Pastitsio Weather

comments: 111


Oh, how I wanted it to rain yesterday. How I wanted it to pour cold rain from the gray sky so that I would have every excuse to order this (no, I didn't order it but I really wanted it!) and make pastitsio. And yes, can you believe that the previous owner of our house painted the porch pink? Hot pink, actually. Now I like pink as much as the next homeowner, but not on the porch. There's Kelly green under there, too. Yipes.

I was thinking about how much my cooking habits have changed since I started the blog. I come from a family of great cooks, and I've always liked cooking. I started cooking in Missoula, when I lived in my first big-girl apartment and Andy was just my boyfriend. I was a poor teaching assistant and he rotated tires at Sears and washed dishes at a bakery downtown. We didn't have a lot of time together, and we had even less money.

Nevertheless, oh! how we cooked, especially in the fall and winter. Around four p.m. in the fall, the mountains out our windows would start turning dark blue. It was always cold. I'd head down the alley to the Orange Street Food Farm. I loved cooking for my boyfriend. He was my first boyfriend. I pulled out every stop. I wasn't very good at it, and I didn't have a lot of equipment, but I was interested. Curried chicken soup, homemade stocks, complicated lasagnas, pies and cakes. Candles on the table, Irish music on the stereo, washing all the dishes by hand, a kitchen as small as a closet but painted the whitest white I could find. It looked like a tiny wedding cake, with its shelves and four stacked cabinets. One night we got in a fight when he was heating up a jar of hot fudge in a pan of boiling water and water was splattering everywhere. I don't even remember what the fight was about, but I left the apartment in anger and went for a walk. We lived just a few blocks from the river. A park bordered the river for several miles; you walked along the Clark-Fork to get downtown, or to school. On the way to the park it started to snow. In the dark I could see the flakes falling — the first of the season — illuminated by street lights. No one else was out for as far as I could see. It was so beautiful and I was so lonely that I started to cry. I felt so ashamed that I was too righteous to go back to get him, to show him the season's first snow on the black ribbon of river. He would have loved it so much, and I would've loved that. It was twelve years ago now, but I've never forgotten that night. Young and stupid. You learn.

But we cooked a whole lot back then, when we lived at the Rozale Apartments, and slept in an ancient Murphy bed. My mother (a natural in the kitchen) was not a cookbook cook, but I was and am. I have always had a lot of cookbooks and since my earliest days away from home clipped recipes from magazines to try. But it wasn't until I started the blog, actually it was quite a while after I'd started the blog, that I really started to think about cooking in a serious way. Like, I started trying to actually be a better cook, someone who learned about cooking, someone who could stretch and get better at it. Ina Garten's books and television show have been hugely influential in my life over the past couple of years. I just adore her, and truly appreciate what she does. I have all of her books now and I use them constantly. Somehow, from them and from her show, I started appreciating how much fun it can be to take my time in the kitchen. Blogging about cooking just heightens this. There is no reason to set up a still life of ingredients and an apron before you cook dinner and take a picture of it, but it's fun! If you've never done it, you should just try it! I think it's totally fun. It changes my perspective on what I'm doing. Most of the week, it's bottled spaghetti sauce or turkey sandwiches on my lap while watching Larry King Live. But about once a week I pull out the big guns — something fancy, something that requires teaspoons and measuring cups and clarified butter, or shallots, or a bay leaf — and I tell you, I am never happier. I truly love to cook now.


A couple of months ago, someone wrote and told me that they thought I would like this book, Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros. (I wish I could find that email so I could credit you, kind person! I'm sorry!) I did rush right over to look at the book and order it, along with another one of Tessa's books, Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook.

I am so pleased with these books. Though they are expensive, they are worth every penny, in my opinion. They absolutely saved me this summer. So many times, at the end of a hard day, I'd heft one of them up (people, they are 400+ pages each) and just turn, turn, turn pages, slowly. I'd read all the section introductions, then the pull quotes, then the recipe introductions, then stare at the photos, trying to just absorb it all. They are each densely packed, blousy, gorgeously personal volumes. Full of recipes I've never heard of, from places I've never been, each has been an education and a total inspiration for me. I honestly think they're the prettiest cookbooks I've ever seen.


So yesterday I dreamed of pouring rain so that I would steam up the windows cooking the pastitsio from Falling Cloudberries. Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father, raised in South Africa, and now, after having traveled the world, lives in Italy with her husband and two daughters. The recipes in FC span continents, representing the "food from many kitchens" in Finland, Greece, Cyprus, South Africa, Italy, and others around the world. Throughout it all, she sprinkles the pages with photos and memories of her childhood and her family. I love it when she talks about her paternal grandfather:

Pappou was quiet; he had integrity and no flashiness about him. He always wore a perfectly ironed shirt, gilet in winter, polished shoes and had his hair slicked back with the special cream he ordered from Italy. He never demanded acknowledgement, but dashed around quietly with the energy of milk just at that rolling boil. . . . Always, always upon arrival in Cyprus I would find a box of my favourite baklava, ribboned and waiting for me. Pure chance, his expression seem to say when I looked at him questioningly. Pappou never said much, but I could tell he loved us all sitting under the lemon tree, late into the summer night, while the crickets carried on and on with their chanting.

Stuff like that. I love that.


I considered that, if the recipes bombed, I wouldn't even care. Not at all. Oh well, I'd say, I can go downtown and get pastitsio at Alexis. I'll wear pale blue and sip Greek coffee.


