My grandmother died two days ago. Even if our relationship was not perfect her loss fills me of sadness. Not only because she's not here anymore, but also because her death really means the end. I won’t be able to talk, or fight, or laugh with her again. Suddenly, I have no grandparents left. They are all gone. And with them goes the world of my childhood.
Tied to her life and death there are a bad memories, negativity and pain. But today I choose to remember her through the foods I associate with her. I have been away from Italy for so long now that’s it’s also been a long time since we shared real time together. But she was part of my everyday life when I was a kid. I ate lunch at her house for so many years that it’s easy to remember her through the dishes she cooked.
Her pasta with tomato sauce was the worst pasta that you could find in Italy. Seriously. She used to add water to dilute the sauce, and then she put this watery mixture on top of the pasta. Like in the worst tourist-trap restaurant in Florence! But she had learned to cook it like this as a child during the second world war, when money, and food, were tight.
Beside her awful pasta, I do remember a few absolutely amazing dishes that were a treat for special holidays.
One is passatelli in broth, an ancient recipe from the central-Italy farm tradition. These are soft spaghetti made with old breadcrumbs, hard cheese, eggs and lemon zest soaked in a delicious broth. She served them as the first course for Christmas lunch.
I've always been fascinated by the creativity you find in the cuisine of the poor and by the wonderful results that are possible.
She also made potato gnocchi with butter and sage that literally melted in the mouth.
Her Umbrian flat bread, cooked in a special pan that you can find only in the Umbria region, then dipped in chard stalks (not leaves) and slowly cooked in tomato sauce.
Latte alla portoghese, a Tuscan version of French Crème Caramel, even if the name suggests that it comes from Portugal. Back to the cuisine of the poor – this recipe has only 3 ingredients, milk, sugar and eggs. But because of how it’s prepared it has the most sophisticated taste and texture. A fancy and noble dessert for simple people.
For today, I choose to cook the dishes she left with me, and to put aside all the mess she left behind when she died. It’s a reminder to myself that we need to be able to find the beauty even in the darkest moments.
About this blog
I blog about all the thoughts that pop up in my mind while I'm preparing my classes called 'Eat and speak the italian way' at the Amazon Community Center.
Created: September 18, 2017English