Friday, 10 June 2011

Winners! (Νικητές!)

Cretan Cookery: Mum's 200 RecipesToday is the day I announce the winner for the cookbook I offered in my last post: Cretan Cookery: Mum's 200 Recipes. Thanks to all the participants, who were able to comment as often as they wanted to in order to gain a greater advantage when I made the draw for the winner. Thanks, too, for the flattering comments I often get about writing my own cookbook and getting it published. But writing a book - any book - is a huge undertaking. Judging from my published friends who spent many sleepless nights writing, rewriting, arranging, rearranging, collating and editing their work - not to mention the patience they had to show once they finished the job and waited to see the final finished product on the bookshelves - I know that writing a book would divert a huge amount of my attention away from life's daily duties, most of which, in my case, have to do with looking after my family. Already I am finding it difficult to find time to write for the blog; this is going to be the most recent post for a long time...

That's not to say that I wouldn't like to write a book that I believe my readers would enjoy. But I've promised myself that it can't be a simple Cretan cookbook. Why should it be a cookbook in the first place? I've already written that: the blog acts as a complete cookbook, full of basic Cretan recipes, all with my own twist. It's generally very searchable, and I've also discovered (to my great delight) that a large number of basic common Greek dishes and nearly all the dishes of Western Crete appear on the first page of a or search using just a simple search string with the name of the dish written in either English or Greek. The online world is pretty much an English one, so my English-language recipes are accessible to nearly everyone.

cretan cookbooksThe market for Cretan cookbooks is highly saturated (in Greece, they are generally sold as part of the range in 'travel' books); regional cookbooks, by nature, have a very limited readership. Despite the greater global awareness of the health attributes of the Mediterranean diet and the role Cretan cuisine plays in it, books based solely on Cretan cuisine are still not considered 'exotic' enough to be found in bookshops for the world market. Not only that, but there are many Cretan cookbooks already on the market which contain recipes that are pretty much the same as mine! A new Cretan cookbook would have to be unique. Because I write in English, the book would not be popular in Greece without some special marketing strategies being used. In fact, most of my readers (about 75%) don't live in the country where I write from. This book would have to be marketed for an audience away from my home.

But there's always self-publishing, you say. Nice idea, except that books are now going out of fashion due to electronic publishing. From my own experience, I know I don't like to acquire yet another book which needs more storage space which I can't afford. An e-book reader is so much more convenient - and research shows that people are more willing to pay for e-books when they are available at a good price than a new book. At any rate, both these options have their disadvantages. Self-publishing is not cheap; I worked out that a 100-page book would cost close to 20 euro a piece to produce and sell, and there is no guarantee of becoming sold out (most of those books would end up being given away). A friend of mine didn't expect the shock of seeing the mountain his self-published books created in his home - he needed half a room to store the copies he had ordered! So e-books sound like a great way to get round this - but they are very easy to pirate, just like CDs and DVDs. Before I bought my e-book reader, I bought The Help in print form. A few months later, I discovered that this book was one of the most pirated e-books on the market! Writing a blog easily wins me over: it's easy to write something short on a regular basis, it costs next to nothing, and although it doesn't make breakfast, it gives me a certain level of satisfaction to see good daily ratings and first-page mentions in search engines.

I also like to write fiction that often has a food base. This food distraction usually masks the main focus of my stories, which is to depict daily life in Crete, mixing both past and present experiences. Food readily lends itself to good stories because personality traits can be described through food attributes, and food is hardly ever missing from a Greek gathering. So food provides a natural setting for a good Greek story. But the people interested in my recipes are not all interested in my stories; there's only a very small overlap. I think there are more stories to tell than there are new recipes, and they are what could be turned into a unique book. When I think of that unique book idea (or rather, execute it), whether it's a recipe book, or a story book, or a combination, that's when the book will come out.

One thing for sure is that Cretans like nothing better than to share their food, even with strangers. Tony Edler's comment about the time he spent in Crete illustrates this point particularly well:
what cretan athenians crave
"He laughed a deep rumble similar to an earthquake –– his name was Francesko. He then yelled, which startled me. He was a Cretan and I was an U.S. Air Force member from the base near Iraklion. We met because he liked motorcycles and I had a Honda... the first 4-cylinder Honda in the world. His yell was a command for his 8-year old daughter to come to him, and she did. He pulled a three-foot long silky-black hair from her head causing her to duck, and run. He held the hair between his two hands and pushed it down through the warm and barely firm mizithra* cheese. The slice gently fell off to the side. He poured some spiced honey over the warm cheese and offered it to me. It was the best food I ever tasted!"
Through this book offer, I have had the pleasure to read many heart-warming comments about people's experiences in Crete, how they have embraced Cretan culture, and what endears them to my own homeland. I also realised that, although I don't know all my readers personally, I felt that I have actually gotten to know many of the commentators well over the number of years that I've been corresponding with them online. This made me think that it would be wrong to choose only one person as the winner of Cretan Cookery: Mum's 200 Recipes, a book that sounds cheap and easily available for purchase in Crete, but as it turns out, is very difficult to source at the right price if you live outside the country.

