Last summer, in a podcast episode Diana Zahuranec discussed the differences between Italy and North America in how wine is produced, as well as socially perceived. Diana also went over Piedmont’s native grape varieties and wine appellations. As part of Thoughts on the Table Transcripts, this post contains the textual version of Diana’s episode.
Listen to the original episode
Hello and welcome to thoughts on the table, the audio blog on food and food culture. Paolo here back with a recurring guest today, with me is Diana Zahuranec! Hi Diana.
Hi Paolo, it’s great to be back!
I’m super happy to have you back, Diana, people have been commenting on your podcast – one of the most successful podcast [we had] was the one on the mediterranean diet we just had in January, this year.
You know, you have this amazing ability to capture Italian culture and describe the Italians better than I would be able to do, being maybe too Italian…
Well, that must be the anthropologist in me that can observe.
Yeah, it’s possible – you’re studying us. That’s what it is. But, anyway, Diana has been living in Italy for 4 years now and she works at Wine Pass, an online magazine on wine in the Piedmont area, correct?
Yes, it’s exactly correct, it’s in Italian and English, and it’s geared towards wine tourists that are coming to Piedmont.
Excellent, and so wine – we can say – is pretty much your job right now, right?
Pretty much, yes (laughs)
Which is fantastic because we finally get on the topic. So, yes, wine is defining of the Italian culture itself and I’d love talking about wine [in this podcast]. But, how did you get to be interested in wine – how did it start?
Well, my interest in wine naturally started over here, in Italy, because I moved here after college, therefore most of my time in the US I was younger and didn’t actually drink wine. And so I came to Italy, I went to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo [Piedmont] for a one-year masters program in Food Culture and Communications-
That’s the Slow Food university, right?
Exactly, it’s the Slow Food university. And, during this year-long program, we had a lot of different kinds of classes and many of them would last just a couple of weeks because [we had several professors which] came from all over the world. And several kinds of these classes were tasting classes on salumi, or chocolate, or cheeses and there was also a tasting class on wine.
Mhh, pretty tough there! (laughs)
Yeah (laughs)… “Difficult year” in Italy… And in these tasting classes there were black glasses set up in the classroom – they were opaque of course. Each one had a smell that you could find in a wine. And what we did we smelled these without looking inside and we would write down what we thought the scent was. Whether it was vanilla, or pineapple, or… something. And then we would look and see if we got it right. And it was incredible – the more we did it, after just a couple of lessons we started being able to identify it right away and we could even identify the same smell in the wines. And it was just incredible how much of a difference that made in tasting wines.
Yeah, I don’t like how wine is often a very intimidating drink to people, because just knowing a little bit more about wine […] it makes it so much more enjoyable. And it’s not that difficult. So, that’s how I started getting interested in wine.
It’s amazing. And now you work at Wine Pass, so I suppose you have been continuing to discover more and more about wine. And tasting more wines?
Yes, exactly. At Wine Pass I write a lot about the different wines of the region, or wine makers, or we go on itineraries for wine tourists and we write them out, we map them out, tell people where they could eat or buy a bottle of wine, and so forth. And the more I write about this, the more I learn about wines and wine makers in the region, and it’s very interesting. I’m always learning more about wine here.
Yeah. I’m very interested to know if there is any differences in wine production between North America and Italy, for what you were able to observe there, in Piedmont.
There are huge differences! Of course I didn’t actually ever go and visit wineries in Napa, and I don’t know a ton about American wine, but I know a lot more about the differences in the American and Italian culture. And I do know… that a big difference is the size of wineries. In general, the average Piemonte winery is small – it’s a family production. I think that it goes without saying for all of Italy that a lot of the wineries here are small. You can consider a big winery to make about maybe 500 thousand bottles a year, and a really big one maybe a million bottles in a year, whereas in the United States a big winery could make several million cases, and in a case are 12 bottles of wine! So that’s a huge difference.
I see, I see, so the size… Which I suppose goes with the size of the territory.
Yes, it does, definitely. And so that kind of gives a difference in the mentality. Because if you’re a small winery, you’re doing all the work, you’re doing everything. From the wine-making, you’re in the cellar, you’re in the vineyard. You are producing the wine, and you are promoting it too – you’re inviting guests into the wineries, so you’re doing everything. Whereas these big wineries [in the US] are great at accommodating people and making a profit off of it… because they can charge people when they come in and taste wines. These wineries in Italy, I can think of maybe one that would charge you to actually go on a tour…
Well, I guess they’re proud of it. And they’re not used to having too many visitors as well, I suppose. It’s their family business. So, it’s not just a job – they will take you through and show you everything. As oppose to, you know, you [meeting] the public relations representative for the company. And maybe tours are one of the services offered – whether it’s for money or not – but it’s still just your job – right?
Exactly, exactly. There’s a lot of passion. It’s their life. It’s what they do all year round, all the time.
Yeah, I remember my experience about Piedmont and wine is [that] my dad used to order wine from Piedmont, a place called Lu [in the Monferrato region] – a very small town. This maker was extremely small, and I remember every year we would go and he would order the wine and then he would get it shipped and then he would bottle it himself in my grandma’s basement. And, me and my brother, which we were like 8 and 4, were there to help bottling the wine. Which may sound crazy to North Americans… that kids are involved in the production… But that’s the thing – kids don’t like wine because it’s kind of an acquired taste and we were never interested… But, going back to Piedmont, I remember visiting this production and particularly the cellars – this super cool, dark place, and cool in temperature too – it was like, maybe 16 Celsius? – And then they would get a little bit of wine out of these kegs and pour it in a nice glass, and bring it upstairs, to taste it on the kitchen’s table. And this is how my dad would choose which wines to order.
