Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I was in Brooklyn recently visiting with my good friend Elissa. She's an amazing graphic designer and promised to design promo cards for me in exchange for photographing her kids. Easy, right? Well her 3 year old is one of the hardest kids I've ever photographed. He hates the camera and doesn't stay still for even a nanosecond. But he does love ice cream. (The new-to-me Blue Marble in Prospect Heights is delish.) And he loves fountains. And running. And his parents. So I had some great moments to work with. He and my 3 year old twerp had their first sleepover, which went brilliantly. (They were so tired from the ice cream and fountains and running that they passed out cold and didn't move until morning.) And our two little ones pawed at each other and cooed. It was a fantastic weekend. Can't wait to do it all over again!
And this is one of my favorite photos, it shows the juggling and monkeying it takes to parent two kiddos!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Stanzi is a super talented vegan chef/nutritional counselor in Garrison and she was eager to get some maternity shots before she pops. (She's 35 weeks here, doesn't she look ridiculously fantastic?) The shoot was easy because Stanzi has such a good sense of who she is: holistic with a little edge. And the place she calls home is like a fairytale, all mossy stone walls and dirt roads and spooky horse stables. Her little prince wasn't so sure about getting his picture taken, but he was excited about the kale chips he helped his mom make. He was generous enough to share some with me, and I promise, they were fantastic. Seriously. I'm excited to make them for my little princess. Stanzi has been kind enough to share the recipe on her blog. Go forth and check it out.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This weekend, I taught my daughter the word karpoozi. It seemed appropriate, since she managed to fit seven slices of sweet, juicy watermelon into a 3-year-old-sized belly. I first learned the word when I was 8-years-old and sitting in a sweltering hot Athens hotel room. This is back when Athens was dirty, before the Olympics came and the Greeks managed to clean up the Plaka. My Nona—just about my own mother’s age now, but already soft and dressed in beige—spread newspaper on the floor to soak up the mess. She sliced thick pieces of karpoozi and despite the heat, my sister and I settled into sweet, watery contentment.
We were in Greece on a Great Adventure. It was my mom’s first return since having children, and she was eager to show off her hometown and the cousins her family left behind after the War. I’d heard endless stories about the War: How my grandfather had survived a Bulgarian massacre. How he’d insisted that his fiancée hide with him in Greece’s rocky southern mountains. How they’d survived off of fallen fruit and the help of young communists who didn’t so much like the idea of Germans controlling their country.
But for me, that trip was more about food than family history. Every dynastic meeting (seriously, how many Alberts can one family have?) came with a thousand kisses and a table sagging under our favorite treats: koulourakia, burekas, dolmas, nuts, dried fruit, pepitas. And always, a tray of karpoozi and feta cheese. My mother tried to convince us to bring back the nap (nice try lady) so that we could stay out late (dinner at midnight!) like the other Greek kids. At that ridiculous hour, tavernas were packed with kids, as young as my daughter is now, their high-pitched shrieks trailing behind them as they ran. I couldn’t keep up.
On that first trip to Greece, I was not an adventurous eater; my diet consisted almost exclusively of tiropitas. I’d learned to make these flaky phyllo dough triangles stuffed with feta cheese before I learned to ride a bike and they were all I trusted. Years later, when I returned to Greece for work—writing about the fantastic American ex-pat Diane Kochilas, who’s part cookbook author, part food historian—I was pregnant with my first daughter and in the throws of first-trimester nausea. I quickly figured out to survive the smell of fish (virtually unavoidable in any Greek restaurant) by using lemon (ditto). The food that my baby bug liked best? Vegetables. Greek vegetables are criminally underrated. I’m not going to vouch for their health benefits since they’re smothered in olive oil (even if it’s local, expeller pressed and extra virgin) and often boiled beyond recognition. But I nearly swooned over tomatoes stuffed with rice and leeks, green beans stewed in olive oil and tomatoes, eggplant smashed together with copious amounts of olive oil and garlic. On the island of Ikaria, I had the best meal of my life at a roadside restaurant that was basically an extension of the chef’s own kitchen. It was so informal, that the few times I ate there, she was just as likely to be across the street, taking a dip in the sea as she was manning the kitchen. But she managed to transform her vegetables (and baby bug even liked her fish) into works of wonder. I have never had better. Not even my nona’s. (Did I just say that out loud?)
This past weekend, I may not have been visiting their tavernas, but all I need to feel like I’m back in Greece are a few cousins hanging out in my backyard. I didn’t have plates of koulourakia and dried fruit and nuts (I’ve got two kids under 4, the fact that my house was clean was exceptional) but my three year old was running after her older cousins, their high shrieks trailing them. The moms passed around the babies, the men sat around chatting about politics, and we all ate karpoozi.