The hotly anticipated debut cookbook from Portland, Oregon's famed charcuterie-makers Olympia Provisions (nee Olympic Provisions) is "so damn Greek it hurts" — at least, according to the first words that readers encounter. "We were like, 'Do you think all of our relatives are going to hate us?'" laughs OP co-founder/Greek-American Elias Cairo, who launched the now-ubiquitous charcuterie line along with sister Michelle — and Nate Tilden, Tyler Gaston, and Martin Schwartz — back in 2009. For the restaurant/brand's first cookbook, that familial, convivial spirit emerges in a hybrid story that combines Cairo's intensely personal experiences with meat-curing intel and restaurant recipes. (Olympia Provisions has two restaurants in Portland, its flagship and a rotisserie-focused spot, plus a roving hot dog stand.)
Cairo teamed with author Meredith Erickson (The Art of Living According to Joe Beef; the Le Pigeon cookbook) to create a book split into two parts: one focused on all things meaty, and the other on recipes from both restaurants. For Cairo, the former meant returning to the small-batch hand tools he used before OP made meat en masse, with recipes for everything from slow-cooked rillettes to porchetta to dry-cured coppa. "It was so much fun to be able to get back and remake everything and butcher and all that fun stuff," Cairo says, noting the "meat curriculum" takes readers from the easiest to more-challenging recipes. But while the meat recipes may be for slightly more seasoned home cooks, the restaurant section, like OP's menu, keeps things simple. "We're not a million-restaurant-ingredient place," Cairo says of the "very basic recipes." The book borrows from all of OP's services, with recipes for its brunch "laser potatoes," dinnertime steak tartare, and (more of that Greek influence again) lunchtime skordalia and sardines on toast.
"We’re not a million-restaurant-ingredient place. It’s very basic recipes."
Between the two sections is a narrative "intermission" where Cairo returns to the Swiss Alpine region where he first learned to make meat. "This is something that I started to think about when I was 18 years old," Cairo says of charcuterie. "And when I came back to America and I started making it, charcuterie got hot and everyone started making it. I was like goddammit, everyone's going to do it before I even get my chance. [So in this section], I just wanted to go back and show there's this little tiny place where I spent four years of my life, meeting some of the hardest working, most amazing meat and cheese makers ever." It's picturesque in an almost unbelievable way.
Cairo says more of OP's underlying European influences may emerge in future books. "I'd really love to go and explore my family's traditions in Greece and Highland food; there's such a crazy hysterical, funny culture that's happening in Greek food and Greek-American food," Cairo says. But he calls that second cookbook a "long shot," instead pivoting to speak first about the launch parties OP has planned for book one — perhaps, like the introduction, it'll feature plate-throwing, in true Greek style. Check out a preview of the book below:
Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales From an American Charcuterie, published by Ten Speed Press, hits shelves October 27. Pre-order a copy here.