Tomato Sauce with Butter: Thinking About Marcella Hazan, My Nonna in Spirit

My little brother took his first breath on a cold day in February, when doctors still made house visits and new mothers still spent days in the hospital. And that was good, as far as I was concerned, for during those 4 or 5 days that my mother lay exhausted in the maternity ward, I…

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Lemons – Tiny Cathedrals of Gold

Lemons, their pitted, nay, prehistoric, skins secreting golden oil, Shielding sourness, evoking memories of a grandmother's kitchen, A grandfather's garden. Born in the East, fruitful India, A kiss of cold, albeit fleeting, spawns the yellow Immortalized  in stone, paint, and clay. A fruit reverenced, Blossoming from mountain and lake, Urging cooks to slice, pierce, and…

Seduced by Spaghetti

Continued from Still Mi Amore --- Wild Abandonment Among the Tomatoes and Zucchini: Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? ~~ Henry David Thoreau ~~ Only when I studied the culinary heritage of Catholicism did I pay deeper attention to Italian food. The saints’ days…

Still Mi Amore — Wild Abandonment Among the Tomatoes and Zucchini

A market is three women and a goose. ~~ Italian proverb ~~ I know that for many Italian women my nostalgic idea of Italian cooking would seem foreign, as alien as if I zoomed in from another planet. Louise DeSalvo makes that clear in her book Crazy in the Kitchen: Foods, Feuds, and Forgiveness in…

The Pull of Italy: An Explanation of, or at Least a Discourse on, an Obsession

Just what is it about Italy? The sheer, sheer beauty? Or ... The turbulent history The grottoed mushroom-rank earth The Latin-infused language The ancientness The glimmering light The icy green water of northern lakes The needle-like cypress trees The deep phosphorescent colors of art The blue of the sea The dark wood floors and terra…

Pandolce: From Liguria with Love, Thanks to Laura Schenone

Laura Schenone, author of the soulful The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and the scholarly (and prize-winning) A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, traveled back to Liguria for Christmas in 2007. From that trip came her perpetual Christmas gift to all of us, Pandolce. In an article in the December 2008 issue of SAVEUR…

No Thanks to Marco Polo: An Encyclopedia of Italy’s Pasta Shapes

Marco Polo returned to Italy from his Chinese travels in 1296. The myth, legend, what have you, credits him with introducing pasta into Italy’s culinary repertoire. But Marco Polo did NOT bring pasta to Italy. And 73-year-old Italian author Oretta Zanini de Vita wants you to know that, immediately, upfront and center. Zanini de Vita…

Elizabeth Romer’s Chronicle of Tuscan Agriculture

Contemplating the impact of Food Network's publishing juggernaut on the current food scene in America, I find myself turning backwards, to some of the "earlier" writers on food in Italy. Many of these people, like Elizabeth Romer in The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley (1985), wrote of day-to-day practices, of times…

The Hermetic Lady in the Palazzo: Marlena de Blasi

Cookbook author and memoirist Marlena de Blasi does not seek the limelight, preferring instead to write her books in the shadows. The shadows, that is, of the great stone monuments of Italy, first San Marco in Venice and now a sixteenth-century palazzo in Orvieto in Umbria. De Blasi’s body of work includes A Taste of…

Old News: Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese

Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese (Recipes  from the Collection of Prince Don Paolo Borghese), a new cookbook published by the Ferragamo family of Italian shoe fame, sounds scrumptious. The eighteenth-century recipes come from family archives. According to the Vogue UK Website, the book will be available worldwide in September 2009…

Life, Love, and Lost Raviolis

The food memoir seemingly pops out everywhere these days. It's the hot new genre in writing.  Some authors coin a phrase and tell a story better than others. Most bog down the reader right away, with dramatic and overwritten accounts of trauma suffered in the kitchen or in love,  unwrapping personal anecdotes best kept tightly…

Carnevale Cometh: Calzone

What of calzone? And its cousin panzerotti? As cousins will often do, both look alike, except for size. And both end up seated at the communal table for celebrations like Carnevale. Calzone comes from a Latin word, calceus, meaning shoe, and may have been in used in everyday speech beginning around 1170. Today, the accepted…

