Athena Lamberis

Posts Tagged ‘food rituals’

Share. Cook. Love: The Cook Book

In Events, Friend's Kitchens, Recipe, Stories on August 5, 2012 at 15:53

Athena and Chris on The Culinary Linguists blog #cookbook

Our story began 2005, Feb 14th.

Durban, South Africa.  A Surfer met a Gypsy at Capoeira class.  It was a Monday, after the first day of our third year at University.

7 years later, in the province where it all began, we told everyone we loved to join us for a festival of families, a love

celebration . . . our wedding.

Friends and family came as far as California, Thailand, Belgium and Detroit. And on the Monday before our wedding I was given the most thoughtful and loving gift.

My sister, Koko, compiled a recipe book that she titled:

A collection of recipes on The Culinary Linguists blog #cookbook

Share. Cook. Love

The cookbook

Gathered by the women that love you.

As I opened this gift at my surprise Kitchen Tea, it felt as though my heart was reliving my most touching memories-an overwhelming feeling of love washed over me and misted my eyes.  I paged through over 50 recipes of family and friends that represented so many facets in my life.  From friends that were celebrating our marriage from afar, in Brasil, New York, Chicago and Nicaragua- I was able hear their voice through their shared words and recipes.  This cookbook was made for me and the diversity in dishes and loving varieties directly reflected the beautiful community of women in my life.  From dressings, to desserts, every tradition and recipe chosen for my own personal anthology of culinary linguists will be cherished throughout my life.

Now when I am missing my family and friends and want to create and cook from my heart–I can thank everyone who contributed to this emblem of friendship and love.  As a bride, it was a collage of memory that reverberated through my heart and now as a wife, it is a personal love resource from all the sisters and mothers that I get to celebrate with.  I have years of memory and new memories to look forward to, by creating edible creations curated by them.

This is culinary linguists at it’s best: a true example of love.

My family recipe contributors on The Culinary Linguists blog #cookbook

My mom, sister, myself and mamabel

Athena and Chris Wedding Day on The Culinary Linguists blog #wedding

Our wedding day June 30th

Athena and Chris on The Culinary Linguists blog #love

the day before our wedding day

The recipe book on The Culinary Linguists blog #cookbook

Diving into the culinary linguists!

Athena and Koko on The Culinary Linguists blog #family

Koko and I in 1984

Athena, Bride to be on The Culinary Linguists blog #wedding belindaandAthenakitchenteakitchenteainDurban Wedding Stationary Athena and Chris on The Culinary Linguists blog #wedding Athena and Chris' reception on The Culinary Linguists blog #wedding

A Durban Curry Bunny Chow Heat Feast in Cape Town

In Events, Friend's Kitchens, Recipe on January 15, 2012 at 09:34

Durban Curry Bunny Chow on The Culinary Linguist Blog #South AfricaClimate change and Durban curry?  What do they have in common?

It’s the only meal that will cool you down when a sub-tropical heatwave rolls through Cape Town.  A humid blanket covered the the whole city.  To survive the heat, we consumed the heat.  We invited our friends and a self-proclaimed Durban curry chef to bring their favorite curry ingredients, unsliced white bread and their swimming costumes.  Together, we sat by the pool regulating our body temperatures until the heat feast began.  Here’s a sneak peak of all the spicy humid harmony that was sprinkled

around the house:

Durban Curry Bunny Chow Pool Party on The Culinary Linguist Blog #South Africa

Pimm’s lemonade and soda

Olives, kuhestan’s persoan pickled lime served with cucumber slices

Banana, coconut sambal


Onion, tomato, dhania, red/yellow/green pepper/red cabbage with lemon or rice vinegar

Nice ‘n Spicy Natal Indian Masala Curry

Guy cooked for ten of us in two pots, frying the onions in oil until golden brown, together with garlic and ginger and the spices from Nice ‘n Spice.

Keeping it orginal and true to Durban bunny chow, there was chicken and potato added and cooked together to make a nice thick curry stew.

Here is a sample recipe to try at home as per Nice ‘n Spicy spice packets:

1 kg diced beef, mutton or chicken

1/4 cup oil for frying

2 chopped medium onions

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 small piece ginger root grated

10 curry leaves optional

1 tsp salt

1 TB sugar

2 large ripe tomatoes chopped

4 potatoes peeled and cubed

1/4cup chopped coriander leaves

15 grams Nice ‘n Spicy Masala curry mix

Courtesy of

Curry is best if cooked the day before and allowed to develop its full flavour overnight in the refrigerator.  We didn’t wait and left no curry drop behind.  We used bread as our utensils and wiped every flavour from the dishes clean.

Check out the behind the scenes on the slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mopani or mopane worms (caterpillars) taste like dried leaves

In Friend's Kitchens, Recipe, Stories on May 26, 2011 at 19:56

Mopane caterpillars eat Mopane tree leaves.

