Οne of the most fatiguing deaconship tasks in Mount Athos is that of the cook. From early in the morning the cook should prepare the meal of the day, so that by the end of the holy liturgy (Mass) it is ready for the fathers. The menu always depends on what day it is. Fasting in Holy Mount Athos is to be adhered to inviolably. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout the year there is only one meal in the day, made with no olive oil at all, with the exception of some celebrations. This deaconship task is exhausting but enjoyable at the same time. The monk undertaking the cooking task is really happy to see his brothers in Christ rest while he offers them his finest dishes prepared with care.
Cooking is art; it requires experience, inspiration, patience, good will and love to serve others. If it is done as an errand, it can be tiring and the outcome is not the desirable one. Therefore, it is with love that the monk brings the wood to the fireplace or the oven and prepares the ingredients for his cooking. For his recipes he often uses several herbs, vegetables and pulses. On Sundays and special celebrations an array of fish from the Aegean Sea fills the monks’ and pilgrims’ dishes. Regardless of the large quantity of food that the cook has to prepare, it is noteworthy that the dishes are always delicious. Older monks have made sure to teach him the proper portions. This is what usually happens in the holy communal monasteries of Mount Athos. The monastery of Iviros is where the author of this book was apprenticed for years. His one hundred recipes are simple, interesting and relatively easy, making a difference compared to many others.
Today he lives along with his subordinate in the Koutloumousiano Cell of Virgin Mary Portaitissa monastery - located in Karyes, the capital of Mount Athos - trying to restore his old Cell (‘’Kelli’’) which is in need of many repairs. On a daily basis he prepares the humble meals for the monks in the Cell. When the surrounding Cells celebrate, he is invited to contribute, with his art in cooking ,to the preparation of the Feasting Table (‘’Panigyriki Trapeza’’).
Father Nikitas comes from the island of Kos. He grew up by the sea, picking the fishing nets along with his father. He is still a fisherman in the sea of Holy Mount Athos. He knows all about fish, as well as how to cook them in the best way possible. He talks about Holy Mount Athos, the Portaitissa Monastery and his cooking art secrets to all those people who enjoy their meal with him.
At the monastery tables (‘’Trapezes’’) during meal time the monks read about the life of the Saint who celebrates on the day or a Fatherly text. In the Cells there are always spiritual conversations, answering visitors’ queries as well as commentaries on news regarding the Greek Nation. The Table (‘’Trapeza’’) is both materialistic and spiritual. The food is delicious, the wine is superbly scented, the water is digestive, the prayer is never omitted and everything is blessed. The priest always blesses the food and water of the servants of God as well as the leftovers of the table. He also wishes that the poor people will never be short of them.