I want to understand the story behind the world's most valuable spice: saffron.
My goal is to create a 20-page art book about this spice, including recipes, paintings and essays. To do so involves exploring saffron's rich history, which includes studying the ancient Akrotiri frescoes from the island of Thera (Santorini) and speaking with Greek scholars and archeologists. One of the most famous of the Akrotiri frescoes, and the most relevant to my research, is from the house of Xeste 3, depicting women harvesting saffron from a rocky landscape and offering it to a goddess attended by a blue monkey.
While I may not have the chance to meet the saffron goddess, I want to learn first hand what it's like to harvest this spice as the women are doing in the Xeste 3 fresco. Currently, saffron is harvested under a protected designation of origin in 40 villages in the Kozani region of Macedonia, in northern Greece. This fall I plan to travel to Krokos, the village named for the flower that produces this aromatic spice, where I will participate in the annual harvest. I also plan to explore saffron's vibrant role in contemporary Greek cooking by learning from local chefs, farmers and foodies.
The saffron harvest in Macedonia occurs in late October. I will travel for ten days: six days harvesting saffron and the remaining days researching in the villages around Kozani as well as in Athens, interviewing and learning from chefs and food experts.
As has been the tradition whenever I travel, I will be painting as a way to document my experiences. An important part of this trip will include creating original watercolors showing different stages of the saffron harvest, as well as the people involved with it.
The money I raise will go to the following:
- Travel expenses to and from Macedonia
- water color supplies (paint and paper)
- printing costs and book making supplies for the final art book
- matting and frames for original watercolors
- saffron and other ingredients for backers as well as for recipe-testing back in the U.S.
The answer is both. In fact, there is a bit of contention about the name "Macedonia" in that both Greece and what is known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia want to use the name as their own.
In reference to my travels, I will be traveling to the region in Northern Greece known as Macedonia. Here is an interesting Wikipedia article about the naming dispute, which has reached a "stalemate" according to authors of the article:
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