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My Italian influence, and love of my family.

April 24, 2009

Most people are unaware of my love of Italian cooking. Well, that is to say, most people don’t know I cook, mostly because I don’t talk about it often, and most see me as only Irish– and really not much there in the cuisine department. It took a long time for the chef in me to blossom. My best friend, since our adventures in playing teacher, photographer, marine biologist, or chef, Tay always told me I was a great Italian cook. A completely bizarre concept, as a young teen, I would make her cappellini with tomato sauce. I taught Tay how to test pasta, what was good sauce, and how parmesean is a joke (and it is! always flavor with Romano). I grew up on bruschetta and basil before it hit American eateries (by the way, spellcheck tells me that I need to substitute brisket for brushetta). However, I never thought this was special, maybe I thought it was weird. It was not until college, when all my roommates showed me their Italian in tin cans, that I realized that being raised by an Italian mother and grandparent is unique, which A. added to by referring to Italian food as ethnic when we met.

When my grandmother married the Welshman, she tried to imitate the meals from her mother and Bari, without written recipes, but she missed the mark. Instead of consulting a cookbook or TV show, she tried again, and again. The ultimate Italians, my family doesn’t pass down recipes, we learned them through trying them. I still am very proud of my heritage. 3/4 of my family did not enter the U.S. until after 1910, and the other 1/4 makes me Welsh, which is also original (2/4 Irish citizen+ 1/4 Italian + 1/4 Welsh mutt= perfect). Now, the cooking fell down the Rammuni line to my mother, who will never admit it, but she is the best cook. She is the first to acknowledge another cook in the room, but she is very humble about her own creations. However, her desire to cook a good meal for us, despite going back to school and working, made me appreciate quality. V. would never be satisfied with O.K food. She never criticizes, but always looks for taste perfection. Now, taste perfection does not mean fancy, or trendy, or expensive, or reservations. Probably without realizing it, my mother taught me that a good dish needs simply divine ingredients, without fuss. Mostly, when I think of V.’s cooking, I think of all the items that are trendy grocery store regulars. I was raised on zucchini, asparagus, and then… yummy stuffing, tomatoes/ cucumbers and balsamic, minestrone, rigatoni, lemon chicken, tortellini, (sausage with tomato sauce, don’t tell anyone), vegetarian lasagna, and… egg balls.

Now, egg balls are amazing. They are like meatballs but comprised of breadcrumbs with an egg binder. We have them on the side of pasta (and pork chops, and sausage, and garlic bread, and salad, and asparagus, and… everything). Vegetarians are not common in Italian-American families, and it is the same in my family. But, my Mom and Grandmother make me egg balls served with pasta. However my grandma and my mother have not helped me with that recipe yet….

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2009 11:12 am

    So funny you should mention this as I was thinking of it the other day. My Italian friend was cooking me dinner and was totally apalled at my lack of cooking skills. Then I told him the story of when you made me cappellini and taught me to never overcook the pasta…and how good it was!

  2. April 24, 2009 1:14 pm

    I’ve been saying the same thing – i rarely follow a cook book – always put my own twist on things – when you cook with love and passion – your food comes out tasting great! when you cook with hurry and a bad attitude you get bad food. if it wasn’t for our mothers and grandmother’s love of food and cooking, I’d be malnourished and over weight from fast food. god bless those women.

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