Two years ago I started writing my very first cookbook, and today I am able to share it with all of you in bookstores far and wide. Writing Adventures in Chicken was an interesting process – of course it takes a lot of time and effort to test out recipes, style the photos, take the photos, and write the book, but you put so much of yourself and who you are into it along with all of that. So much of your energy, your passion, and your blood, sweat, and tears. Coming up with 150 recipes for chicken at first seemed like an impossible task, but it ended up being one of the most fulfilling creative challenges of my life. Not only did it force me to think outside of my culinary comfort zone, which I’d been kind of stuck in, but it also helped me bridge the gap with strangers, which I can be a little shy around at times. I started using “what’s your favorite chicken dish?” as an ice breaker whenever I met new people, explaining to them that I was writing a book about it. Food is something that everyone has an opinion about, and it gave me an insight into who they were, where they came from, who the primary cook in their family was, and why they loved that particular preparation of this simple bird so much. Sometimes it was because of the surroundings in which they ate it, whether in their mother’s home or on a far away holiday. Other times it was because it reminded them of the person who made it, some of whom were no longer a part of this world. And just as often, it was simply because it tasted really, really good.
I love chicken because it is the everyman’s food, devoured through time by both the richest kings and the poorest peasants in all corners of the world. It’s an approachable meat that anyone can prepare, and is one of the most low-impact meats when raised properly. When allowed to pasture (as they should be) chickens will forage on whatever is around, consuming scrub vegetation and insects indiscriminately. Because they can survive and flourish in nearly any environment, you find traditional chicken dishes in pretty much every culture. They’re wonderful creatures that make for a very sustainable and delicious food source, I highly recommend looking into sources for ‘pastured poultry‘ in your area so you can buy your chicken direct from your local farmers. Many of them offer subscription services, too, so you can pick up all you need once every month or two at a meeting point in town (for Portland residents I recommend Marion Acres and Champoeg Creamery).
It’s been an incredible journey between the moment my ink dried on the contract to the time I opened up my book for the very first time. There is an old family photo of my yiayia standing in her garden in Greece, surrounded by the chickens that provided a steady food source for herself, my papou, and their eight growing children on the small rural pistachio farm they called home. Being able to see that photo printed in the introduction of a book dedicated to the creature that kept them going was a very special moment, because I knew that if they were still around they would have been very, very proud. Eating is a journey that can span generations, cross borders, and bridge gaps in time. When I make my mother’s lemon chicken drumsticks, I’m temporarily transported back to my parents’ dining table and feel the comfort and warmth of home. When I make coq au vin, I’m taken back to the now-defunct French restaurant on Venice beach that I went to when Jeremy and I first started dating over 10 years ago and shared our first meal together. I have put so many good memories into this book, while creating lots of new ones along the way, and I hope they provide you with a happy heart, full stomach, and a sense of adventure that inspires you to try something new with something familiar.