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Marilena Joannides: inspired by beauty
Marilena Joannides
Inspired by Beauty
Evgeniya Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Theodorou

Our guest for today is a person of many talents: an expert in culinary arts and perfumery, a media personality and most importantly our dear friend and contributor to the «Cyprus Cuisine» section.
Country: Cyprus

I was born and raised here. I have very warm memories of my childhood: baking traditional bread with my grandmother in her home village Rizokarpaso (located in northeastern part of the Karpass Peninsula, which is currently occupied by the Turks). I also remember helping my parents at a sewing factory (now also located in the occupied part of Cyprus).

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I went on to become a student at the London School of Economics and then received a master’s degree at the Cyprus International Institute of Management. Over the course of the following years I worked at a family-run business making men’s clothing.

Fifteen years ago, in February 2002, I decided that I wanted to learn more about my roots and started researching local history and traditions pertaining to Cypriot cooking and perfumery.

During my research I discovered that there was no published anthology of traditional Cypriot recipes. I got in touch with many different old-time residents — men and women — asking them to remember and share the secrets of cooking traditional Cypriot food. They wouldn’t give me finished recipes. Instead they listed the ingredients. For example: to make this soup, you need to put such and such ingredient, etc. I had to figure out the quantity and proportions on my own.

And this is how I got into gastronomy: I was trying to bring something new to Cyprus’ traditional cuisine, using the research I did and thanks to the love for my country’s heritage. Now I invent and publish new recipes in local magazines, make TV appearances [morning show in MegaTV – ed.], give cooking lessons and organize various other events dedicated to food in Cyprus and abroad.

Two years ago, together with Marianne Salentin-Traegerand her German team we published a book, called «Cyprus: A Culinary Journey». The book has received a number of international awards (ITB, IACP, Gourmand — are just some of them). It was an opportunity to introduce Cyprus through its cuisine not only to Europe, but also to the US and China, where we held a moving exhibition of photographs from the book. I also prepared a few traditional Cypriot dishes at the book’s presentation.

My love for our culture has turned into a wonderful journey and I am happy to say that in May 2017 our book will also be published in Russian.

My current mission is to preserve and develop our culinary heritage — not in its folkloric form — but by integrating it into the modern world by re-interpreting traditions and history.

In the future I would like to open my own take-away restaurant somewhere in Old Nicosia. It would be a place where we would offer «light» dishes and appetizers with a «traditional taste of Cyprus». My idea is to reinterpret our country’s traditional food and turn into something that we can eat every day and not just during holidays or at restaurants and taverns (the way it’s done today).

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You ask me about Cypriot desserts and traditional sweets. It is true that we love sweets. You have to understand that it comes from our heritage. Years ago Cypriots couldn’t afford to eat sweets: they worked very hard and had to survive political calamities. So fruit became the most affordable dessert. And because Cypriots had been cultivating sugarcane, they started using it to cook the fruit and turned it into one of the island’s most favorite dessert.

Now as for perfumery, in 2011 I created a modern version of Eau de Chyprein France [most Russians, as well as former citizens of the USSR, should have no problem remembering Chypre, which means «Cyprus» in French – ed.] — a legendary fragrance from Cyprus that dates back to the 12th century. I have also created my own fragrance and have a skin care line called «Mirabelle».

During my research I learned a lot about the traditions and values of our ancestors and met many wonderful and hospitable people. I am proud to be a Cypriot and extremely grateful for this fact.

If your love for Cyprus is limitless, then you are bound to become a Cypriot :)

Peace and tranquility combined with the kindness of its people — is what makes Cyprus so dear to my heart.

My work is my favorite thing to do, because it brings so much joy to my life. In my free time I also like to travel.

People around the world have become more interested in learning about and tasting new food. I am proud of the fact that Cyprus has so much to offer on a local and international level. Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, UNESCO and the Cyprus Tourism Organization, we created a menu that we presented during various events in Paris, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.

I think that it’s very important to find inspiration (especially for creative people). My inspiration is Beauty in all of its manifestations.

Whenever I have some free time on my hands, I like to spend it at the beach looking at the horizon or on my patio in Nicosia, staring at the starry sky at night, or simply sitting in front of the fireplace in my living room. I used to play the piano, but now I prefer to listen to my friends play, as I let go of all my thoughts and enjoy a glass of wine.

I would love to visit places with a strong spiritual background, such as Peru, Mexico or Russia…

Three years ago I visited northern Norway and was lucky enough to witness the Northern Lights on three separate occasions! It was one of my biggest dreams and I am so happy that it came true!

I would like to wish your readers to learn to «let go» of their problems and leave their routine life behind once in a while. As you spend time on our small island, try to relax and enjoy the sun, the sea, the nature and the simple, beautiful things that surround you.

There are so many beautiful places in Cyprus: the sea caves, the Agios Georgios landscapes (in Pegeia, Paphos), the sunsets in Pomos village, the tranquil Ammos-tou-kampouri beach in Ayia Napa and the green valleys along Xeros River.

These are just some of the ideas that come to mind. For more information you can always turn to a book by Phivos Ioannides, called «Exploring Authentic Cyprus». [2015; Phivos Ioannides is also a guest in our «People of Cyprus» section – ed].

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