Dear readers and followers of Vikram Roy’s Blog, I want to introduce you with Colette Ni Reamonn Ioannidou from Cyprus. Colette has many talents and experiences in her life, she had worked with Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation on many English language projects, as an interviewer and TV news spot reader. She wrote two books of short stories available on Amazon, TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE and TO LIVE OR NOT TO LIVE. Many of her written stories about Cyprus that were broadcast by the BBC World Service. She has many gifts to offer, especially coming up soon her recipes that she learned from an old Indian recipes book. I cannot wait to taste them all, hope all of you will love them too.
“In the fierce humid heat of a Cyprus summer, as I held the small book I was telling you about, I couldn’t help but think how the ladies of the British Raj must have suffered in the alien climate of India, and later in Cyprus at a time when decorum demanded very strict dress codes. Wives of British officers must have felt entirely at home in my country, Ireland, where the weather is the same as theirs. The food in Ireland must have been very similar to what they were used to whereas the dishes of both Cyprus and India were probably completely different. One form of compensation for uncomfortable weather for the new arrival is culinary. The fact that dishes from both countries are available still in 21st century Britain tells of the delight Britons feel at finding new foods to adore and to bring home from far-flung places.
As I carefully made my way among the delicate pages of the small blue book to find items to send you, still lingering in my mouth was the succulent memory of a slice of watermelon, one of the incomparable sweet, moist joys of this August as temperatures rise to the mid forties. As I write, unplucked figs burst their seams on the bough; stout olives drop to the ground. While walking my dog early this morning I saw two old men plucking figs from an enormous tree in the garden of my local Orthodox church. Both wore khaki (long) shorts, a throwback to the time of the Brits here; one was inside the railings, the other on the outside as both gathered a handful each of the fruit. Then they stood savouring how good it looked and offered to share with me sure in the knowledge that Christ would not mind at all that they had taken fruit from His garden.
When I came here, I was not that much a fan of fruit or vegetable in spite of the fact that my much-loved mother was as green-fingered as it’s possible to be. In the front of our garden there were flowers of all varieties, and behind the apple trees my father planted were vegetables of every sort. In summer salads were greedily eaten by everyone – except me. However, the climate here encouraged me to appreciate nature’s bounty. I grew to love tomatoes, Cyprus tomatoes are very special and one by one I was lured to the satisfaction that only such pure natural freshness can offer the palate in the heat.
Cyprus is a land of fruit and honey, a place like India, of wonderful meals and adaptable recipes. When I was a child, India was a place I knew only from adventure stories borrowed from the library written subjectively from the British point of view, and movies made in Hollywood that were probably as accurate as the script writer thought they should be. It never occurred to me as a child growing up in a country divided by British occupation that India too was under foreign rule.
Back then it was depicted as a land of searing heat, dust, exotic palaces, dark-eyed handsome men and beautiful women who wore wonderful saris of hues as brilliant as the plumage of rare birds – and soldiers suffocating in tight-necked red uniforms that must have made them sitting ducks for any rebel with a rifle. Later, getting to know an Indian family in Dublin I encountered the marvels of curried meals.
This book that I will write about in my next piece is dated 1879, a very long time ago. It’s titled THE INDIAN COOKERY BOOK THE KITCHEN IN INDIA and was published by Wyman & Co., Publishers. It was given to my sister, who loves cooking, by an old lady whose husband was a missionary in India. My sister wasn’t all that interested in recipes from India but knew Andreas and I were. It has proved to be a treasure trove of historical significance to me. You and I can run out to a shop when we need anything for eating or cleaning. There was a time when women had to reply on what they had in their kitchen cupboards. The book not only contains recipes for food but also for many other items of household necessity. This little gem also contains ‘suggestions’ of advice that no British publisher today would consider printing for fear of being called racist. I found a somewhat arrogant titbit under ‘knight of the broom’. It is a prime example of a way of thinking that, thankfully, has been pushed aside. I’ll begin with that next time.”
Colette Ni Reamonn Ioannidou