Maria Benardis, Author and WWB ICON
WWB Icon: Maria Benardis is a Gourmand Award winning author, health coach, teacher, chef and Founder of Greekalicious.
Maria published her first book titled “My Greek Family Table” (Penguin), which won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards – Best Mediterranean Cuisine Book in Australia 2009 and this was followed by her ebook, “A Greekalicious Feast”. She also recently published her new book “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health” (Balboa Press) – How the Wisdom of Ancient Greece can lead to a longer Life.
She is a slow food advocate and regularly appears on radio, television and the print media to enthusiastically share the Greek heritage, its food and healing wisdoms that create vibrant health, and a balanced and peaceful life.
WWB Healthy Epicurean Featured Book: ‘Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health’
Lauroly Opening: Welcome Maria, I am so excited to have you join us at World Wise Beauty. You are the epitome of a true World Wise Beauty and I am honored to declare you our first 2014 WWB Icon. You can see the simpatico we share just by looking at the title of your new book “Cooking and Eating Wisdom for Better Health”. Greek culture offers so much wellness wisdom to draw upon and I love how you weave so much of the Greek ancient wisdom into your new book. The sub-header of your book is ” How the Wisdom of Ancient Greece Can Lead to a Longer Life” and I think this important to emphasize because this is no ordinary cookbook! So let’s start with the first sentence in the introduction of your book “The past has much to teach us about the value of our food and the spiritual rituals surrounding its consumption”. Tell us more about how the ancient philosophers and doctors of Greece influenced your approach to health and wellness.
Latest Book from Maria Bernardis
Maria Benardis: My ancient Greek ancestors believed that healthy eating and a healthy mind were the two key components to be practiced to ensure healthy living and longevity – “Let medicine be thy food and food thy medicine”. The natural force within each of us is the greatest healer of disease” Hippocrates. Many people during these times lived up to the age of 200 years old a rare occurrence now days. I felt compelled to study these profound words and the wisdoms and philosophies and to adopt them at my cooking school Greekalicious, my health coaching practice and in my ever day life. Most importantly it was important to resurrect them and to share them with the world. My book provides the tools and know how to cook intuitively and how to use the Farmacy not the Pharmacy for healing. Positive affirmations are also included as they were important in everyday ancient Greek life. I also practice affirmations daily.
Lauroly Q- Chapter one of your book is just beautiful. It is amazing how much wisdom comes from Ancient Greece. You begin your opening chapter with a quote from Aristotle “Love is the cause of unity of all things”. Your book is not just a cookbook and you manage to teach us so much about “life” and connect it all with cooking. Tell us how important this quote is to cooking and life. I love the whole section on the theory of circular energy…
Maria Benardis: The central approach to health and wellness is to live and do all with agapi (A Greek word meaning unconditional love) and with good energy (derives from the Greek word energia). Love or agapi (unconditional love) is the most important ingredient when cooking and in life. It completes us and the dish. The ancient Greeks believed that the purpose of love was to unify things. When you cook with love, all things come together in the kitchen. Your recipes work out and it brings you great joy and happiness. When you cook with stress or anger, you become separated and disconnected.
The ancient Greek philosophers recognized that the universe was circular, symmetrical and harmonious and so for human beings to coexist in this universe they had to achieve balance and peace. This was sometimes referred to as ‘cosmic equilibrium’: a oneness with all. Love and the circulation of energy is circular and it moves in a circular motion — the energy flow is never-ending and we are all connected.
Observe how so many things in this world are circular — the human head, many of our fruits and vegetables, the moon and the sun. This theory of circular energy was incorporated into the ancient Greek kitchen, in other areas of the home and in day-to-day living. For example, the Greeks had circular ovens, tables, cups, frying pans, saucepans, plates, utensils, cakes, breads, jewelry, furniture, home and theater designs.
Lauroly Q- Another great passion I have at World Wise Beauty is to focus on “inner beauty from the inside out” and Chapter three of your book is in complete alignment with WWB’s mantra “to be comfortable in your own skin”. You open with this quote “Knowing Yourself is the Beginning of all Wisdom” by Aristotle. This is another great chapter and might I add while they are short, they are chock full of wisdom. You share “in ancient Greece they believed different individuals have different needs, at different ages in different seasons. No two people are the same and nor do they have the same requirements.” Wow! This is the secret to wellness right here! Can’t believe how many of us have lost sight of this important wisdom. Share with us the meaning of the Greek word “Filotimo’ which there is no exact English translation for.
Maria Benardis: In Greek culture living in a connected loving state is also referred to as living with ‘filotimo’. The filotimo in a Greek makes one stand tall in all of life’s good and adverse circumstances. Growing up Greek, it was instilled in me to have respect for myself and others, including nature, and to have a sense of duty to my country, Greece.
A sense of humour was also essential when things were not going according to plan. Filotimo is used by Greeks to guide us. For it to work the vibration of love must be present and celebrated. This vibration is always present in my life whenever I do something, especially when I am cooking. ‘Filotimo to the Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it. He might as well not be alive.’ (Thales of Miletus).
As outlined in my book let your true inner beauty shine and radiate outwards and let it translate into your dishes. Adopt an approach of filotimo in the kitchen, understand the benefits of fasting and always believe you are the magician of your life and that you create your own miracles. It does not matter what others think of your dishes; what matters is what you think and how you feel. Your vision will only become clear when you look within your heart and yourself. Everything you need to know will come to you with ease.
Lauroly Q- I could explore so much with each of your chapters Maria but I think everyone should run out and get your book! Chapters four and five are wonderful too and focus on what it really means to be a “Healthy Epicurean” ( the name of this content department at WWB). Moderation, harmony, music and colors are all part of the Greek approach to cooking. Reading your book makes me want to go back to Greece just thinking about the dining experience. What would you like to share and distill for us from these two chapters. Give us a teaser…
Maria Benardis: Firstly it’s important when adopting a healthy approach to your cooking, to always season and add ingredients in moderation. Allow each ingredient to speak for itself, to tell its story and to shine. Let each ingredient be its own bright shining star. Observing this wisdom will ensure balance and harmony in the dish and balance and harmony in our bodies and soul when we eat. The dish will always taste better. Exercise moderation and nothing in excess in all aspects of life, not just when cooking and eating, and you will lead a balanced, peaceful and joyous life.
Secondly as they did in ancient Greece keep it simple, and using the right combinations of music and colour therapy will assist you in cooking harmoniously. Most ancient Greeks practiced the principles of simplicity, balance, harmony when cooking for healing purposes. Plato believed that food should have simple flavours and wrote that ‘even sweets should sing with their simplicity’. In ancient times the principles of balance and harmony are taken a step further when colour, numbers and music therapy are incorporated into a dish. There were many therapies (The actual word ‘therapy’ comes from the Greek therapia, meaning ‘to serve or help medically’) adopted in ancient times for healing, and many of these are still practiced today that I have included in the book and they include chakra clearing, sun therapy and aromatherapy.
Lauroly Closing: Thank you Maria for gracing the World Wise Beauty blog with your lovely wisdom. Your new book ‘Cooking & Eating–Wisdom for Better Health’ is wonderful and I encourage our readers to learn more about your other books and visit Greekalicious.com to discover Maria’s world of cooking and wisdom. You are all the way on the other side of the world in Australia but hope to see you soon when you visit New York!
To learn more about Maria’s work and you can visit her website Greekalicious’ and follow her on her Facebook page. As a special TREAT you can view Maria’s YouTube video where she shares her Ancient Greek recipe for DONUTS! You’ll love her “Aussie” accent!