My first encounter with a kitchen scale was in France 3 years ago.
Before that I have always cooked by eye (andare a occhio). It definitely comes from my mother because she has never had a scale either. Everything was measured with fists (1 fist of rice per person for example), or by the spoonful. No recipe was ever the same twice. Which meant that every time could be the best time." Questa volta mi è venuto propio bene!" -"This time it came out really well!", my mother used to say.
On the other hand I remember both my grandmothers had kitchen scales, and masterpiece dishes were the same every time. It’s comforting that some things never change. My paternal grandmother’s ravioli with ricotta and lemon zest filling were always served with a little bit of tomato sauce drizzled on top, always in the same porcelain dish. There was no room for twists of creativity, and I remember the dishes as being perfect, every time.
And yet every time I try to replicate those recipes by following their directions, step by step, the results are different from what I remember. The taste is close, but it’s not the same.
In my grandmother’s household what you cooked the dish in had the same importance as the ingredients you used. The rice pudding could be successful only if made in the old aluminum mold that created that perfect brown caramel. The tomato sauce was sweet and flavorful thanks to the small old earthenware that was always on the stove or in the fridge. How delicious tomato sauce was a frequent topic during dinner in family. "What's your secret Domenichina?"-she kept quiet and smiled- and someone said '"It's her earthenware pot!".
These ordinary objects became iconic. They have so much meaning and so much personality to me, especially now that both my grandmothers have passed away.
A few years ago when I was working in France, while my father and my sister where emptying my paternal grandmother’s house after she died, I received a text message from my sister: "I’m going to keep the earthware pot" she said.
Those perfect recipes will always be in my memory, and as much as I remember them for their unchanging perfection, my own cooking style is somewhere between intuitive and measuring everything. Cooking with a scale and the recipe on the countertop gives me confidence and pushes me to try new recipes but also orients me toward the final result rather than the process of getting there. Going by eye leads me combinations that don't work and there are always many "I should have done this or that" after the fact. But it’s still the best way for me to learn from my mistakes to become a better cook.
About this blog
Created: August 21, 2018English