“They taste like a bit like biltong or chicken, I love them!” she explained. “Actually, they taste more like leaves.”  A bag of Mopani worms are sitting dried in my cupboard waiting for my “how to cook this” experimentation session. My seastar, Nokulinda, bought them from a Sangoma down the road from her work in Johannesburg. Noks wrote me a text before she arrived, “So happy to see you manana. x I come bearing gifts 🙂 I hope you like mopani worms . . . At least if you’re open to eating one the rest can compost xx.”

The first time I learned about mopani worms was by sticking my head inside a kitchen of a restaurant in Muizenberg.  I leaned over a huge bubbling pot in interest for what was for lunch to find plump fat worms instead of the expected butternut soup.  At that time I was more interested in where they came from than how they tasted.

Now, I’ve got my own worms and my own pot to bubble them in, there’s no shying away from it now.  People have been cooking these tree worms or rather caterpillars for centuries, so it should only feel natural to finally make up a recipe and cook and taste these Limpopo province imports, so here it goes:

bite-size butterflies

250 ml Mopani or mopane worms

1 clove of garlic

1 small onion

1 tomatoe

1 carrot

2 T of sesame and ricebran oil 

250 ml coconut milk

1 tsp fresh basil

1 tsp fresh lemongrass

6 peppercorns

2 tsp salt

150 ml rice

bath time

Bowl rice in 300ml water and lower to a simmer or place in a hot box for 45 minutes. Rinse the mopani worms in a colander. Place them in a bowl of warm water and let them soak while you prepare the vegetables.  When they have soaked for more than 5 minutes, remove any yellow hair found at the tail of the worm and tiny spikes on the body.

coconut milk broth

Boil water and add potato slices to the water.  Boil until soft. Heat oil on medium heat in a separate pan. Dice the garlic and onions and add to the heated oil.  Brown the onion and garlic. Puree tomatoe and carrot with 1 tsp salt and 1/3 cup water.  Add to the pan. Add 1 tsp salt, pepper, lemongrass, and basil. Add mopani worms and stir. Cover pan and simmer until the water has evaporated. Stir in the coconut milk, let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mopane worms are a source of protein, iron, phosphorus and calcium.

Lower the heat and stir what now should be a gravy-like consistency. Mopani worms should be soft and the gravy should be oh so tasty.  Add the potatoes to the gravy and let them soak up the flavour  or alternatively place in your hot box.  Fry the rice in coconut oil so some bits become crispy.  Serve the gravy over the rice and garnish with cilantro.

How to serve mopane worms 🙂

Next up: Chocolate covered worms!

The secret to making Oscar-winning Popcorn

In Friend's Kitchens, Recipe on February 28, 2011 at 23:53

The Academy Awards came and went but yet the popcorn-maker is still at work-satisfying each movie-goers mesmerizing experience in the world of cinema stories. You pay more for a Cherry Coke and Jumbo sized popcorn than a sit-down dinner at the show, and somehow a movie screening isn’t the same without this cinema snack.

My pops, a self-proclaimed super-taster, a.k.a Bones, loves

a.) Great Films


b.) Excellent Popcorn.

Luckily, we growing up with a Homemade Popcorn aficionado, we never knew what a bottom pile of unpopped kernels or  burnt popcorn ever tasted like.  Renting videos from the local Video Adventure film rental meant that Dad was in the kitchen later systematically pouring kernels into a deep pot, preparing for the home movie experience.  Today, I asked for his popcorn-making method because no movie would win an Oscar without popcorn made like this:

First:  Prepare your counters and kitchen stove top

popcorn production studio

Use your favorite kernels

dig through the pantry

open the kernel bag carefully

Pour Coconut oil one kernel deep in pot.
pouring the oil 'one kernel deep'
Cover bottom of pot with kernels all around but not layered.

covering the pot o' buttered gold

Turn on gas burner to medium heat. Cover and do not shake pot.

the waiting game: covering the pot until silence

When kernels appear to have all popped; wait for 5-10 seconds of silence and turn off heat. Lift cover slowly.

the opening show

Pour all into bowl. Lightly salt with popcorn salt. Microwave butter for 20-30 seconds and pour.

You now are eating great popcorn.

Red Carpet smile of an Academy-award winning Poppa

If no coconut oil you can use corn oil. 

Tony L.

The Rotating Lamb Spit at Up the Creek

In Events, Stories, Travel on February 6, 2011 at 13:22


the lamb spit

The Lamb spit combo

We floated on the Brede River for 8 hours, jammed to great South African music collaborations and ate delicious festival food at Up the Creek.  There was one food tent where Ma and Pa came up the creek and cooked for their whole festival family.  From a military tent, the food army family catering fed the thousands from three 100 litre potjie pots and a 2 by 8 meter rotating lamb spit.  As one of festival soldiers, they fed me well.  Butternut, beetroot, pasta salad, beans, pork, lamb and mash for R50. When the plate couldn’t handle anymore food, they asked if you wanted s’more.  There will delicious food stands but I’ll have to admit that the Ma and Pa meal was one of the highlights at Up the Creek.  Read more about the festival experience on

Up the Creek: floating on the river


The plate of glory

The food assembly line

a trailer pizza oven: brilliant

Stir-fry at Up the Creek

Dim Sum in New York City’s China Town

In Stories, Travel on February 3, 2011 at 15:26



Sharing comes from the heart. My sister getting her share.

