June 21, 2012
It’s been utterly quiet around here lately. At some point, I just stopped thinking about food all the time. My mind was somewhere else.
Five – no wait! six? – years ago I made a career choice. I moved away from what I wanted to do when I was a child, because it was not quite how I thought it was going to be, and I could not cope with the differences. Besides, pursuing that career would mean no decent job for a few years at least. I took up another job, a job that was any job but that, because I didn’t want to have to deal with it ever again. It felt too painful.
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October 11, 2011
Sunday evening. We’ve been packing all weekend, and then fixing the last few things in the house: filling holes in the wall with plaster and painting them (my plastering skills are something I am so proud of, one of the few things for which I am apparently a natural). Then a tour of the apartment, to double check what is left for packing. I went through the kitchen cupboard and realized I had not packed my pasta machine yet.
Of course there is a box where it could sit. It should.
Well. I’ve always wanted to try a twist on pasta, and there is some basil sitting on the fridge so.. . so here I am making home-made pasta in the middle of a removal. And you know what? I totally recommend it.
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September 26, 2011
My bookmarks clearly reveal my food obsessions, much more than what I actually end up cooking or posting about. I have an unthinkable amount of brioches, yeast based cakes and breads recipes of all kinds, from skillet bread to sourdough. I don’t cook my way through them much, though. I try not to eat this kind of food that often, but it is my favourite food in the world, both to eat and to cook: it all started from here with cooking, for me. I have some favourite recipes I prepare maybe once or twice a year, but I’m always dreaming to take a day off and spend it in some 12-hours super complex brioche dough.
Close to these far-fetched dreams of recipes, there is a number of everyday’s recipes, most of them involving legumes and vegetables, which are going to be tried on a weekday for a twist on the usual favourites. I clean them with reasonable regularity; several have become favourites. Last but not least, in my bookmarks there is a vast array of recipes for studying: details on making custard tofu, a onigiri combination, a Thai salad… It is almost always Far Asian food I am exploring in this period, from Japanese to Chinese to Korean. A proper food obsession of mine.
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September 18, 2011
I did not have the opportunity to enjoy this summer much. I grew to love summer over the years; it probably helps that I don’t have to endure any more the tropical heat and humidity in Milan, usually lasting about four months. It is difficult to resist the feeling of ripeness that pervades everything, the abundance of light in the sky and produce in the markets. But this year I was just too focussed and busy; it did not feel right. I have a sort of wiring, you see: summer needs to involve at least some holidays and laziness and outdoors. This particular summer was just full of events and fresh starts, worries and planning, and making sure everything goes smoothly. Not enough barbecues, not enough swims, not enough singing sitting around a campfire.
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July 19, 2011
There is an idiom in Italian: ‘Una ciliegia tira l’altra’, a cherry leads you to the next one. Indeed, I cannot stop. Cherries are among my favourite treats. The season in Italy is painfully short, probably over by now, but for my good luck it tends to be longer here up North. We have been having sweet and dark Spanish, Turkish and Italian cherries for months, but the true highlight is now, when the local ones are ready and ripe, and oh so tasty.
I probably inherited the passion for cherries from my dad, although to be fair, it is quite common a passion. It is one of the best moments in life to wander through the Italian countryside, possibly on a bike, and come across a cherry tree, in a sunny morning of May, the air hot but still bearable. It is a joy me and my dad have shared more than once. Every time, we don’t care whether the cherries are of the sweet or the tart variety (both are quite common, there are often trees that have been abandoned, or so my dad used to say to me, which is probably not completely true, but anyway, we are not doing more damage than birds). We eat cherries until we are literally sick, both of us.
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June 6, 2011
I am quite happy with the way I eat (and cook). It served me well over the years not to gain any weight, and to have plenty of energy to carry on with my activities. Of course there are (more than) occasional treats, but overall I’d say my diet is quite balanced. I am not thin, never have been, but I still have the same size – actually, nearly the same weight – of ten years ago. It could not be any other way, because first, I hate feeling out of shape, and second, I can’t diet. Like in, follow a set diet to lose weight. The ‘d’ word itself gives me sweaty palms and an anxiety that can increase my hunger to epical amounts. I never eat as much and as badly as when I’m trying to follow a ‘diet’.
This is a personal problem however. My partner on the other hand has much more discipline, and a worse metabolism.
A couple of months ago I decided I needed a special treat and ordered myself a pile of cookbooks. Some of them were definitely health oriented (the excellent ‘Just bento cookbook‘, and Heidi’s first book). But for the first time, I had also ordered a book devoted to baking only. As I leafed through it, I admired the gorgeous, homely, intimate photography, and I could not wait to try the many enticing flavour combinations, the rich fruit compotes, the soft pillows of pancakes.. And my partner, drooling, was spying over my shoulder.
‘This book is going to be dangerous.’ I joked.
‘ Fair enough – he answered – you’ll have it back when I have lost five kilos’
And snatched the book away.