Carnevale Cometh: Cenci By Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet …

Hereupon, a whole host of absurd figures surrounded him, pretending to sympathize in his mishap. Clowns and party-colored harlequins; orang-outangs; bear-headed, bull-headed, and dog-headed individuals; faces that would have been human, but for their enormous noses; one terrific creature, with a visage right in the centre of his breast; and all other imaginable kinds of…

Carnivale Cometh: Lasagne di Carnevale

And now for the food of Carnival, as interpreted by cooks in what is now Italy. (See previous post on Carnival for more history.) Greasy, fatty, protein-rich, oozing with cheese or sugar, the dishes created for Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) served a higher purpose than merely feeding hungry stomachs: the severe Lenten proscriptions…

Carnevale Cometh

Soon the streets of Venice will overflow with a flood --- not of water, as usual --- but of tourists and food. For soon the rituals of Carnevale, or Mardi Gras (also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday ) will once more surge into popular culture. The official date of Mardi Gras in 2009 falls…

Puglia: A Culinary Memoir

Santa Claus flat out forgot me this year. I knew instantly that the jolly old elf  passed me by when I scrounged around in my Christmas stocking. No lump of coal. But no copy of Maria Pignatelli Ferrante's Puglia: A Culinary Memoir either. And this prize of a book  didn't even make it into the…

Prosecco Mi Amore

Like Rodney Dangerfield, makers of Prosecco want more respect. If you respect Prosecco, take a little journey over to "Italian Makers of Prosecco Seek Recognition," in the December 26, 2008 issue of The New York Times. So what seems to be the problem? Because prosecco is the name of a grape, like chardonnay or cabernet,…

Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Festa dei Sette Pesci)

If you like comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons, you'll love Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Collected Comic Strip & Italian Holiday Cookbook. Let the author himself tell you what the book's all about: "All I wanted to do was write a little romantic comedy about my family cooking fish on Christmas Eve. Little…

Cooking Italian Food — Rooted in the Past

Note: For further reading on cooking, spirituality, and religion, check out my work-in-progress "Food, Spirituality, and Religion Bibliography," which right now tends to lean a bit more toward Christianity, but will eventually reflect more in-depth aspects of other religious traditions. I find the first-hand experience of cooking delicious Italian food to be one of my…

THE FUNGUS AMONG US

Mushrooms are not really food, but are relished to bully the stomach into further eating. ~~Seneca, Stoic Roman Statesman Toadstools, devil's work, fairies' rings, mysterious, deadly, the deeply superstitious people of medieval Europe applied all these monikers to mushrooms. Fungi they are, botanically. Everyone's culinary favorite, they are not. Their names invite punsters to unite:…

Making Pizza Dough FAQs: A Slice of Pizza and History

Frances: Have you ever made a pizza? Claire: ... I suppose if I put my mind to it, yes, I could make one. ... Frances: What would make you feel uncertain abut making one? After all, you say you've made bread before and and you've made things similar to tomato sauce. Claire: The toppings perhaps,…

Italian Cooking in Paradise: A16 is A-1

As a cookbook junkie --- close to 200 of my 3500 cookbooks concern Italian cooking --- I drool when books like Nate Appleman's A16: Food + Wine show up. The cover alone is worth the $35.00 admission price, for the photo makes my soul cry out for the simplicity it represents. Not because anything's sad…

White Beans with Cream, Prosciutto, and Parmesan

Autumn teases you, you know, with its chilly mid-September mornings, urging you to dream of sitting outside on cool evenings, wrapped lightly in woolen shawls, a bowl of hot bean soup nestled in your hands, a glass of Pinot Grigio resting on the small table next to you. Dreaming of a stone cottage in Italy's…

Olive Sauce

Add Olive Sauce to ragu or marinara for a different layer of flavor. Use on crostini or bruschetta. Roast beef, pork, and chicken taste extra special with a dollop of Olive Sauce on the side. Black Olive Tapenade Makes 2 cups ¾ cup oil-cured black olives 6 canned flat anchovy fillets 2 T. shredded fresh…