No need. Never, ever less of a need.


Damn, that recipe (the pastitsio from Falling Cloudberries) worked like a charm. This photo is it without its duvet of intensely rich bechamel. Even though there's not much that can't be considered delicious when snuggled soundly under a thick layer of bechamel, this was gooooood. After it came out of the oven, I was too busy tucking into it to take its picture.

I need to start an exercise blog. Maybe I'd come to love exercise as much as bubbling casseroles.

No way. Some things you just know, you know?


an absolutely lovely post! thanks

xo from Nova Scotia

an absolutely lovely post! thanks

xo from Nova Scotia

ina is great and the store she owned in east hampton was absolute heaven. we really miss that store and it makes us feel old when we think of all the places we used to go to when we were dating.

the book you mentioned looks wonderful as is the stove - my brother has it in a turquoise color - really gorgeous.

i think cooking is more interesting and to read about and look it versus exercise ;)!

I lived in Finland for awhile and LOVED cloudberries almost as much as I love their name! Oh, for another slice of cloudberry cake! Or cloudberry yogurt... Yum.

Am loving, loving the puppy pics and stories, and am very, very jealous of your Portland October rain. I am very homesick for it! Thanks for the cozy (as always) post.

Ina has had the same sort of influence on me as well. Wouldn't it be so much fun to spend a weekend cooking with her in her kitchen?

Ooo that stove is pretty! Hubby wants a wood burning one!

The food looks yummy! I will be over soon to help you eat, LOL!

Sorry I missed your posts lately, I was sick with a bad cold! ugh!

I don't even know what pastitsio is, but it looks incredible..
Maybe if you started an exercise blog, I would be compelled to exercise, too..No? Oh well..

Oh, you are so right - blogging about the things you do every day gives you a more intense interest in doing them well. And I think it is inspiring to the readers, too. Case in point - after seeing what you did, I'm considering turning off the computer and cleaning my kitchen so we can have a nice, photo-worthy meal tonight :-)

Oh how I'd love a boyfriend to cook for! Don't ever take that for granted.

ellen crimi-trent says: October 17, 2007 at 11:27 AM

I too love to cook and before I had 2 kids I would make creme bulees and such and now I am lucky to get any sort of fancy dinner on the table. Just not enough time. I still do some fancy cooking when friends come over and love to do it!!


ellen crimi-trent says: October 17, 2007 at 11:27 AM

I too love to cook and before I had 2 kids I would make creme bulees and such and now I am lucky to get any sort of fancy dinner on the table. Just not enough time. I still do some fancy cooking when friends come over and love to do it!!


ellen crimi-trent says: October 17, 2007 at 11:28 AM

oops spelled creme brulee wrong, you see now the mind is going!!

ellen crimi-trent says: October 17, 2007 at 11:28 AM

oops spelled creme brulee wrong, you see now the mind is going!!

Oh! I am from Missoula and miss the Orange Street Food farm! I used to work for the Missoulian and had to photograph their products every week for their ads. Photographing a can of corn is harder than it sounds!

I can't believe you didn't know about Tessa before! She's a wonder and yes, so right for you. Her books are amazing and the recipes are quite easy really, doable even for me. She has another book, The Tuscan something I think. Also tremendously good. Fabulous all of them! Enjoy!

the weather is dreary here too (san francisco bay area). . . I'm swathed in layers of clothes, working away at my computer. . . it's such a lovely, cozy feeling to take a break with your blog and share your view on the world for a little while =)

Your post today made me want to reply to you with practically pages of my thoughts. But I'll just leave it at this: you always seem to write about stuff that's been knocking about in my head.

Thanks for being so absolutely perfect with words.

I adore those books too! She has another one called 'Twelve' but I haven't got that yet...
I have been inspired by Tessa Kiros and am going to make my own illustrated family journal/cookbook/lifestyle thingy-wouldn't it be wonderful to give my sons a handmade book filled with all our food memories and recipes and our best family times together when they left home?

My mom made pastitsio once a loooong time ago and I thought it was so delicious. I might have to make it one of these days, the weather here has been rainy and fall-ish and I want something comforting for dinner.

I've been hearing a lot about Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries lately. If I can ever get past the price of a used copy on Amazon I'm going to order them.

It was because of you that I bought that book (!!) and now I want the "jam" one too...I have only made one recipe so far (Sue's rusk), and now I have a whole week of recipes lined up......can't wait :-)

Bobbie Duran says: October 17, 2007 at 11:51 AM

I have also learned how to cook by books. I was never a good cook nor do I claim that I am a good cook now, but I have learned a lot about food and how much I enjoy cooking. My husband is still a meat and potato kinda guy, but he will try a new dish. Some times the dish is a hit or not, but he is amazed that I am not afraid to try something new. I love to grow things in my garden that I can use in my cooking and right now is one of my favorite times also to cook and to grow. Living in Southern California you can have a garden all year round and I can not wait to see what pops up first. Will it be the lettuce, parsley no it’s the carrots so far. This fall I am going to try to grow some leeks and some bok choy. Happy fall!

Have I yet mentioned today how very much I would like to be your neighbor?

(Even if you DID have a hot pink porch...!)

If you had any idea the amounts of homemade pastichio in my freezer, you'd be this Greek girl's best friend.

I was literally charmed by your post, and especially by the reference to "energy like milk just boiling...". Thank you for sharing, and making me smile!

I've been considering this cookbook for a while, well both of them. I will have to get them now. They sound lovely.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.