Les Liaisons Culinaires

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 December, 2011, 12:00am


Les Liaisons Culinaires
By Andreas Staikos

Novels rarely make you hungry, but it's challenging to get through Les Liaisons Culinaires without developing a craving for sea urchin, rabbit stew, lamb with peas and stuffed vine leaves.

The story is about two Greek men, Dimitris and Damocles, who live in the same apartment block and are in love with the same woman. In addition to the two lovers, the sensual Nana might be married, or at least, she uses a husband as an excuse with both men when she's dallying with one or the other. Nana has a healthy libido, but her lovers realise the way to her heart is through her stomach. They compete for her affections by making extravagant feasts. She's a demanding lover (and gourmand), rejecting Damocles' elaborate, time-consuming Easter soup, which has sheep liver, spleen, heart, lungs and sweetbreads cut 'into tiny cubes the size of the tiles of a Byzantine mosaic', by dismissing it as 'mosaic tiles scattered carelessly in a swamp'.

The story is broken up by recipes of the meals described. Nana's favourite food, and one she demands frequently, is sea urchin, which her lovers make this way: 'Take 10 sea urchins, place them in a small bowl, mix them with two blasts of the Etesian winds [cool northerly winds that blow every summer over Greece and the Aegean Sea] and add a drop of lemon juice.' Other recipes include oven-roast lamb with potatoes, Constantinople artichokes, moussaka and stuffed tomatoes.

But good food is not the only thing the fickle Nana commands: on one occasion, she tells Damocles to 'kneel down beside me, bring the cigarette up to my mouth, and I'll take long, satisfying puffs on it. And I want you to count to 12 between puffs.' After smoking three cigarettes, she makes him serve her the meal in the same way.