settembre 22, 2014
Every day at 5 o’clock sharp, every day for thirty years a comforting ritual took place in my kitchen. We kept this ritual until I moved on my own, seven meters apart in the nearby house, but on my own. Summer or winter, being it just with my mum and me wrapped in old flannel robes or with all my friends from high school studying for the day after test, at 5 o’clock sharp we would have a tea.
At the beginning it was the classic tea you would have drunk in Italy: probably an English breakfast with a few lemon slices and a heaping tablespoon of sugar. It was sweet and soothing, almost like a syrup. Growing up I decluttered my cup of tea: first without sugar, then without lemon, to end up with a steaming black intense tea. I am not an adventurous drinker. I might taste all the food I have the chance to meet and research for more, but I am utterly traditional with drinks. Tea has always been my favourite.
Tea quenches my thirst me, cuddles me, comforts me, makes me relax, is a reward. At first they were simple tea bags, the scent of afternoons spent studying at home or of Sundays gatherings with relatives, with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The ritual of tea brooked no exceptions, not even on Christmas day.
I used to dip cookies in my tea, I used to pair them two by two, to offer more resistance to the liquid. When Christmas was approaching there were special days when you were allowed to dip a big warm slice of pandoro or panettone. When Spring would bring Easter in our house you could dip leftover colomba, picking all the almonds with your hands, or slices of stale sportellina.
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settembre 9, 2014
When I was a child bookshelves at home were overfilled with home magazines, cars magazines, books and an old cooking encyclopedia my mum bought before getting married: a few issues from the complete edition you could purchase at newsstands weekly. No trace of cookbooks or food magazines. Mum never loved cooking, even though now she’s really good and at ease in the kitchen.
But I loved cooking so much. As a child I would climb onto the kitchen stool and make a cake every Sunday morning with mum. I don’t know if it was because I could already feel the magic or because I was allowed to lick the whisk, but boy how I loved those Sunday mornings! When I was a teenager I used to collect recipes from magazines in a notebook. I probably never tried out those recipes, but they were something precious, something to keep safe in a kitchen drawer, underneath tablecloths and tea towels.
My passion for cooking and food has been growing constantly since then, as my collection of cookbooks. The first cookbook I bought in my twenties, saving money from my first grown-up salary, is Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam, followed after just a few days by two more books of the same author, Falling Cloudberries and Twelve, my first Tuscan cookbook. All the recipes were truly honest, and the stories and Tessa’s gentle and simple approach to food made me discover a new dimension in cookbooks.
It might sound weird, but I found myself intrigued by Tuscan cooking just in the last ten years, falling in love again with the food that nurtured me for all my life and made me who I am now. Grandma has always been my reference point, my landmark when it comes to cook something according to our Tuscan traditions. She’s not studied cooking, she’s not a trained chef. She fed a family for all her life, she has lived her life in a Tuscan kitchen, foraging Tuscan herbs, she has always being crazy about mushroom picking in Tuscan woods, she has reared Tuscan hens and chickens, rabbits and children! She knows all the things I am writing here because she lived those experiences.
I have grandma, and I have cookbooks. I began collecting books which could me teach something about Italian and Tuscan food traditions. This will be our theme today. The Italian Table Talk girls are saying goodbye, this will be our last post, due to life which is playing hard with us. Life is giving us emotions, lots of work, changing of habits, of countries, of life, many working hours and passions. And life is demanding attention, so we decided that for our last post for the Italian Table talk round-up we would have talked about all those books that inspired our posts in the last two years, which will keep guiding us discovering the food we love, which hopefully will become a guide for you, too.
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agosto 27, 2014
I chose Delancy as my beach book for the past summer holidays. I spent most of my afternoons sleeping in a dark room with a huge fan on the ceiling or watching episode after episode of the four seasons of Game of Thrones (yes, winter is coming). When I was laying on the beach, in between a swim and some daydreaming activity on a sun bed, I would take out Delancey, move my bookmark a few pages behind, dust off some sand and immerse myself into Molly’s and Brandon’s adventures with their restaurant.
I was there, with my body covered in a sweet coconut lotion, my feet firmly ducked under the sand and my hair tangled with salt and sultry air, then all of a sudden I would feel the urge to cook a braised pork shoulder, or a family-size bowl of eggnog, and I would say to my half asleep boyfriend laying in the sun next to me: I’m going to make this recipe for you, pork shoulder, doesn’t it sound delicious? Oh and fried rice. I want to cook more for you this winter, salads, desserts, pizzas…
I would come out with a new recipe to try next winter at least twice a day, and he would just nod back in response. He might have thought that my secret aim was to make him fat to be roasted in a wood fired oven but, oh, you know, winter is coming. Read the rest of this entry »