I’m Italian. Backwards, forwards, upside down and rightside up. My hair is dark and curly, my skin is olive, my eyes are brown and my stare is lethal. I’m loud and excitable. I live in my kitchen, but I don’t need your help. Go sit over there while I do all of the work and sometimes complain about how much I have to do.
Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to have a bounty of amazing cooks around me. I firmly believe my Mamaw’s hands were blessed by Jesus himself. She is the ultimate Iron Chef. Give her 3 ingredients and somehow she makes it look like ten. When she cooks, the WHOLE house is immediately filled with the scent of heaven. A bottle of perfume, every time the door opens we spritz the world with our scent of love. My mother too. God bless her, I didn’t even know that other families went out to dinner on a regular basis. She always had a meal ready and waiting and it was divine. My palate is forever spoiled by my youth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Fiercely independent, I too wanted to be an amazing cook. But I also had a very short attention span, so unlike other stories of chefs and cooks who patiently waited by their mother’s side, watching her every move, I was off somewhere else getting into something until “DINNER” was called. My job was to taste the food and let her know if anything was missing. If it was, my suggestion was always dead on.
I’ll never forget the first time I made Shrimp Etouffee. I didn’t need help. Just show me the recipe I can do it myself. It tasted amazing (I think I was 10 or 11) but hell if I know to this day, it was GREEN! I mean electric. I was so upset but everyone reassured me it tasted perfect. I brushed it off, but never forgot.
A few meals were made here and there and I could always be counted on for help, but it wasn’t until I officially finished college and out on my own, that I really started to hone in on my skills. People always complement my cooking and I honestly believe it’s genetic. Don’t get me wrong, I have made some royal experimental messes (portobello mushrooms and chardonnay…don’t get me started) but 99.9% of the time, my food is good. Great! Enough to keep you coming back for more.
Finding myself unemployed and REALLY not wanting to slave away for someone else (again) I’ve been spending a lot of time going through my creative outlets. I picked up my copy of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. This book lived in my mothers kitchen and she gave me my own copy for Christmas a few years ago. Picking it up on occasion, never a bad meal has come out of this book. The other day, I started intently reading it, absorbing every word with each turn of the page. Much to my surprise, I didn’t know the BASIC rules of proper Italian cooking. It shames me to admit this, but I ALWAYS put garlic in the pan before onion. Don’t ask me why and I slap myself upon the face for never knowing any better. Things like this…and I call myself Italian.
With that I decided, every Sunday, my Italian family and I will work our way through this cookbook and know classic Italian fare and I, in turn, will learn proper Italian cooking. (Side note: Not every recipe will be cooked. The section on Variety Meats…some of those are better off just left in the book.)
Please, join us at the table. It’s always going to be delicious.