I like to eat. Because I like to eat, I like to cook, especially for friends I like to eat with. That’s what this blog is about: what I like to cook for people I like to eat with. In this I am my mother’s son, who says, “I like to feed people.” She’s Italian. My friends like to call me a gourmet, but I’m not a gourmet; I’m a home cook, and a bigoted one: I only cook the food of my people, because I think the food of my people is better than the food of any other people. By my people I really mean my mother’s people, from a mountain town in Campania east of the city of Salerno called Sacco – my mother is a Saccatara.
What my friends love about my mother’s cooking is that it’s so tasty. Like her people’s native land, it’s also sun-kissed: golden, glistening, and rosy. It has the lively sound of their chatter (no lethargic simmers, no violent searing). It’s highly aromatic—the aromas waft out the window and tease the passers-by, Italian and Gentile alike. It makes you eat too much. It makes you want to forgive your enemies and your family. It makes you friends.
My mother and my father were part of a late immigration of Italians to Brooklyn in the 1950’s. They came from parts of an impoverished post-War Italy where their life more resembled the 19th century than the 20th.. When these fugitives of post-War poverty crossed the Atlantic, they crossed centuries. The cuisine they brought with them was the distillation of centuries of local tradition, and they were keen to preserve the traditional integrity of their native cuisine in this foreign land in a way that the Italians they left behind were not. Those Italians modernized. My mother did not. BUT, she did mingle with other immigrants, and all these émigrés of Sud-Italia synthesized their traditional cuisines with one another and with the abundant fruits of American prosperity. In a new world they cultivated an ancient cuisine. Out of American soil they raised up an Italian cuisine not to be found in New Italy. This all happened in Brooklyn, in my mother’s kitchen, among others.
My mother learned old dishes from new friends, then at home gave her own turn to each dish all’improviso, as seemed right to her in the moment. That’s why you need me. My mother can’t explain herself. Trust me. You try to cook it as she says she does; it comes out disastrously; you call her up, and she says, “Well, didn't you add water?” – No, you didn’t say to add water. – “Ma, non e logico, bella mamma? Do I have to tell you everything?” – YES!!! you have to tell me EVERYTHING!!! ‑‑“You don’t cook; you play house.” You see how sweet my little Italian mother is not, when she wants not to be? And so, as did Aaron for Moses to the Israelites, I'm going to interpret my mother for you. And for good measure, I’ll throw in all my own opinions about all matters bearing on eating as a human being should want to eat.
February 25, 2012
February 18, 2012
February 11, 2012
(or else, a Pasta Primo)