Introduction – cooking as an expression of love

27 Jan

When I was growing up, love was expressed through food and material support, never through words. It’s an archetype of Italian culture that English speakers rarely encounter – usually we think of the passionate, effusive Italians, loquacious, waving their arms around, kissing their fingers and shouting “mamma mia!”. To the extent that this is ever accurate, it’s more a stereotype of the Southern Italian. Within Italy, Northern Italians, and not only the men, are considered to be more taciturn. While friendly, my family was not one of many words. I could count the number of times my Mum said “I love you” to me on the fingers of one hand, and I never heard it from my father. Yet I knew I was loved, through their actions, not their words.

Words were for anger, for expressing disappointment. I was more likely to be shouted at than talked to, and if my name was called it was usually in an angry tone. It’s been a life-long struggle for me to turn that around, to use words for appreciation, for love. It’s a practice, not a habit. But I still carry on the tradition of expressing love through food and acts of service. In recent years, since I’ve embarked on the growing my own family, we have established our own traditions around food and celebration, many of which come from my Italian heritage.

In this section of my blog, you will find some of my favourite recipes, and the uses to which I put them. Some of these come from memories of my own childhood, some from the Italian culture of my parents and ancestors, and others I guess peculiar to me.

I didn’t get to cook much in the family home. Despite the fact that I never really inherited my Dad’s capacity for tinkering with machines and building things, my Mum would never really let me cook, the kitchen was definitely her domain. But on special occasions, for festive meals, we all pitched in. A few of these recipes I learned from observation and helping out, then in very recent years phoning up my Dad and asking him what he remembered. Then I’d play in my own kitchen til I got them more or less right.

I hope you enjoy the results of this fusion of memory, yearning, and tinkering that you will find in this section of my blog. Buon appetito!

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