Reviewing 'A TOUCH OF SPICE' 2: the structure
A TOUCH OF SPICE is broken into episodes, much like a dinner menu. The episodes are: the preparation, the appetizers, the main course, and the desserts. Each of these episodes has its own story to tell about Fanis Iakovidis, a popular professor of astrophysics, and his wonderful journey.
In the preparation, it starts with the 40-year old hero of the film Fanis Iakovidis, a popular professor of astrophysics, who has reached a turning point in his life, an existential crossroad that his science cannot help him navigate. His Grandfather and mentor, " Grandpa Vassilis " lives in Istanbul and has developed his own practical culinary philosophy, revered and applied by Greeks and Turks alike. Fanis has not seen his grandfather since he was seven years old so when the old man suddenly decides to come to Greece after so many years his impending visit looms like a milestone in Fanis' life. When his grandfather's old friends arrive at Fanis' home and are just about to toast to his health, a telephone call informs him that Grandpa Vassilis has suddenly got ill. Fanis is inevitably catapulted on an unexpected journey to Istanbul, a journey backwards in time and space.
In the appetizers, Fanis in the 1950’sreceives his first life lessons in his grandfather's small general store in the marketplace of Istanbul. Grandpa Vassilis' culinary expertise goes far beyond the use of spices simply to make a dish tastier - his vast knowledge of herbs and spices includes their diplomatic applications in everyday and political life. These are beautiful times for Little Fanis, and one of the things that makes them even more beautiful is SAIME, his first love. Him and Saime spend time together with Grandpa Vassilis to discover the sweet mysteries of life in the attic of his store. Little Fanis teaches Saime to cook… and she dances for him. As time passes trouble arises between Greece and Turkey. The Turkish authorities inform Fanis' family that they will be deported to Greece, since they are Greek citizens. They have one week to pack up and leave for Greece on their own accord. Grandpa Vassilis is not a Greek citizen; he was born and raised on the Turkish side of the Aegean. Little Fanis is heartbroken by having to say goodbye to his beloved mentor. Grandpa Vassilis promises that soon he will come to stay with them and that he will also bring Saime. The Turks drive Fanis and his family away as "Greeks", only for the Greeks to receive them as "Turks"…
In the main course, when Little Fanis first arrives in Greece he finds it impossible to understand why there is such enmity between two cultures that have such basic things in common: their cursing and their cuisine. Time passes and his grandpa has yet to come as he had promised. Little Fanis is nostalgic for his two great loves: his grandpa's stories and Saime's dancing. Thus, he develops an exceptional talent in cooking. His parents, along with the society of "Constantinopolites" (citizens of Constantinople, that is, Istanbul) in Greece, are abuzz with the news of Little Fanis newly discovered talent. Suspicions and rumours flare: any child that can cook so well at such a tender age must be abnormal with serious psychological problems… Years go by and Fanis is now 17 years old, and a junior chef in one of Athens' biggest hotels!
In the desserts, we return to present day Fanis (in his 40's) and follow his melancholy gaze out the window of the airplane to the hazy city of Istanbul below. He goes to the hospital only to find out that his grandpa has fallen into a coma. Grandpa Vassilis passes away and at his funeral Fanis sees Saime. She is now a beautiful woman but her expression betrays that she too has had her share of disappointments in life.