DIANE Kochilas is one of the foremost authorities on Greek cuisine in the world. She is a chef, host of Greece’s most popular cooking show, “What’s Cooking Today, Mom?” cookbook author (18 books!), and passionate pioneer of healthy Greek cuisine. She is as native New Yorker whose family hails from the “Blue Zone” Greek island of Ikaria, on which her latest book is dedicated. Every summer she and her husband, Vassilis Stenos, host a cooking and cultural immersion experience on the island. Here she talks to My Greek Review about her hopes and her bond with Greece.
How Greek are you?
Hybrid. Greco-American citizen of the world.
What is your biggest role in life?
What is most important to you right now?
What are you most grateful for?
What scares you most?
Nothing I would put to words.
What is Greece to you?
Mana. A direct link to the raw energy of life.
Your one favourite thing about Greece past, present and future?
Past: Unspoiled beaches.
Present: The excitement of being in the eye of a storm.
Future: Spending half the year on Ikaria.
Your least favourite thing about Greece past, and present?
Past: Public-service ineptitude and corruption, masked over with swagger and over-sized egos.
Your fantasy / big wish for Greece?
That it grows up to flourish as a responsible, honest, meritocratic country.
Where do you definitely stay away from?
Golden Dawn rallies and the smokers’ boxes at the Athens airport.
Your favourite Greek hotspots right now?
My backyard, under the 500-year-old olive tree, on Ikaria. Faros, Ikaria, in the moonlight. The cafe at the Byzantine Museum in Athens. Plaka in the winter.
Your favourite Greek word, and why?
Filotimo, because it has no real translation into English. Daktylodeiktoumenos, because it’s so graphic. Levendia, because it’s hot!
What smell do you associate with Greece?
The mixed scent of honey and oregano and dusty roads from Ikaria. Wet sea salt. Jasmine. Brine. Fennel. Ouzo. Summer tomatoes. Fresh olive oil in November. Schinos (juniper).
What would you take with you to remind you of Greece?
Pine honey from Ikaria. Dried Ikarian oregano. Figs. And amazing artisinal jewelry.