The lemons of Cyprus: the book and the drink
9th April 2018
Two lemon recommendations for you today. The first is for the famous travel memoir, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus Set in the fifties it is an account of the demise of British rule of the island, told by the writer Lawrence Durrell. Yes, yes, that’s the one: brother of Gerald, whose writing the ITV series the Durrells is based on. Now I held back reading this book for years, imagining it to be a rather dry socio-politico account of civil unrest. But how wrong I was.
It’s a personal, florid account of the places he goes and the characters he meets. In places hilarious, tragic and evocative, it makes you nostalgic for a time that is passed and which you never experienced. It made me want to sell our house in London, move somewhere with mud floors, a cow indoors and gardens of tangerine, walnut and pomegranate trees. Before Chris reminded me that not having access to a telephone would bring on an immediate panic attack: and in this case it wasn’t just a lack of a personal phone that was a problem, there wasn’t even one in the village. Nor was travel particularly easy. To get the local taxi, someone had to climb in through the boot to open the doors as the handles had broken off. In the rain, the driver compensated for the lack of windscreen wipers by driving through the mountains with his head out of the window “for safety”.
Latterly the book – and other writing by the Durrells – have come in for a lot of flack for being patronising of local people and arrogantly colonial. I get that, it’s very much of its time. But don’t let it put you off from enjoying a firsthand insight into a moment in history that changed this island forever. You will understand the place better for reading it. And love it all the more.
On the subject of lemons, in spring when we come the girls like to make lemonade from the lemons on the local trees. The lemons are – as per Durrell – quite bitter. So the recipe from me is: squeeze as many lemons as you can get your hands on. If you can’t find them on local trees, they are very cheap at the supermarket. Stir in ample sugar – basically in equal measure to the juice. Serve to the children with fizzy water. Save some to have later when they are asleep. Add a generous dash of vodka. Delicious!!