In countries that celebrate the Chinese New Year, more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year.  Which reminds me of my time in China Town, New York City.  We weren’t eating traditional New Year foods but celebrated Chinese cuisine with the most delectable dim sum.With my two girlfriends and my sister, we ventured into the banquet hall of East Market Restaurant on East Broadway, a grand venue for a Sunday dim sum family affair.  It was my first time eating in New York City’s China Town and by far one of my favorite meals in the fabulous city that never sleeps and never stops serving food!



Heartful portions of dim-sum



What is dim sum? I would describe it as individual portions of food that include a wide variety of steamed buns, rolls, vegetables, etc.  I learned that the dim sum is meant to “touch the heart” and traditionally was served as a snack to accompany your morning tea.  They are often served on small plates or small steaming bamboo baskets and at our venue we shared them around a lazy susan on a round table.  The decor was flamboyant and I felt like I was eating at a dim sum wedding reception sans speeches and music.  There were silver food crates that were pushed around in between the maze of tables for you to choose which dim sum plate you wanted to share.  The server placed the basket or plate onto your table and stamped a piece of paper that indicated which dish we chose.


stamp art a.k.a our bill

After all the lotus leaves were unwrapped and all the steamed bao’s began to expand in our tummies, we agreed our dim sum breakfast was a culinary success.  All of our senses feasted and I exhaled a happy digestive sigh.  I looked around as we exited the pink dining hall and quickly glanced at all the large families gathered around their Sunday dim sumsharing tables.  Whether we share taro dumplings or tofu skin rolls, it is true to say that when people share food together, they certainly share a piece of their heart with eachother too. I think dim sum is certainly a food language in itself, a symbol of how food, when shared together, whether steamed or fried, does communicate straight to the heart. It certainly captured mine.



When I returned to Cape Town, I checked out the unofficial China Town strip in Sea Point.  Since then, I haven’t found that NYC pink-dining-hall-with-food-crates-and-stamps restaurant yet, but I have found where to buy the frozen dim sum they sell in the restaurants.  I don’t have any dim sum to defrost and celebrate the New Year, or second new moon after winter/summer solstice but will try to make a dish to share with my family in hopes it ‘touches their heart.”  Or according to some superstitions related to Chinese homonyms, I’ll pan-fry some bamboo shoots to “wish that everything will be well” and find a recipe that includes black moss seaweed and dried bean curd for “wealth and fulfillment in happiness.”  Happy New Year 2011!

The Ying Yang fountain outside East Market Restaurant




The Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg

In Recipe on October 4, 2010 at 15:16


The Soft-Boiled Egg


Is the perfect boiled egg done in 3, minutes, 4 minutes, 4 and a half?  What if the egg is extra-large, or has been refrigerated?  The beauty of the perfect boiled egg is that you develop your own quirky habits of ‘knowing’ when it is ready to the consistency you enjoy dunking freshly buttered toast slices into the seasoned yolk.   I have memories as a pre-kinder kid loving the finger-food boiled egg treat with French playmates.  Growing up, butter never reigned as high as Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my house so buttered toast was never found on our breakfast table. When I first had buttered toast in Marie’s home, I experienced my first taste combination fetish: Butter-Toast-Soft-Boiled Egg and therefore became best friends with our Parisian neighbors.  I loved everything about the soft-boiled egg eating experience: The precious egg cup holder, delicate teaspoon, thinly sliced buttered toast that gets dunked into warm salted egg yolk.

These days I have my own soft-boiled egg cooking techniques (when the egg taps on the pot while the water is boiling I turn the heat off and remove the egg after I have buttered my toast) but I still cut my bread into dunking strips as if I were at Marie’s.  In Cape Town, I support the local  funki funghi truffle lady by buying her oil three times a year or more depending on the frequency of a soft-boiled egg craving.  The oil substitutes the butter on the toast or doesn’t :).  I pour the oil right in the salt and peppered yolk and spoon out the goodness of truffle brushed egg white and yolk and place it on a slice of fresh toast. Mmmm, really it’s just the best way to eat an egg-thanks chicken and Marie for buttering my toast into bite-size utensils.


El Fin


Food Language Speaks Up!

In Recipe, Stories, Travel on September 8, 2010 at 12:36

Food and communication is a necessity for all of us and this blog is a celebration of variety, sharing of ideas, cultures and the language of food which ultimately connects us all.

The food that will be and has been created in my kitchen and friend’s kitchens will be spoken about in this blog, as a testament to the way we each have our own food language.  It communicates history, culture, experience and motivates us to create and share, diversifying our palette.

So this is a journey and journal through the languages of food, mixing and experimenting with tastes from many different spice racks, gardens, cultures and regions.

Please feel free to share this space as a forum of recipe ideas, flavor and food language gossip.  I love to hear the stories about food, questions, ingredient combination discoveries, and the rituals of food sharing, etc. Otherwise, I hope the recipes shared here speak to you and can be recreated in your own unique way.

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