With her adopted country mired in economic and immigration crises, the act of writing a cookbook filled with recipes from royal relatives and other notables might seem a bit indulgent.
The point isn’t lost on Princess Tatiana of Greece. “It’s an international crisis, which needs urgent help,” she said, referring to the wave of migration from war-torn countries in the Middle East. “Due to Greece’s geographic location, there’s a huge amount of problems. More than 1,500 children came this year to Greece alone.”
The Princess insists the refugee situation isn’t political. “You have to put it on a humanitarian level,” she said. “We’re working with the fund for unaccompanied children.”
One reason Princess Tatiana had been in New York — besides meeting with her publisher — was to attend a June 2 benefit dinner at the Metropolitan Club for Lifeline New York and the Bodossaki Foundation of Greece, which are providing critical support services for unaccompanied refugee children.
“Let’s see if I can help raise awareness,” she said. “That’s how I like to leverage my international network.”
Princess Tatiana also likes promoting her adopted homeland. Hence the cookbook, “A Taste of Greece: Recipes, Cuisine, Culture,” co-written by Diana Farr Louis. It will be published by TeNeues in July.
“Taste” isn’t the culinary philosophy of a single cook or a well-known chef’s canon, but rather, an assortment of recipes and musings from prominent ex-Pats and the country’s avid admirers. “Those with a shared love of Greece,” the princess said.
Proceeds from the book will go to Boroume, which means “We Can,” an organization that donates meals throughout Greece and raises awareness of food waste.
Princess Tatiana’s own cooking style is “natural, healthy, seasonal and local,” she said. With Greece’s embarrassment of natural riches, from farms and vineyards to the sea, “simple doesn’t mean boring,” she said. “To bring out the flavors, all you need is a little olive oil and salt.
“I adopted a seasonal diet,” she continued. “I’m so excited when I see the first bunch of asparagus and cherries have arrived.”
Contributors to the cookbook were asked to explain what Greece means to them. They were also asked about their fondest memories of Greece and to supply recipes for their favorite dishes.
“I wanted to highlight how different the cuisine is,” the Princess Tatiana said. “There’s a side of me that loves grilled fresh vegetables and fresh fish, and a more indulgent side that loves Saganaki [shrimp, feta cheese and tomatoes], grilled Halloumi, [Cypriot unripened brine cheese] and Spanakopita or spinach pie.”
The book is filled with postcard-worthy photos of white hilltop villages overlooking the impossibly blue sea. The landscapes, including mysterious dawns and beautiful sunsets, were photographed by Princess Tatiana’s husband, Prince Nikolaos.
Princess Tatiana’s in-laws, Queen Anne-Marie and former King Constantine II of Greece, went into exile in 1967 after a counter-coup by Constantine failed. They returned in 2013, after 47 years, permanently settling in Porto Heli on the eastern side of the Peloponnese. “Greece has a magnetism that always brings people back, and those who are away sometimes ache with nostalgia and a strong designer to return,” Queen Anne-Marie wrote in the book, obviously speaking from experience. Her recipe for Greek salad gazpacho is based on the traditional Horiatiki salad, and fish a la Spetsiota is a favorite on the island of Spetses.
Arianna Huffington provides a recipe for Melokadrona, traditional Christmas cookies, laced with cloves, cinnamon, orange, honey and brandy. “Greece’s challenges have illuminated a national trait — resilience,” she observed.
“Rita Wilson, who I met last summer, is very passionate about her country,” Princess Tatiana said of the actress, who supplied a recipe for Greek New Year’s cake.
Margaret Atwood, the Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic and essayist, who has been vacationing in Greece for years, waxes nostalgic about the Greek yogurt soufflés that are served for breakfast in hotels and dessert in tavernas, and provides a recipe for one.
Tatiana Blatnik was born in Caracas and raised in Switzerland and New York. “I’ve always had this quest for identity,” she said. “In putting this book together, I realized that my identity is linked to a culinary identity.”
Blatnik’s Jet Set courtship had her meeting her future husband, who was a friend of her brother’s, in a nightclub in Switzerland. “It was like something out of a movie,” she said. “He pursued me for over a year.”
Blatnik in 2010 married Prince Nikolaos. They lived in London before moving in 2013 to the northern suburbs of Athens, “in the middle of mountains and forests — the best of everything,” she said.
“I fell in love with the country through my husband’s eyes,” Princess Tatiana said. “I genuinely feel at home there. I live the life that’s very true to who I am.”
Princess Tatiana, who graduated from Georgetown University, was a public relations consultant and event organizer for Diane von Furstenberg.
In the cookbook, her former employer extols the virtues of Greek tomatoes “that taste like the sun” and slow-roasted lamb. She offers a recipe1 for the latter with garlic and lemony potatoes, and her grilled octopus, which is “tender and juicy, with a bit of char.”
The princess worked other fashion connections. Mary Katrantzou’s Yemista, or stuffed tomatoes and peppers is a family recipe. Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti’s savory Mousse de Feta a la Grecque, is as elegant as the gentlemen themselves.
Maestro Zubin Mehta, “a dear friend of Queen Sophia of Spain, who comes to Greece a lot,” provides his version of one of Greece’s most famous dishes, Moussaka.
“This is much more than just a recipe book,” Princess Tatiana said. “It’s a collection of memories. You can have it sit in your kitchen or on your coffee table.”