Book Review of Olives & Lemons

This is the sort of book visitors who have more than the sun-sea-sand-and-sex interest in Cyprus buy to take home, and one that we residents always have on the bedside cabinets of our guest bedrooms. After 20 years of living here, I have to say I enjoyed it - a sort of refresher course, if you like. It is well and popularly written, containing plenty of historical and cultural information.


As well as a text that moves along smoothly there are some excellent photographs and to add to the overall rural feeling, charming line and wash drawings by Gillian Keef, who not only lives in a very traditional Cyprus house, but, having taken the trouble to learn Greek properly, is able to engage village people who not only tell her lots, but help her set-ups for her pretty artistic vignettes, too.


From the title and the cover, one might expect a book about Cyprus food - but Shirley knows her rural history and that a book about the cuisine of the "good old days" was not on - the diet then was sparse and gleaned from the pretty poor land around - subsistence food rather than gastronomic. So, cheese, olives, greens from the countryside, carobs, capers and the fruit and vegetables are the items that mostly sustained the villagers until quite recently. Chicken once a month, perhaps. Goat or lamb at Easter and Christmas. A pig, dispatched from this mortal coil at Christmas, maybe - parts to be eaten fresh, others to be smoked, dried or otherwise preserved, in some but not all houses.


It's a very attractive book, well produced. I think I would have liked a linking commentary from the old life to the new, especially in the matter of the change in food diet and the development of the new table wines of Cyprus. Nevertheless, every English speaking home should have a copy and it will make a pleasing prezzie for families and friends overseas.

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