This year I’m going to post some gift ideas for those with an an eye towards a more Greek Christmas. I’ve compiled some gifts from stocking-stuffers to more substantive presents and the gifts range in price for all budgets. For starters, why not buy some miniature calendars with Greek recipes? I would certainly like to see this in my stocking this year.
Last year I was given this handmade, crocheted Greek flag winter hat from Sophia (blogger, mommy and wife). I’m ready for the Canadian winter with my Greek hat. Are you ready for winter? I know you want to order one of these hats now!
If there’s one think I like doing with family & friends is watching some movies during the cold winter nights. My picks are the Italian-made Mediterraneo and Politiki Kouzina (Touch of Spice was chosen as the English title). Mediterraneo won an Oscar in 1991 for best foreign film and it’s a story of an Italian army company stationed and then stranded on the Greek island of Kastellorizo. The movie is subtitled but the Italian knack for humour combined with sentiment doesn’t get lost in translation.
A Touch of Spice is another DVD in my personal collection. The movie centers around a boy and his family who fled their beloved home in Constantinople (Istanbul) to begin a new life in Athens with the sentiment of being foreigners in their own land. Food and family figures big in this movie, the soundtrack is top-notch and Greeks and non-Greeks alike will get a sense of how important “politki kouzina” (the cuisine of Constantinople) figures in Greek cookery.
While we’re on the subject of spices, let’s talk about Mastiha for a bit. Artemis and Kalliope of the mastihashop in NYC were kind enough to create some gift packages ideal for the readers of this site. Mastiha is a natural tree resin called the pistacia lentiscus var Chia tree. The resin is harvested from the trees that only grow on the southern part of the island of Chios. Greeks use this unique spice in breads, Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread), desserts and in many creative savory dishes.
If you’re more adventurous in the kitchen and you want to create your own dishes with Mastiha in them, you can choose the gift box (ask for THE PURIST) with the mastiha large “tears”, mastiha cooking powder and the medium mastiha “tears” (along with a recipe book) for $46.75.
During a recent visit to Toronto’s Greektown on the Danforth, I discovered that Leonidas chocolatier will be opening soon at the corner of Danforth & Logan. Almost everyone loves chocolate and since it’s Christmas, why not splurge on the finest Belgian chocolates from Leonidas?
I’ve recently being enjoying my very own Greek coffee renaissance, that is to say sipping more Greek coffee rather than the usual percolated stuff. Why not buy a set of Greek coffee cups for a faovourite aunt, sister or niece or nephew that may be homesick?
We shouldn’t forget that Christmas is also of religious importance. Greek families will go to church and our parish also has a choir that lifts the spirits of the parishioners with hymns and carols. Those who are Greek (or those who have Greek friends) will know that icons adorn the walls of most Greek homes. Why not give the gift of a religious icon?
I don’t know about you but by the time Christmas arrives, I’m burnt-out by the repetitive playing of Christmas carols starting with the shopping mall Muzak that began playing “Silver Bells” from late October! In our home and when I visit Greek friends & relatives we’ll be playing the Greek tunes. Internationally adorned recording artist George Dalaras is a fave of mine and if one were to attend one of his concerts, you may see three generations of Greeks in the audience. Why not buy Dalaras’ latest CD?
It’s time for some cookbook recommendations. The first cookbook is “Around the Greek Table”, written by the “Three Greek Sisters”, Betty, Eleni and Samantha. These gals share a mix of their family’s cherished home dishes and some modern takes on Greek classics with mouth-watering photos, easy to follow recipes that work and the cookbook is suitable for the Greek looking to make mom’s dishes or for the person looking for an intro to Greek cookery. “Around the Greek Table” is now in it’s second print and the Sisters continue to visit bookstores for book-signings and conduct cooking demos on TV. You can also buy the book from Greek City Video.The second cookbook I am recommending comes from none other than “kuria” Vefa Alexiadou, the Julia Child of Greek cuisine. Last year Vefa released “Vefa’s Kitchen”, a large cookbook that’s a ‘best of’ containing recipes from the several cookbooks Vefa wrote mostly in the Greek language, This cookbook touches upon dishes from all regions of Greece and recipes ranges from salads to soups, meat and fish, the many vegetarian offerings in Greek cookery, savory pies, sweets, cakes and breads. This IS the Greek Cooking bible.
A couple of years ago I visited the isalnd of Sifnos, located in the western Cyclades. Sifnos is the birthplace of Nikos Tselementes (like a Greek James Beard) and the island is also know for it’s hand-crafted pottery and stoneware. Why not splurge and buy a loved one a hand-crafted and painted item, shipped to you directly from Sifnos?The Karamaniakis family proudly shares green gold from their family’s olive groves in the Peloponesse in Greece. Olive oil is an integral part of Greek cuisine and I can’t imagine cooking without it. The Karamaniakis family is offering Christmas gift packs featuring the Twisted Pit series of naturally flavoured oils. There’s “rosemary, ginger, orange”, “wild oregano, pepper and lemon”, “mountain herbs, chilli & lime” and finally, “basil, roasted garlic & grapefruit”.
For those more traditional, the Karamaniakis family also is offering Christmas gift offerings of their Artemis extra-virgin olive oil, limited edition bottles with extra-virgin olive oil from the family’s Peloponnese olive groves. Order both at Www.twistedpit.com/giftcatalogue2010.PDF
My friends at Christos Marketplace have been in business selling Greek goods at their Boston store for two generations and they recently have expanded to offer internet sales. Besides their mail-order Greek Feta (other cheeses) service (US only), they are sending out two varying Gift Baskets loaded with an array of Greek goodies. Send a loved one one of these sampler baskets with Greek coffee, honey and olives.My friends Artemis and Kalliopi from the Mastiha Shop in New York have created two gift baskets for the Christmas holidays.
Finally, I recently went down to Toronto’s trendy Queen West area to visit my friend Louis at Nikolaou Restaurant Supply. Louis always likes to show me the neat stuff in his store and when he pulled out the Atlas Pepper Mill from Greece, I instantly fell in love with them and ordered in! The pepper mills are made of brass, made in Greece and they will last a lifetime! Those in Toronto can head down to Nikoalou or order the Atlas Pepper Mill on-line.
Order early to avoid disappointent/late deliveries and ALWAYS ask if any of the above companies can guarantee delivery of your order by Christmas.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, a healthy and prosperous New Year. Don’t drink and drive, think about those who have less, make a donation to your local Food Bank or charity and invite a friend or relative that you haven’t seen in awhile over to your place. I’ll be sharing lots of festive recipes in the coming days…stay tuned!
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