Aaron Schachter: The Essex Street Market in New York City has been around for awhile. It was started back in 1940 to allow vendors to set up stalls selling everything from chicken livers to fancy cheese. We're going to meet one of the current vendors now as part of our ongoing series on global tastemakers in New York. Her name is Rona Economou and she runs a Greek food stall called Boubouki. We caught up with Rona as she was making cookies.
Rona Economou: I grew up Astoria, Queens. Both my parents are from Greece. I just grew up going to Greece and sampling really traditional Greek food. I did not help my mother when I was a kid. I don't know, I just felt like that was her domain and she did the cooking and I really wasn't necessarily that interested in cooking. I went to college and then I went straight to law school and I became a lawyer and I did that until the end of 2009. I was laid off. When I was laid off, I knew that I was not going to go back. For some reason, I should've been much more stressed out than I was, looking back. I was unemployed, I lived in the city and then I came to the market one day to get some coffee and I saw the empty stall and I just immediately knew that I could do something.
I'm not an adventurous person. I haven't traveled across the country hitchhiking or anything like that. I had done everything my parents wanted me to. I had gone the traditional route and then when I lost that job, it gave me an out. That was very freeing. It didn't scare me that I had never run a food stall before or never cooked for a living or how was I going to pay my bills selling spinach pies and cookies?
It's funny, I had never made a tray of spinach pie. When I realized I wanted the store, I realized I had to make spinach pies and do Greek things and make Greek food. The first time it was a disaster but my grandmother made it from scratch when we were kids. If I could copy the way hers tasted, I would. It was the best ever. She's 101 now and a small part of me just wants to ask her "One last time, please make me the spinach pie. I know you're over 100 years old." The way I make mine is just that memory in my head of tasting her spinach pie, just trying to replicate it. Cooking is so much fun, this is what I want to do.
Schachter: Rona Economou runs Boubouki, a Greek food stall in New York's Essex Street Market. She told her story to producer Chaela Herridge-Meyer. If you want to try your hand at making Rona's spinach pie, you're in luck, we've got Rona's recipe at PRI.org.