--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw S2 airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.30pm, or stream it free on SBS On Demand. Catch Costa in the 'vego isn't a flavour' and 'dirt: from the garden episodes. ---
Born with a green thumb, Costa Georgiadis knows his way around a garden. He's spent time in them from the day he could walk. Today, Georgiadis is best known as the host of ABC TV's gardening program, Gardening Australia, and attributes this success to lessons from his youth.
Georgiadis' earliest memories are of picking herbs, watering vegetables and playing in the soil of his papou and yia yia's market garden. He quickly established a connection with nature and an affinity for cooking with whatever was growing.
Papou taught Georgiadis how to grow and preserve nature's bounty, but both his maternal and paternal yia yias instilled in him a love of cooking. He watched in amazement as they transformed fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden into an array of hearty, homecooked dishes. There was a Greek element to every meal, such as a side of horta (boiled leafy greens), a classic Greek salad, a family-size pastitsio (Greek lasagna) or a staple spinach pie (spanakopita). His immediate family would congregate at night to enjoy the food or share it with his maternal yia yia who lived down the street.
"My relationship with food was really crafted through my Greek heritage," Georgiadis explains. "Food is such a building block of community and family. Everything revolves around it; not just the growing and preparation but coming together and sharing it."
"Food is such a building block of community and family. Everything revolves around it."
Being able to cook for her grandchildren brought Georgiadis' maternal yia yia much joy. He can still taste the intense love and commitment she poured into each dish.
"You can't get any closer to someone than offering them food because they are taking it into their body," he says. "That's what I really understood when my grandmother would sit and watch me eat. She was really enjoying every mouthful with you."
Yia yia's baking lessons began as soon as Georgiadis could reach the benchtop. She taught him to roll out the kourabiedes (Greek shortbread), pour honey over the finikia (Greek honey cookies) then neatly package them in tins to share with friends and family.
"I learned the importance of accepting the gift of food when you go somewhere, and someone's prepared something for you," Georgiadis reflects. "I always explore what it is, what their connection is and how they do it, because I understand through my grandparents and my parents, that the narrative of food is really the narrative of life."
Georgiadis is proud to be a second-generation Greek and to continue his family's food narrative. Dinners rotate between spanakopita, avgolemono (egg and lemon soup), seasonal omelettes or a Greek salad made with greens from his balcony garden. He embraces mother nature's cycles and encourages others to do the same.
"To have something that you've grown in every meal is a real privilege, but it's achievable and it can be done in a few pots on a balcony, on a rooftop, or in a small courtyard," Georgiadis says. "The impact of that freshness and that flavour is the motivation for me to explore and help others get those skills."
Love the story? Follow the author Melissa Woodley here: Instagram @sporkdiaries.
Photos credited to Costa Georgiadis
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