Book Number 2: Les Liaisons Culinaires, by Andreas Staïkos
The contenders: Dimitris and Damocles.
The battlefield: The kitchen.
The prize: The affections of Nana, a married woman.
In Athens, the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach. Upon discovering that they share a lover, neighbours Dimitris and Damocles commence a fierce culinary competition in order to exclusively secure Nana’s attentions. As the weeks progress, Nana is seduced by creations such as moussaka, stuffed vine leaves, and the magical-sounding ‘sea urchin corals, drowning in a spoonful of Aegean water’.
The author includes the working recipes for all the dishes that feature in the war of seduction, most of them classic Greek recipes. The majority of them feature meat as a main ingredient, so if, like me, you happen to be vegetarian, you may have to resort to another book for versions minus the meat. However, the inclusion of the recipes is what makes the book, providing a brief introduction to traditional Greek cuisine, and inviting readers to experiment in their own kitchens. Even I was inspired to create a vegetarian moussaka!
Nana is a hilarious character; totally unashamed by the discovery of her deceit in conducting affairs with both men, she enters into the spirit of the contest for her love wholeheartedly, urging the men on with declarations such as: “Today is going to be such an ordeal for you: cutting, slicing, peeling, grating, chopping – just for me…Fitting remuneration for my love, I think you’ll agree.”
Personally, I loved the light-hearted irony of the role reversals – it is the woman arriving in the flat and reclining in a chair while the man attends to her every need, and strives to delight her taste buds by slaving for hours in the kitchen. Nana strikes one back for the women!