Ideally, I would have liked to give each one of the 40 or so participants in the draw a copy of this book, but it isn't really easy for me to do this. For this reason, I contacted the publishers of the book, Mediterraneo Editions, who very graciously offered me a special discount. Through the author of the book, Stella Kalogeraki, I was able to secure 20 copies of Cretan Cookery: Mum's 200 Recipes to allow for more winners. In this way, I feel I am sharing my food with as many people as possible, and maybe inspiring potential tourists to visit my island and experience the place and its people for themselves.

I made up the following list, according to the comments left on this post and my facebook page, where I posted news about the draw a number of times:
Commentators from the post:
1. Demetra
2. Jude
3. Peter M
4. Magda
5. Stamatia
6. Kaye
7. Maya
8. Mia Maria
9. Heather
10. Mia Xara
11. Stamatia
12. Claudia
13. Heidi
14. Tony
15. Maria DP
16. Dill
17. Kiki
18. Katbat
19. Cheryl
Comments from my facebook page:
20. Natalia Romero
21. Sharon Ger Carlsson
22. Hugh Morton
23. Darren Brown
24. Deirdre Smith
25. Elisabeth Pappafloratos-Pestsakos
26. Global Greek World
27. Manolia Margaris
28. Stella Xiaobaiyang
29. Demetra Lambros
30. Liz Drummond
31. Laurene Lambertino Urquizo
32. Fidanka Trajkova
33. Moaz and Christina Mediouni
34. Sherrie Papayanopoulos
35. Sherrie Papayanopoulos
36. Eva Barnas
37. Hugh Morton
38. Lizzy Karras
39. Darren Brown
40. Darren Brown
41. Darren Brown
42. Susan Crabtree-Stanley
43. Natalia Romero
44 Linda Sunderland
45. Eva Barnas
46. Lnda Sunderland  
47. Linda Sunderland 
48. Linda Sunderland
49. Stamatia Eliakis
50. Patricia Aivalikli
51. Stamatia Eliakis
52. Stamatia Eliakis
53. Stamatia Eliakis
54. Hugh Morton
55. Hugh Morton
56. Hugh Morton
57. Laurene Lambertino Urquizo
58. Anni Katsji
59. Stella Xiaobaiyang
60. Susan Crabtree-Stanley
61. Demetra Lambros 
62. Gina Fitzmartin 
63. Katherine Bournelis Batalov 
64. Darren Brown
65. Martina Sowinski 
66. Darren Brown
67. Panayiota McFeely 
68. Johnnie Patronis

The random sequence generator at yielded the following results:

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:
17  30   2  39  31  12  54
60  11  61  21  10  63  28
13  40  27   4   9  14  68
52   8  19  58  49  62  20
22  66  56  53  59  47  26
67  25  38  34  32  18  45
65  64  16  42   6   3  37
41  46  33  36  55  23  48
15   7   5  43  57  29  44
24  35  50  51   1  
Timestamp: 2011-06-11 05:55:55 UTC
Note: The numbers are generated left to right, i.e., across columns (not rows).

I chose the first twenty different names in this list (not the first twenty numbers, due to the multiple entries, which meant that some people won the book more than once). Hence, the following people are the lucky book prize winners:
17 Kiki
30 Liz Drummond
2 Jude
39 Darren Brown
31 Laurene Lambertino Urquizo
12 Claudia
54 Hugh Morton
60 Susan Crabtree-Stanley
11 Stamatia
61 Demetra Lambros
21 Sharon Ger Carlsson
10 Mia Xara
63 Katherine Bournelis Batalov
28 Stella Xiaobaiyang
13 Heidi
40 (invalid - same as 39)
27 Manolia Margaris
4 Magda
9 Heather
14 Tony
68 Johnnie Patronis

As I look through the winners' list, I am relishing the thought that a book about Cretan food is going to make its way all over the world. Now all I need is an email from the winners (mverivaki at hotmail dot com or through facebook) for your address. It would also be a real treat for me to eventually see a photo of your Cretan cooking exploits using this book. For those who weren't lucky enough to win a copy, you can order it through Mediterraneo Editions at a very reasonable price.

Happy summer cooking to you all!

* 'mizithra' in Hania (Western Crete) refers to curd (but not firm) cheese; 'mizithra' in Iraklio (Eastern Crete) refers to a more solid form of soft cheese that can be sliced; PDO mizithra refers to the former, made in Rethimno (Western Crete) with a slightly acidic taste; 150 kilometres makes a big difference in food labelling in Crete!

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