Yasemen Kaner White’s first book “Lemon Compendium” is coming out in December this year. A book centred on lemons, theır history and current place in global cuisine, the “Lemon Compendium” is a unique approach to exploring new tastes and cultures. Zeynep Kösereisoğlu spoke to Yasemen about her new book and, along with it, her journey into the world of lemon.
What is your relationship with food? Have you always had a plan to write a book focusing on food? How has your past brought you to this book?
Mainly my career has been in media. In Cyprus I worked in BRT in the radio, for Ada TV and Genç TV. I had my own programs for both. At ADA TV I used to go around the island and interview people, ex-pats and well known people. With all these interviews my theme revolved around food. I used to cook their favourite meal with my guests as I interviewed them. With Genç TV I used to visit food – related locations for my shows. For example I’d go to Bereket, the oldest bakery in Cyprus. I used to focus on different traditions in my columns in the newspapers I wrote for, such as backgammon and circumcision. Since I was a child I was always interested in food, flavours and tastes. Thanks to my mother I have always known different fruits and vegetables.
Clearly food is a passion for you but why lemon? What was your inspiration in coming up with the theme?
My cousin has large lemon groves. Lefke, where he lives is covered in lemons. When I visited him once, I saw all these lemons that had dropped on the floor and I asked “what are you doing with all these lemons?” He did not really have an answer to that so I started thinking about what you could do with lemons. I started researching just for him initially and realized that there was so much you could do with lemon. The idea slowly developed into a book.
And what have you found? What can readers expect to see in your book?
“Lemon Compendium” as is clear in the title, is basically a book about everything related to lemon. I have firstly looked into the history of lemon. Afterwards, I have included sections on how lemon can be used in health, beauty and household projects. I have natural recipes for hand creams, face masks, etc..
My favourite section in the book is the Global Lemony Grub where I have a recipe centring on lemon from almost every country in the world. I have altered some of the recipes however I have tried to stay true to the original recipes. In line with a global approach to lemon, I looked at lemon festivals around the world. You would be surprised how many there are. In terms of recipes, I have chapters on drinks and dessert recipes that feature lemon as well.
How did you prepare for the book? Have you travelled for it?
Overall, this book was a result of two years preparation. Throughout the two years I have met amazing people and have visited interesting places. Because lemon is extremely important in Italian and French cuisines, I have travelled most frequently to Italy and France.
I have spoken with with Michelin starred chefs regarding my recipes. One of the Michelin starred chefs that I’ve worked with, Mauro Calogreco has also written my foreword.
As part of my research I’ve been to the Monton Festival as well, which was beautiful.
I have also been to Syria and Jordan, where the lemonades were delicious.
Most interesting for me was visiting Singapore. I was with the locals when they cooked the Singaporean recipe in the book. Like all my recipes, I was involved in all steps of cooking the recipe from Singa pore and it was great to have that firsthand experience.
Is there anything interesting you have learned that you’d like to share with us?
What most people wouldn’t know probably is that lemon is actually a hard cased berry.
Lemon was used in a variety of ways, an interesting one being as makeup. During the era of Louis the XIV the people apparently used to bite lemons to redden their lips.
Also, the oldest lemonade was made in Egypt with black pepper and mint.
There are many such facts and interesting stories about lemon in the book.
How do you observe the place of lemon in British cuisine? Since lemon isn’t naturally a product of the UK it seems it wouldn’t future highly in their recipes. Is that the case?
You are partly right. Although lemon does not feature a lot in savoury British dishes, there is one amazing recipe; the Sussex Pond Pudding. However, lemon is used quite often in sweets, deserts and drinks in the UK.
What was your favourite recipe in the book?
My favourite meal of course is the Moholiya, which is traditional to Cyprus. To make this dish, the leaves – which originally are Egyptian – are dried and cooked with a lot of lemon.
Lastly, what are your future plans? Will you be further focusing on lemon or branching out?
Firstly, as part of my events for the “Lemon Compendium”, I have my launch party coming up on the 11th of December. It will be held at the Yunus Emre Vakfı between 18:30 and 21:00. If anyone would like an invitation to it, they could email me at the address; firstname.lastname@example.org
I am also setting up my online Lemon shop where I will be selling artisan products related to lemon. My plan is to sell my own lemon products, however in the meantime I’ll be collaborating with other brands to sell a range of authentic products from lemon pasta to lemon fudge, from biscuits to marshmallows.
I am also working on a new book, which will definitely be about food.