Food Consumer & Creator
I see my mom taking the Briam dish from the outdoor oven. I smell fresh food, delicious, fresh ingredients. You can’t wait to sit down and eat. I used to feel happy, because we wouldn’t have this dish every day. These were very poor years. We didn’t have the opportunity to have something different.
What is in my memory are the vegetables in the oven…zucchini, eggplant and potatoes. In Greek it is Briam. Every time my mother used to fix bread, in the outside oven, with the wood, she would make Briam to go with it. The minute she started cooking it in the oven, the whole village smelled like it.
Back in the old days, the 1950s, in Skoura, Greece, we didn’t have what you have today. After the war, all of Europe was poor…the Italians, the Spanish, the Portuguese. All these people, they didn’t have what you have. That is my memory with this food, because it was something different. It was special because we didn’t get to eat it all the time. Normally it would be potatoes or noodles. Briam was special.
She would make bread once a week and that is when she would make Briam. It was special in the summertime, when we would have all the vegetables.
I felt very happy when my mom was cooking. I love her so much. She was a nice person, she enjoyed everything. She loved the family. She didn’t teach me to make the food, though. I learned by looking. She didn’t have time to teach me. She didn’t just fix food for us, she used to work in the farms, too. She worked with vegetables, olives, beans, and meat. She would ride a horse to work every day. My dad used to work on the farm, too. He never used to cook, though. Only my mom.
We all came over to Montreal in 1959, I was twelve. I was happy to come over. We were looking forward to something different. I didn’t know what Canada was. My mom was a little sad. My dad was looking for a better life. It was very hard years back then. Everybody left to look for a better life.
The cooking changed when we came to Canada. There was more food, more meat, more everything. But we still cooked Greek food. Even Canadian people learned to cook Greek food. My mom would still cook Briam here, but the memory is different. The smell was different. Everything in Greece was fresh. It just tasted different.
I smell the food, it smells delicious. The minute my mother started to make the bread, we knew we were going to have this kind of food. The whole neighborhood would smell. The wooden oven was outside, and the whole neighborhood would use the oven. So everyone knew when someone was making something delicious.
Skoura, in Greece, was about 1,500 people. A bunch of small houses, farm houses, very close together. It was very beautiful. It was green with a lot of nature, many olive and fruit trees. Each house would have their own trees because they would live from them. In the winter, we had oranges, tangerines and apples. In the summer it would be watermelon, cantaloupes, grapes and cherries. All the houses would have a little bit of land next to them for a small garden for the house. I have always liked to have a garden.
When we came to Canada, my mom worked in a clothing factory, cutting thread. My dad worked as a cleaner, inside a building. He did that for a long time, and then moved to the U.S. in 1970, because my brother was there. By then I was married and had children. I was twenty-two, twenty-three…I had my first child, Antiope, in 1963, when I was sixteen. Then I got married. I started cooking for my family, it is a natural thing to do. Cook for your family. I was cooking the same things that my mom was cooking.
I see my mom taking out the Briam dish from the outdoor oven. I smell fresh food, delicious, fresh ingredients. You can’t wait to sit down and eat. I used to feel happy, because we wouldn’t have this dish every day. These were very poor years. We didn’t have the opportunity to have something different.
[ Kathy Rozaklis is photographed in her home in Montreal, Québec on 120mm film. ]