- Learning and Mentoring Never Stops with Educator Angelo Pappas
- “Cliffs of Freedom”: A Historical Drama Set in Greece, Blending Ageless Themes of Hope, Love and Sacrifice
- Alabama’s Alex Gulas: a Pioneer for Racial Justice
- Fordham Honors Solon P. Patterson and Marianna R. Patterson
- Dr. George Handjinicolaou HABA’s Executive of the Year 2019
More than a cookbook: an ambassador to Lefkada and Greece!
It is with great pleasure that we feature in this issue Maria Katopodis-Zoitas and the debut of her stunning new cookbook and personal history that is also a labor of love and which took nearly two years to produce: actually her entire lifetime, since Maria started cooking as a little girl for her family back in her native island and mine, Lefkada. I have known Maria since I came to New York some 30 years ago, and I can personally attest to her mouth-watering recipes, because I was often invited to her home for holidays and meals.
I also witnessed firsthand the development of the ready-to-eat foods that got started in a small kitchen at the family’s Westside Markets and has blossomed into a full chain of gourmet markets serving perhaps the biggest number of dishes daily than any other food emporium in New York City and employing hundreds of people. I, too, was employed there during my student years and I know firsthand the work ethic and the importance of quality in everything Maria and her family offer at their stores. Despite this success, Maria remains a very warm and approachable person, ready to share her experience and food whenever the occasion arises.
More than an introduction to Greek and Mediterranean foods (the two are not the same, as some food critics naively assume), Maria’s cookbook is also a testament to her growing up on a Greek island in a time when life could be harsh and a struggle for survival. Which is why it offers a very valuable glimpse into a life that once was, and which did produce the kind of tenacious people who left to seek their fortune abroad and with nothing in their pockets, but then prospered beyond their wildest dreams through sheer hard work and their own ambition and have left an indelible mark on their adopted homes.
And of course, present in the book is today’s Lefkada Island, with its unparalleled beauty, which has made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. In that regard, Maria’s book is also an ambassador to the island and to Greece itself, because it is available in all the Westside Markets of Manhattan and Maywood, New Jersey (99% of the patrons are non-Greek) where thousands of customers not only sample the delicious hot food but now through the book also see the rich history of the recipes that produced that food. The book is also available at Amazon.
Having entered the Holiday Season, what better gift than Maria’s luxurious book! It will make happy both those who give it and those who receive it. And as an extra perk, proceeds will go to charity.
Merry and Blessed Christmas to all!
P.S. Those of you who haven’t placed your Holiday Greeting in this edition of NEO, you still have time, as the New Year’s issue is coming up.