioannina is different from those made in Crete. Cheeses vary from region to region and, sometimes, even village to village. To me this is the most exciting aspect of Greek food and travel writing—the country’s diversity.
TBG: Give us one travel tip for those who have not travelled to Greece yet.
LP: Be willing to go with the flow. Greece operates on a rhythm different from most countries so this might mean eating lunch after 1 p.m. and dinner around 9 p.m. I’d suggest adapting to this time-table; you’ll enjoy Greece more and receive better service.
TBG: Any advice for new bloggers?
LP: I still feel like I’m new to blogging but I will share some advice a web-developer gave me when I started. I was nervous about deciding the blog’s tone, focus, and subject from the beginning but he suggested that I relax about the details and just write. The blog, he said, would grow and change with me. I already see this happening with Laurenaki Blogs and it’s something I work towards every day.
One place in Greece AND in the world you’d love to visit in the future that you have not been to yet.
In Greece I’d like to visit Santorini—just haven’t made it there yet and everyone tells me how beautiful it is. I’ll get there someday! In the world, I’d like to see Osaka, Japan, an excellent foodie destination and culturally different from any country I’ve visited.
TBG: One place in the world AND in Greece you could visit over and over again.
LP: My home city, Pittsburgh. Family and friends aside, it has become a real hub for education, medicine, the arts, and food. I could survive on its libraries and pierogis forever. In Greece I love Lesvos, my husband’s family’s island. I never get tired of its olive tree forests and stuffed zucchini flowers.
TBG: If you could invite five famous people to your fabulous upcoming dinner party — who would make your list?
LP: This is a little like revealing my list of high school crushes! Let’s see, I’d invite:
Michele Obama—I admire her work against childhood obesity and think she’d keep the conversation interesting.
Ruth Riechl—My favorite food writer, I’d love to hear her thoughts about Greek food.
Steven Colbert—Every good dinner party needs at least one funny guest and I think he’d keep us laughing all night.
Yotam Ottolenghi—His recipes remind me of my favorite Greek foods and have been an inspiration for what I cook on Laurenaki Blogs.