HOLIDAYS IN ITALY? LA DOLCE VITA
& COOKING ARTICLE
over twenty years I have struggled through the erratic
and infuriating muddle that is daily life in Rome, cursing
the traffic, the banks, the post office and the inertia
of the state system. Yet I love living in Italy. When
sanity seems threatened by an overwhelming sense of
frustration, the day is saved by the good humour, tolerance
and gentle irony of the Italians themselves.
survive and even flourish in the midst of this confusion,
and their passion for life remains undiminished. Romans
love good food and spend a large part of their time
shopping, cooking, eating and talking about the pleasures
of the table.
England, I love to whizz round the supermarket; in Rome,
shopping becomes a sacred ritual, satisfying, time consuming,
involving the entire congregation. At the local street
market, shoppers are absorbed into its colourful life.
Although everyone is busy, they enjoy their work, and
take the same pleasure in selling a perfect bunch of
rughetta, rocket, as a fine sea bass. Human warmth
is palpable. There is always time to joke, commiserate
or discuss the best way to prepare a particular vegetable
choice is bewildering and there is something to suit
every pocket. One stall sells exotic fruit, fine mushrooms
and out of season vegetables. Another sells only one
homely crop, but freshly picked, carefully washed and
lovingly arranged. Fish sellers display their glistening
catch with panache, and exhort passers by to buy with
the fervour of evangelist preachers. Herb ladies make
up fragrant bunches of odori to leaven the most
like to walk around the market getting an overall impression
of what is available, then make my selections from the
various stalls. This causes no bad feeling since most
of the stall holders are related or family friends,
and happily borrow goods and change from each other.
shop in the market for vegetables, fruit and fish because
of the wide choice, but for meat I prefer to go to the
butcher, who has known me for years and become used
to my idiosyncrasies. There is no great tradition of
skilled butchery in Roman cooking and the average housewife
regards any prepared cut with deep suspicion.
butchers keep their meat in large hunks, cutting thin
slices to order; even hamburgers are made on demand.
Meat to roast is deprived of all its fat and encased
in an elastic net to keep it in shape. The first time
I tried to buy a large piece of sirloin to roast, the
other shoppers regarded my 'fatty' choice with contemptuous
disbelief and the butcher suffered an identity crisis
as I tried to convince him to take the plunge and cut
a single piece weighing about two kilos. Years later,
having swapped recipes, cooking lore and family anecdotes,
we are great friends and he assures his customers that
it takes an English lady really to understand meat.
a nation, Italy eats a large amount of bread but until
recently regional differences provide the only variety.
Today bakers show great flair in their use of coloured
vegetables and seed glazings.
food varies greatly from region to region and many families
would never dream of attempting dishes from another
part of the country. It would almost seem a betrayal.
As an Englishwoman, in my choice of menu I fell free
to roam all over Italy and am sure this is an advantage.
Although my home is in Rome, I am not a great lover
of the rather heavy style of cooking that makes use
of animal fats, offal and cheaper cuts of meat. My personal
style of Italian cooking is based on vegetables in season,
fresh herbs, fish and shellfish.
dinner parties and special meals, I like to serve several
small portions rather than an intimidating heaped plate;
but for impromptu entertaining, a late night snack or
instant comfort food, I love to cook huge bowls of pasta.
I never cook pasta with a meat sauce, and I have noticed
this is a growing tendency throughout Italy.
first published in Country Homes and Interiors - October
article was written a few years ago by Diane Seed. Diane
is the author of many cook books. Her first book, Top
one Hundred Pasta Sauces, has sold well over a million
copies and been translated into twelve languages. She
now writes for various magazines, as well as traveling
the world giving lectures, lessons and demonstrations,
spreading the knowledge she has acquired over the years
from farms, palazzi, markets, restaurants and family
friends - she also runs her cooking courses in several
regions of Italy.
you would like to learn more about Diane's cooking holidays
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org