Create Cooking Challenge on American Public Television: My Family’s Recipe

Way back in early March, I got a phone call from my older brother; Jim often calls me in the morning on his way into his clinic. Apparently, the traffic must get really boring. Anyway, this morning, he said I should finally put my proverbial pen down, put on my apron, and enter a cooking contest. And it just so happened that CreateTV was sponsoring a contest at the very same time: My Family’s Recipe. All I had to do was make a 2-minute video of me preparing a family recipe, add a few comments, and send it in. And to sweeten the deal, my brother offered the services of his son, Christopher, who had recently finished university with a degree in film production. Christopher would help me with all the technological d-d-details that would have doomed my whole effort without his help.

Long story short, I settled on a recipe, wrote a script that I could read aloud in two minutes, cleared out my kitchen, and set a date for filming. Christopher showed up with lights, reflectors, cameras, microphones, patience, and know-how. Two filming days later and many more hours spent editing, and here was my entry:

Finally, the results were announced on May 31st. And I came in 13th place! (Who said 13 was an unlucky number?!) I am still dumbfounded and humbled and excited and ready to try more. In the meantime, please watch and share my happiness at being recognized.

PS Below are the comments that were included as back story to my video.

Yiayia’s Savaren by Susan Seger

I was aways fascinated by my Greek American grandmother’s cooking.  She was not your average Greek American; she was born in Chicago when most other Greeks in America had emigrated.  Even when her parents took her back to Greece for her mother’s health, she knew she would return to America.  The cooking she learned in her finishing school in Athens reflected the country’s new-found fascination with French culinary style, popularized by the Greek chef Nikolaos Tselementes.  He was to Greek cooking what Julia Child was to American cooking. That was my grandmother’s style of cooking. 

The recipe I chose came from her files.  She called her recipe “Savaren” even though it was not a typical French savarin, i.e. made with yeast.  In fact, her recipe has no biological or chemical leavening at all.  It’s a blend of lightness and substance, beaten egg whites and farina, moistened after baking with sugar-syrup – like a savarin.  It also has little fat (certainly no butter) but relies on the prolonged beating of egg yolks and sugar.  Orange juice and rind give it subtle flavor, and a breadcrumb-almond meal-farina mixture give it body.  The result is a very light cake, delicate but sturdy.

This recipe intrigued me because, on the surface, it sounds French.  But when I analyzed the ingredients and method, it seemed to me unique.  It is like other Greek syrup-cake desserts but not quite the same.  I have been unable to find another recipe like it in any of my grandmother’s cookbooks, nor in any of my Greek festival cookbooks (popular at festivals hosted by Greek churches in America) that usually reflect traditional, home-style Greek-American cooking. 

Efharisto poli to Jim, Christopher, and Yiayia Mary.

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