A chat with food writer Tessa Kiros

We chatted to food writer Tessa Kiros before her event with fellow food writer Giulia Scarpaleggia (of Juls’ Kitchen) for Florence Writers on the 21st March at 6.30pm.

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father. At 18 she left to travel and learn more about the world’s cultures, and in her twenties, she spent her time working in different restaurants and with families in London, Sydney, Mexico and Athens. She loves travelling, collecting things she loves. Food. People. Colour. Smells. Details. Different cultures and traditions. Why they do what they do and how they put their dishes together. How people, families and nations connect. On a trip to Italy to study the language and food, she met Giovanni and with him had two beautiful daughters. Her first book ‘Twelve’, which was initially self-published, is about Tuscany, the way they eat so seasonally, so monthly, so well. Such beautiful ingredients and simple presentation. She has 10 books to date, and still loves collecting recipes.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?

An egg and bread mashed together with a little butter that my mother used to always make us. Simple – but a unique flavour that I still love today – and so do my children. And pancakes! Always a winner.

What was the most unusual experience, place, etc. that inspired a recipe?

One of the unusual places that comes to mind is an island of the Azores when I was researching for my Portuguese book. Chunks of melting cabbage and various cuts of meat, carrots and potatoes with a whole chorizo as the single flavouring – all in a large iron pot and settled in the sands of a live volcano to cook overnight. I loved the flavours and wanted to make this as soon as I got home – in an oven of course.

When creating a new recipe, does it come to you visually, by scent or taste first?

By either and all I would say. I relate strongly to visual – but I think all of the senses are important with food. Something will impress one of my senses and make me want to go forward and explore it more. Sometimes a scent can remind me of something or take me to a certain place in my imagination.

Does music inspire you and if so, what do you listen to while you cook?

Yes, music definitely inspires me. Sometimes I need calm instrumental music. I also love dancing music and African, Greek – anything that energises me. And I love listening to whatever my daughters are listening to at the moment.

When preparing a recipe, do you usually think about the social context in which you find yourself?

Yes – cooking for a family I think brings you to a level of understanding the needs of others. Being aware how different peoples’ tastes actually are and that there are many levels that need to be satisfied in one sitting. I definitely think about these when I prepare a recipe – the goal being to provide nourishment and satisfaction all round.

Is there a story you wish to portray when you choose your ingredients?

Very often I am writing about a place or a situation – and I try to recreate my experience of it. By paraphrasing the content I can work it into the space I have and give it to the reader and also keep it for myself as a souvenir. 

How would you inspire new generations to step down from a fast food mentality towards a slow cooked and homemade cooking experience?

I would involve them in the planting, growing and gathering process as much as possible. In the food preparation – have them understand above all – how the food gets to our table. Encourage them to understand the nutrition aspect, our earth and the actual point of nourishing ourselves. I would encourage them to cook and eat with grandparents and understand eating seasonally. And also – I would look for films, series & documentaries to watch – that involve different food cultures with food sharing and exploring cooking techniques that is relatable to their age. This, I personally have always found very inspiring.

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