the kitchen with my Roman 'mother'
a clear picture of her. No photo exists, but the essence remains. I
see the black stockings rolled above the knee, the square solid lines,
the dark eyes that saw everything. She was a survivor of war-torn Italy.
She knew what was real. Food was real. And her food was authentic Roman
We were living in
Rome which would be our home for two years. She arrived to help with
my children, both under two years old. Though I had studied professional
cooking, I was a novice to the Italian kitchen. I was having fun in
the kitchen. I didn't need or want any help. But Virginia knew the secrets
of the nonnas (grandmothers) and she slowly joined me in the
kitchen where she taught me the heart and soul of Italian food.
She didn't need
a cookbook. While I diligently measured ingredients for a spaghetti
carbonara, she would look, make a face and give me the secret
to keep the sauce white and fresh. She taught me to cook
pork in milk bath, a concept that I found awful until I tasted
it. Her kitchen wasted nothing. I grew to love the bubbly sight and
smell of fresh pea pod soup. She
introduced me to puntarelle,
a Roman specialty that I dream about.
Together we cooked
stuffed artichokes with capers and
bread crumbs from day old bread. Her
Bolognese sauce with tortellini remains the best I have
Love and patience
were her main characteristics. They were also the ingredients of the
best applesauce for baby ever made.