Alex Andreou’s posts of his mother’s home-cooked recipes (often against sun-drenched Greek backgrounds) have won him devoted followers on Twitter and Instagram, including Nigella Lawson. He writes regularly for the Guardian and Radio BBC 4. He is also an actor whose credits include plays at London’s West End, the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre. He is currently covering the Greek crisis by news site Byline, and his recent piece on Greece for the Guardian’s G2 was shared on social media by 375,000 users and read by millions. His first book, The Magic Bay Leaf, will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2017.
The Magic Bay Leaf is a portrait of Greece as seen from the kitchen table, blending memoir, food and travel writing to reveal the hidden art of real Greek food. It’s also the story of a son returning home to Mykonos to look after, and cook for, his mother as she suffers from Alzheimer’s related dementia. In sumptuous prose, as enlightening as it is elegant, and featuring a selection of bold, adventurous recipes, this is the taste of Greece as a taste of home – reminding us of the importance of food – to a country, and family, in crisis.
Alex Andreou comments: ‘Food is memory. It carries the imprint of personal and national history. Real Greek food exists in painfully beautiful, primary colours: born in kitchens with two gas rings and no gadgets, with dull knives, threadbare cloths and superstitious rituals. It embodies the hospitality and hardship of an entire people. This is the story I want to share with you: of a woman losing pieces of her identity, in the midst of a country struggling to rediscover its own, of chopped parsley and generational shifts, of prickly pear and migration, of bay leaves and caring for a parent with dementia. A memoir of life and a manual of love, for those who never knew and those who forgot.’