Most Beautiful Books

Two books with most beautiful in the title: one focuses on Paris and the other covers Greece. While those two words may grab attention, a reader is bound to face disappointment because of the high expectations these superlatives evoke.

The Most Beautiful Walk In The World, by John Baxter, Harper Perennial 2011 is a ramble through space and time. It starts in Paris but touches on several other locales as well. The author begins by praising walking. Then relates an incident involving his French in-laws, who are surprisingly inept at cooking the annual holiday meal.

Eventually Baxter is invited by a friend to be a tour guide, replacing a tour guide who failed to engage his audience. Initially reluctant, he performs better than he expected, beginning a new career in his adopted city. It’s a job that requires flexibility and creativity.

Baxter proves seems well-suited for the challenges, dispensing amusing stories and offbeat historical information to delight both the tourists he guides through Paris and those fortunate to discover his book.

The Most Beautiful Villages Of Greece, text by Mark Ottaway and photographs by Hugh Palmer, Thames & Hudson, 1998 suggests more than it delivers. I expected stunning images revealing delightful architectural gems. Perhaps in the style of Architectural Digest. However, what turned up is more reminiscent of National Geographic. While the type size in the paperback edition is rather small, I managed to read it without a magnifying glass.

The book contains photos and text about villages in the northern and southern mainland as well as islands in both the Ionian and Aegean seas. I was surprised by the tower houses of the Mani and learned a few things about the geography and history of the country.

It’s a good introduction to prospective travelers or anyone that collects all things Greek.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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Three Women

Sophia Antonini and Stavroula Toska met while working on the management team of the Paris Theater, a Manhattan art house that screens non-English-language films in their original language. They soon discovered that they both shared a passion for cinema.

Toska came to New York from Greece to continue her acting studies, and Antonini is currently enrolled at the School of Visual Arts working on a degree in screenwriting. In 2010 the two women founded Orama Pictures to produce original work for film and television.

While searching for suitable material to develop into their first feature length production, Toska introduced herself to Olympia Doukakis after a panel discussion where the actress spoke about personal and business experience. They exchanged contact information and when they met a second time, Doukakis recommended a book that moved her twenty-five years earlier.

Greek Women In Resistance by Eleni Fourtouni, Thelphini Press 1986 documents the experiences of Greek women imprisoned during the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). Most of the book is a translation into English of the journals kept by the women who were confined. It provided the inspiration for further research on the subject.

Three Candles, the working title of the Orama Pictures feature narrated by Olympia Dukakis, is in post-production with a projected release date of 2013.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Olive Oil Exposed

Tom Mueller began his 13 August 2007 New Yorker article, Slippery Business, with an incident that is sadly typical.

Two decades ago a tanker freighter filled with hazel nut oil in Turkey eventually arrived in Italy, where the cargo was described on official ship documents as olive oil from Greece. Passing through customs unchallenged it was bottled, perhaps as part of a blend, and sold to consumers as real olive oil.

The author provides convincing evidence of widespread fraud that continues both in Europe and the United States. Over the last five years he’s continued researching the subject worldwide.

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller, W.W. Norton, 2012, is a fascinating book and a must-read for both food lovers and health advocates.

He not only uncovers the abuses in the industry but also highlights individuals who are attempting to reform and promote the benefits of an authentic high-quality product. He interviews both those accused, and in some cases convicted, of selling lampante (lamp oil) as extra virgin, and others who continue to champion practices and safeguards that will insure the sale of honest and healthful olive oil.

Some of the largest Italian distributors of olive oil are supplying inferior oil to consumers through supermarkets nationwide.  Too often the Italian flags and appellation found on bottles is part of the scam. Mueller writes that more than half of what is sold in the United States, a rapidly growing and totally unregulated market, is bogus.

He includes advice about shopping and storing extra virgin olive oil and lists sources he believes are reliable in his book as well as his web site.

I was glad to find several growers and bottlers in Northern California listed and am enjoying the oil of one family-owned company he cited several times during a recent interview on a local radio station. Others may find Australian, Italian, or Spanish olive oil to their liking.

Do read this book!

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

US Greek Festivals

May Day is celebrated in Greece in two ways. It’s a traditional celebration of spring with picnics and family outings. Also it’s a commemorated with militant labor marches.

During my last visit to Athens I experienced a bit of both. On my way to a large park in the north of the city I walked along streets closed to traffic including buses, passing crowds of people headed toward Syntagma, which faces the Parliament.

I spent the afternoon sharing food and drink with mainly young people in a shaded area. A majority of them were Greek, others were from Turkey, Bulgaria, Germany. Perhaps three-dozen of us socializing and enjoying the good weather. A temporary respite for those who still faced a jobless future after completing their education.

In the United States there are many Greek festivals sponsored by Orthodox Churches from late spring to early fall. Below are some I’ve found:

9 – 12 May 2012 • Annunciation • 32 East Ross Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA

11 – 12 May 2012 • Annunciation • 573 N. Highland Street, Memphis, TN

17 – 20 May 2012 • St. Sophia • 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY

17 – 20 May 2012 • St. George • 1200 Klockner Road, Trenton, NJ

18 – 20 May 2012 • Nativity of the Theotokos • 1236 Spotswood Furnace Road, Fredericksburg, VA

18 – 20 May 2012 • Annunciation • 1100 Napa Valley Road, Little Rock, AR

18 – 20 May 2012 • Sts. Constantine & Helen • 265 W. Third Street, Mansfield, OH

18 – 20 May 2012 • Ascension Cathedral • 4700 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, CA

18 – 20 May 2012 • Prophet Elias • 223 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA

25 – 27 May 2012 • Church of the Nativity • 1110 Highland Drive, Novato, CA

31 May – 3 June 2012 • Sts. Constantine & Helen • 60 Traverse Road, Newport News, VA

31 May – 3 June 2012 • Holy Trinity • 250 Gallows Hill Road, Westfield, NJ

1 – 3 June 2012 • St. Nicholas • 3109 Scio Church Road, Ann Arbor, MI

1 – 3 June 2012 • St. Nicholas • 1260 Davis Street, San Jose, CA

2 – 3 June 2012 • St. Andrews • Mission Plaza, Downtown, San Louis Obispo, CA

Dance! Eat! Enjoy!

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved