Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What an adventure!

In March of 2010, several friends from several countries decided to embark on an adventure. We decided to cook our way through Marcella Hazan's 'Essentials of Italian Cooking'. Everyday a new recipe, everyday a new adventure. We posted on Facebook and on our blog Pomodori e Vino. The rules were very simple . . . If it was your turn you made it. It didn't matter if it was tripe, cotechino, or prune gelato.
In this adventure, I was very smart to pair up with a partner. Jan and I took on Fridays; then we split the recipes. I think Jan and I will agree we were lucky with the recipe draw! We spent the next 15 months cooking Italian.
The recipes were only a part of the challenge. In 15 months . . . I have worked 2 jobs, traveled to London and Italy twice, had breast surgery, buried my father and my father-in-law, planned a beautiful wedding and watched my daughter get married, and waved my son off to cook in the wilds of Michigan. L-I-F-E in a nutshell. Though it all, we have faithfully followed Marcella's recipes and posted our attempts.
The other Huge part of the challenge was finding the freshest ingredients. I live in Alabama, where Italian is chef-boy-r-dee with a southern accent. It is near impossible to find young artichokes, whole chestnuts, or fresh ricotta cheese. My weekly trips to Piggly Wiggly were more interesting because of this challenge; I carried Marcella with me every time.
I feel that I can call her Marcella, because through this process she and Victor have been in my kitchen every week. They have followed along our journey, and commented on our progress. She has been kind and generous... and very absolute in her recipes. I cherish each comment she has made along the process. I was rightfully chastised for implying Tuscany was Italy, using chicken breasts once again, the thickness of my veal. . . but, more than once she refered to me as her talented southern cook.
Sandi, who could have imagined an Alabama belle making such deft tortelloni! You've proven that if one really loves pasta one doesn't have to settle for second-rate store bought stuff. It has to do with whether eating well is worth making an effort or not. And that, I understand, is what Southern cooks know something about.

I have not one, but two favorite memories, through out this process. The first, of course would be when Jan and I were in Venice at the same time. We were able to find Victor's favorite little shop at the Rialto market. With Jan's excellent Italian, we purchased the ingredients we needed for our recipe. We made our Botarga together in Jan's little apartment overlooking a canal... we drank a toast to the Hazan's and our fearless Pomodori. This is a moment that we will both cherish for the rest of our lives.
My second memory is my son and I in the kitchen together, making Gnocchi. Flour and potatoes everywhere, with a little wine and some gorgonzola~ We experimented together until 'alora'... we had the perfect gnocchi. I am a firm believer that making memories in the kitchen are treasures you can't replace.
More than once, Marcella commented that she wished we were neighbors. I would love nothing more than to share my polenta, and a glass of wine as I stir the risotto. She has left with each of us the treasure of 'Essentials of Italian Cooking'. It is up to us to share these treasures with others.
Jan, Marcella, and Victor~ Thank you for the journey!

Ciao y'all~


A Tale of Two Cities said...

Such wonderful memories tied to good food , friendships, and travels. What an adventure!

The French Bear said...

what a great thing to do, sounds like fun and who could not love all that delicious food!!! Grand memories for sure!
Margaret B

Kalyn said...

What a fun food adventure! I can only imagine all the great recipes you tried that you might not have experienced otherwise.

nanny said...

I think that is just awesome. Bet you made recipes you would never have tried.....were they all so delicious.
I've never had Gnocchi but would love to. It sounds like my kind of food.

Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood said...

Such fun! It reminds me of my time as a culinary school student (I wrote about it here, if you're interested: "Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood" - on Amazon Kindle) - everyday a new culinary adventure!

Anonymous said...

pffft - you'd be waxing less poetically had you been required to eat lamb kidneys! LOL What a great adventure this was - less challenging than I expected - but lots of leanring nonetheless.

Virginia said...

This sounds like such a fun exercise, a great excuse to get together with friends with shared passions as well as a good motivator to stay on task while learning new skills. I rely on my recipe club to keep me motivated and active, but what a fun way to cook in person with one another!

Virginia O.

Gail Hecko said...

Sandi, this was a very heartfelt and beautifully written summary. Great job!

Dianne said...

What memories! I'll have to catch up on all those back posts. My daughter is cooking her way through THE French cookbook (you know the one) and a delightful Amish cookbook at the same time!

bellini said...

This experience should be a book in itself Sandy. What wonderful memories you all have that have enriched the last 15 months of your life!!

Elz said...

I have that cookbook too. I might need to try a journey like yours someday!

PS-so funny that word verification on this comment is carb! Ha ha, bring on the pasta.

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