By Thanasis Gavos – London
In this year’s World Travel Market in London the events that were the most sought after and the advertising leaflets first to go were the ones concerning what each destination had to offer in terms of gastronomy. It is as if a whole new generation of travellers pick their holiday spots based on taste – taste of food and drink that is.
Cyprus was present at the Market and brought to the “battle” all its weapons, including Tonia Buxton, a very well-known Cypriot TV cook and author in the UK.
“Gastronomy is very important because when they go away on holiday what do they want? They want sea, sun, they want some sightseeing and they want good food. And one of the things the Cypriots have is the best ingredients, the best recipes, the best food; and as long as it’s done well – and I have to highlight that point; it has to be done well – then it really becomes part of their holiday experience. When you listen to people on holiday, if they had had bad food experiences they wouldn’t go back to that place. If they’d had good food experiences then they would go back,” Tonia Buxton told IBNA.
In the UK and especially in London one can rather easily find Cypriot restaurants. But this can cut both ways with regard to any potential tourist getting convinced to visit Cyprus. “The problem is that we’ve had some bad restaurants. I’ll be honest; there have been some bad restaurants. The Cypriots came over in the 1950s and ‘60s, they opened their restaurants, no one was a chef, ‘yiayia’ was in the kitchen and that was great for then, because the British were eating boiled cabbage… But now we need to be more discerning with our food and there are some good Cypriot and Greek restaurants popping up in London and people are having good food experiences and they want to repeat them when they are away in our countries,” explained Mrs Buxton.
The north London cook says she is trying to educate Londoners and million others through her TV programmes and books about what Cypriot and Greek cuisine is all about.”People were thinking kebabs with gravy sauce, with chilli sauce. This is the perception people had of Greek food, which is dreadful. I have spent ten years now reversing that perception and explaining to people that actually gastronomy started in Greece. It continued and the great thing about Cyprus is that it has a great mix of Eastern European-Middle Eastern flavours and just telling people that is exciting. It’s like when I’m making vegetarian dishes, they go: “Oh my Gosh, do Greeks make vegetarian dishes?” Of course we do, we fast most of the year, Easter, Christmas, 15th August and I explain that we have massive wealth of vegetarian dishes. People have no idea about that, so it’s about getting the information out there, and once I do people love the food”.
According to Tonia Buxton, the British, the most important tourist pool for Cyprus, find Greek food to be a whole cultural experience, something that rightly has started being taken into account. “They also like that it is family orientated. I mean I’m a cook, I’m not a chef. I learned to cook from my mum, from my yiayia, from my aunt, form my mother in law – everyone has their recipes. Wherever I go they give me recipes. It’s great, I take them home, I try them out, I change them a little bit, I put cinnamon, it’s that kind of thing. It’s lovely. Non-Greeks, non-Cypriots love to have a look at the way we do things because it’s still very family orientated – especially in Britain where the traditional family is broken down it’s something they really love to see!”