Hoffman, Susanna. The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking. Workman Publishing, New York, 2004.
I will be the first to admit that I have a lot of Greek cookbooks. Lots and lots of Greek cookbooks. My mother-in-law and I were in the cookbook section of the store one day and this book caught my eye. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the fact that capers are one of my husband's favorite ingredients. It tempted me enough, at least, to pick it up and look at it. The cover, too, caught my interest. Still, that wouldn't be enough to tempt me to take up more rapidly dwindling shelf space with yet more advice on making moussaka and horiatiki salad. My usual practice, if I'm interested in a book that covers an area I've already got resources for, is to open it randomly three times and see what comes up. Each time I did this with Hoffman's book, I came up with a recipe for something I hadn't seen before, that looked tasty and interesting. The book came home. My father-in-law reviewed it briefly and despite disagreeing with a couple of translations gave it his seal of approval. I settled in that very night to give it a more thorough treatment.
Hoffman is an anthropologist by training. She got into Greek cuisine while doing fieldwork on Santorini. (If you ask me, she went a bit native. She makes frequent references to the way "we" do things on Santorini. But who will blame her?) The book is full of colorful anecdotes of where she got this recipe, what she was doing the first time she ate that food, etc. She also frequently includes historical information about food, epigrams, etc, that tie the very modern recipes she's providing back to the food of the ancients. I'm a history buff, and majored in archaeology as an undergraduate, so this was absolutely the right way to hook me! The recipes are cleanly written and rarely call for ingredients that are not easily found in the supermarket. (An exception is mastic, which features in multiple recipes and which I haven't been able to find in the Boston area in quite some time.)
I haven't had the opportunity to try anything from this book yet. As I said, the recipes are cleanly written and I don't anticipate many difficulties. One observation that both my mother-in-law and husband made was that there aren't a whole lot of pictures of the finished dishes, which doesn't really bother me much but might be off-putting to some readers. Also, no nutritional information is provided.