And so it came to pass that Chatto & Windus – the publisher of H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust and Samuel Beckett – has secured the global English rights to my ramblings about food, memory, caring for a parent with dementia, and the financial crisis. It did so, in a competitive field, with a passion and enthusiasm which took my breath away and made me believe that, perhaps in time, I might grow into a writer.
The Magic Bay Leaf – a title which might mean something to regular followers – is not a cookbook, although it contains recipes. It is not a memoir, although it contains personal history. It is not an essay on the financial crisis, although it reflects on it. It is the story of my tempestuous love affair with Greece, with Mum, with Politics, with Food and how they weave into each other.
My editor Parisa Ebrahimi at C&W and my agent Rachel Mills at PFD have been the most doting literary parents and have introduced me to the Penguin/Random House family with affection and care. As for my culinary Fairy Godmother, the resplendent Nigella Lawson, who saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself… Words shall never be sufficient to express my love and gratitude; but maybe the many, many meals we will continue to share will be more eloquent.
All that remains is the small matter of organising a suitcase full of garbled notes and cryptic recipes, and a head full of aching memories and filial love, into the story they demand to be.
Thank you for all the support
Chatto & Windus has bought a “portrait of Greece as seen from the kitchen table” by Guardian and New Statesman writer, actor and cook, Alex Andreou.
Editor Parisa Ebrahimi acquired world English rights to The Magic Bay Leaf from Rachel Mills at PFD.
The Magic Bay Leaf is described as “blending memoir, food and travel writing to reveal the hidden art of real Greek food”.
“It’s also the story of a son returning home to Mykonos to look after, and cook for, his mother as she suffers from Alzheimer’s related dementia,” said Chatto. “In sumptuous prose, as enlightening as it is elegant, and featuring a selection of bold, adventurous recipes, this is the taste of Greece as a taste of home – reminding us of the importance of food – to a country, and family, in crisis.”
Ebrahimi said: “We are overjoyed to bring Alex to Chatto – it’s about time someone lifted the lid on Greek cuisine and he is the perfect person to do it. This is the story of real Greek food told through the prism of home and homeland, written out of passion and necessity, in prose that is as delectable as the food it describes. This is food writing meets memoir at its sparkling, sumptuous best.”
Andreou said: “Food is memory. It carries the imprint of personal and national history. Real Greek food exists in painfully beautiful, primary colours: born in kitchens with two gas rings and no gadgets, with dull knives, threadbare cloths and superstitious rituals. It embodies the hospitality and hardship of an entire people. This is the story I want to share with you: of a woman losing pieces of her identity, in the midst of a country struggling to rediscover its own, of chopped parsley and generational shifts, of prickly pear and migration, of bay leaves and caring for a parent with dementia. A memoir of life and a manual of love, for those who never knew and those who forgot.”
The Magic Bay Leaf will be published in 2017.