I chanced upon Ekaterina Botziou on Twitter whilst looking around for other great authors who’ve written something about Greece. It turns out we’re both born in the same county in the UK (Essex—yes! My secret’s revealed! I’m an ‘Essex Girl’ really, and woe betide anyone who makes fun of this fact). You can read more about Ekaterina through her blog.
Her book “Greek Expectations: The Last Moussaka Standing” is a very dry, funny look at life with a Greek man and all that comes with him—hint: not just his mother and father…expect the grandparents, cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts, their neighbours, etc. I thought I’d take this opportunity to expand and ask Ekaterina some more questions.
Hi! Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you were born in Essex, but you’re half Greek (from Greece, not Cyprus). Can you share with us a little about your background?
I’m not even sure where to start! My father is originally from Igoumenitsa, Greece although his family re-located to Athens in later years after a twelve year stint living in Germany.
My mother’s background is completely mixed. My Grandmother’s father was half French while her mother had an Irish background. We traced our family tree and found one Irish surname had been ‘Seabrook’ while another had been ‘Puddyfat’. Which apparently translates as ‘Proud Foot’. I prefer Proud Foot to Puddyfat!
My mother’s father (my Grandad) has a very interesting background. He was brought up in the East end of London but his mother was Jewish, with a Russian and Polish background. His real father left when he was young and this is where it gets interesting.
My Grandad is convinced that his father is linked in some way to the Royal Family.
Bear with me!
Apparently when my Grandad’s mother and father married in a registry office back in the 1930s, my Great-Grandfather was flanked by two bodyguards who handed over his official documents to the registrar and watched over the service. Moreover, on his infrequent trips to see his father, my Grandad recalls one particular visit when they visited Cliveden House, the home of Lord Astor. At that time, you wouldn’t have been permitted entry to such a place without knowing the Astors themselves.
My Grandad believes that his father is the son of one of Queen Victoria’s grandsons. This could be George V, or his elder brother Albert Victor who died in 1891 or possibly one of their many cousins. Certain members of the Royal Family have long been known for their philandering ways and in those days, this was not unusual.
When my Nan and Grandad went to Somerset House to try and find out more information, they were taken into a room and told in no uncertain terms that their search would prove futile and they should stop looking.
So royal or not, my Grandad definitely comes from a dodgy background! He has a very good royal wave as well so I am quite sure there is some truth in it.
When did you meet your husband and in what circumstances did he ‘sweep you off your feet?’ Hailing from a semi-Greek background and maybe tales from your English mother, was your radar not tuned to be careful of Greeks?
Not sure about the whole ‘sweep you off your feet’ bit! I met him in his family’s Greek restaurant when I was looking for an extra weekend job to help pay the rent after I had moved to London. I probably should have known to avoid Greek family-run restaurants but it was clearly fate! I was a bit on my guard initially, but he wore me down with several helpings of baklava and in the end (three weeks later) I gave in. Within eight months we were engaged and I don’t remember much after that.
“Last Moussaka Standing…” gives the reader a very accurate insight into a traditional Greek family, with some cringe worthy moments! What was your main motivation for writing it? To vent some frustrations, to genuinely share with us—the unsuspecting public—that we shouldn’t be sucked in by the sun, sea, sand and smooth talking Greek?
Exactly! Actually I started writing the book shortly before I got married. I had already set up my blog and was sharing stories about the horrors of preparing for a Big Fat Greek Wedding when I decided to do some research into self-help books that dealt with how to make a successful marriage. I couldn’t find any information on the topic of traditional Mediterranean relationships, so I decided to pick up my pen and write my own. I have since realised that when you are married to a Greek man, you need more than just a self-help book!
As well as a writer, Ekaterina is a P.A. in the finance sector and Part Time actress. How do your in-laws react to this—a modern day woman? Do they expect you to be chained to the oven, producing moussaka’s for their son?
In a word, YES. I think it is fair to say that every Greek mother wants her son to be well looked after, although nowadays they also like to be able to tell people that their daughter-in-law has a very good job as well.
I never really discussed my career ambitions with my in laws in the beginning – even now I just prefer to say ‘Oh by the way I published this book the other day’ or ‘I had a part in that film you are now watching’ – it saves me a lot of time.
As I say in the book – the only careers deemed worthy by many of my older generation Greek relatives are that of a Doctor (not a nurse), an Accountant or a Lawyer and although I had studied Law, I wasn’t officially a fully qualified solicitor, and my activities in the world of film and television were not really believed. So I think all my (not-so-sudden) achievements are proving to be a bit of a shock.
I suppose I better warn them about my plans to run for Prime Minister.
Any more plans for a sequel? I really enjoyed this book and would love to hear more about your life in London.
At the moment I’m focusing on writing for magazines and newspapers as well as my blog, but my Greek family continue to provide me with plenty of material for several literary sequels so watch this space.