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May 9, 2011
It is again that time of the year where white signals of smoke dot the valley.
Germans love grilling. Even at Christmas markets there is always a grill stand, with a spectacular round grill hanging from the ceiling, suspended over glimmering charcoals. They grill the much-loved Wursts in all varieties, but also Frikadellen (the über-fatty original of hamburgers), and pre-marinade steaks, mainly pork. There was a recent article on the local newspaper about how local political representatives decided to volunteer for grilling for charity – the CDU, the right-wing, conservative party, has decided to take care of the Würstchen, while the SPD, the more left-wing party, is going to barbecue pork steaks. Whether the Greens were offering a vegetarian option was not reported, but highly unlikely in my opinion. It was specified however that in order to simplify the organisation, the public should bring the drinks – that is, beer. Both parties are quite moderate in their positions anyway, and the newspaper made it clear that no political connotation would be given to food choice. Here is the picture appearing on the original article:
Another different grilling contribution is given by the numerous Gastarbeitern (guest workers) of Turkish origin who live here. I recently read a book written by a German-Turkish journalist, who grew up in Duisburg, a stone’s throw away from where I live. The title is sweet – “Einmal Hans mit sharfer Soβe”, Hans being the archetypical German boy. The title can be translated as : ‘A Hans served with hot sauce, please’. A phrase you’d use to order a kebab. Such a pretty way to capture the author’s torn identity between being German and Turkish, especially when it comes to finding the right man. She herself does not cook, but devotes pages and pages to her mom’s epic cooking and her dad’s equally epic barbecues. Allegedly in Berlin the Turkish habit of grilling in all spaces of public green, particularly in front of the Parliament, has caused some initial grumbles among the Germans, who, after an adjustment period, have actually joined the Turks in their grilling frenzy.
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April 22, 2011
“Mare o montagna?”
“Seaside or mountains?”
A common conversation topic, from an era where cheap air travel was not available and exotic destinations were out of reach.
In Italy we are spoiled: we have a huge choice of breathtaking landscapes and touristic destinations, to suit any taste. Seaside or mountains was a serious question, more of a lifestyle choice than a mere preference. Both had renewed health advantages and sought-after entertainment options, both had shortfalls and limitations. I’m pretty sure that the famed Italian TG1 (the leading news on TV) still airs a couple of times every summer an innovative service over the advantages of spending your holidays in one place as opposed to the other. Year after year the same footage, the same phrases: I can see them neatly folded, ready to be taken out of the archives at the appropriate time, together with ‘the festivity diet’, ‘heat wave alarm’, ‘Arctic frost alarm’, ‘la Maturita’ this year’ (high school diploma), and ‘Internet will make your child sick’. Reassuring, in a way.
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August 17, 2010
Two days ago it was Ferragosto. Which maybe does not mean much to you if you were born north of the Alps. If you are Italian, though, you know that 15th of August makes Christmas look like a pale imitation of a holiday. Someone might be working on Christmas: for sure some women are, preparing lunch for 20 members of the family on average. Ferragosto is a Catholic holiday as well, but it feels quite pagan. Everyone, literally, goes to the beach or to the mountains, everyone is on holiday, and apart from the very touristic destinations, you won’t find anything open. Every family will pack food prepared the day before, drive through traffic jams, and queue patiently for their little piece of lawn in the sun, to have a picnic. Fighting is traditional, and helped by heat and overcrowding. Also, the tradition requires politicians to make the silliest declaration of the year, knowing that the news, apart from the traffic jams, would otherwise be really empty. It is the apex of summer.
When I moved abroad and I discovered that it is actually allowed by natural laws to work on that day, I must admin I had a major cultural shock. It took me a while to recover, and a few years of making it to the office in the fog, or under a persistent rain, to really come to terms with the idea. For some reason the weather appears to be quite often awful on that day. This year, it was raining the whole day, with no breaks. It has not stopped yet, and it really looks like summer is already over. But! I won’t despair – not yet. The farmer market is still exciting, I still buy much more than I can carry, let alone eat, and new varieties of fruits and vegs are still appearing every week.
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August 15, 2010
It is summer. Few food items are relegated to the hot weather for me. One of them is not ice cream. One of them is indeed gazpacho.
I fell in love with it on my first holiday in Madrid, Spain. I was so lucky to spend two whole weeks at a friend’s home with her family. The most detailed memories I have (it was a long time ago.. ohmy. Don’t make me count the years) are of food: cold horchata soon after arriving, which I did not like that much, but was great for recovering from the heat; falling in love with the street food (my favourite ever: bocadillo de calamares, a crunchy baguette filled with fried squids); and starting every dinner with a glass of gazpacho, cold from the fridge. Sour, refreshing, nutritious, and as heavy as hell. This little beauty can include anything from raw garlic and onions, to a more than generous amount of vinegar and olive oil. And I am one of those who never had problems with raw peppers or cucumbers… Not that I disliked the final result, mind, and I actually tolerate raw flavours much more now than then.
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