Yeah. It was fantastic, that’s still my memory. So I’m imagining that this scales to the entire region, pretty much…
And, what about the process itself… the actual production. Do you know of any differences, on the technical side?
I don’t know a lot about the technical processes of winemaking, in the two different countries, but I do know that California uses a lot of water and irrigation, whereas in Piedmont they don’t, it’s a lot of dry cropping. As of maybe two years ago, I think, they allowed certain regions to use water in extreme droughts… but I know that in general they don’t use irrigation at all. They kind of look at [irrigation] as “forcing the plant”, you know, it’s not its natural habitat, you’re forcing it to drink water when nature wouldn’t give it to it.
And actually this is another thing that is different between here and the US, as much as I know. This goes hand in hand with their practices in the field, which are very often organic, but not actually certified. They’re organic and they are sustainable, but they’re not certified. Because they do it out of respect for the vine and for the vineyard, they don’t try to find loopholes in organic [food] certification where they can use a little bit of one chemical, or not, but they really try not to use any chemicals at all, many winemakers don’t. So this is good news…
Yes, absolutely and I noticed this in general, in Italy and Italian products, ‘organic’ (or “agricoltura biologica” as they say) is present and you can find it even in supermarkets, there’s a section on organic food, but it’s not as trendy as it is here.
I think that in general the consensus is that there isn’t much difference with respect to regular produce and there certainly isn’t much [difference] in flavor in Italy, I find.
Oh, no. No, there’s not a difference in flavor at all.
Actually, the organic might even be not less flavorful, but “older” because people don’t really buy it and so the products get old quickly.
Exactly. Not as fresh. Yeah. What about instead the differences in culture? What is your experience with that? How do you see Italians relate to wine?
Yes, that’s a very big difference from the US and Italy because wine is really a part of [the Italian’s] daily life and it always has been.
Even a glass of wine at lunch time is not looked down upon and it’s always drunk with food. It’s not really this special drink for only special people during parties or other holidays, but it’s an everyday drink that you have with your food. The difference with that in the U.S. is that I see often in movies or television shows or pictures on Instagram, for example, people will have their full glass of wine by their computer as they work.
Or they’ll have one right as they come home from work to unwind and de-stress and it’s seen … To an Italian, I think that would be like taking it out of its context. I’m not saying it’s bad to drink it like that, but it doesn’t make sense to an Italian to drink it like that. It makes sense to drink wine with food. It’s part of the meal.
Yeah, appreciation of food itself is to have it with a little bit of wine and pair it. If you’re having fish, of course you’re going to prefer a white wine and red wine will go, of course, with meats and cheeses, especially hard cheeses.
Yes. And a lot of the times these reds, or these white wines, if you have it without food, it just isn’t the same. Piedmont is famous for having very tannic wines.
Which is tannins are that feeling on your tongue of having a dry wine. It can get a little bit tiring on your palate if you just keep drinking wine after wine.
Which I’ve noticed at different tastings with Nebbiolo, [which] is one in particular that’s very tannic. We can talk about that later, but… If you just drink this wine without having any food with it, you miss out on a lot of flavors and a lot of the enjoyment because… it’s just too much to handle, basically.
We already mentioned that you are based in Piedmont, of course, and Nebbiolo is one of the wines that you have been tasting. Would you say that that’s one of your favorites?
It is definitely my favorite. The favorite. It makes… several famous wines that come from Piedmont, such as Barolo and Barbaresco. But it also makes a lot of other wines, always from Piedmont, such as a Langhe Nebbiolo, there’s a Roero Nebbiolo, or different Nebbiolos from Alto Piemonte, like Boca, and Ghemme, and Gattinara.
There’s so many, and every time you taste them, even though it’s 100% Nebbiolo grape, they all taste different.
They all have a very different profile, and it’s so interesting and I just love Nebbiolo. Never disappoints.
All these wines are based on the same grape and they’re just aged in different ways to achieve a different product, a different wine that is a different denomination, correct?
Right. Or maybe people would understand more appellation? I don’t which one is used more, but that’s right. Although the differences come also from the soil or altitude.
Right. Nebbiolo itself is also an appellation. It’s not just the name of a grape.
It’s also one of my favorites, by the way. I do like that family of wines as well. I don’t like wines that are too mellow. I don’t know, if I can describe that…
Yeah, it’s definitely … No, it’s definitely not a mellow wine. They’re very… At the same time, they’re elegant and powerful.
It’s hard to explain that unless you actually drink it and understand how the wine is. It’s a really great wine.
Yeah, and [about] Nebbiolo, also there’s a curiosity about the name, which I happen to know. I’m sure you want to talk about it.
Sure. Yeah, Nebbiolo comes from the word ‘nebbia’, which means fog in Italian and it takes its name from this because the fog is a big part of the landscape in Piedmont… And Nebbiolo is a late maturing grape that has a very long growing cycle. It’s harvested whenever the mists start to roll in, in the late fall. That’s why it takes it’s name from ‘nebbia’.
Fantastic. It’s always fascinating to picture it. When I think of Nebbiolo, I do see the rolling hills covered in fog. It kind of makes it really magic. It’s really cool. What about other grapes in Piedmont?
Oh, yes. Piedmont has a lot of different native varieties. The big ones (that actually are produced even more than Nebbiolo) are Barbera [and] Dolcetto, two big red grape varieties.
White ones are Moscato and Arneis. Then there are lots of others. I mean, tons of these obscure names, especially in the higher hills.
But others that you might come across, for red wines are the Verduno Pelaverga.
And there’s Grignolino, Ruché and Freisa, these are all red wines. And red grape names as well, the wine is named after the grape. For other whites that you may find, there’s Gavi, Erbaluce, Nascetta, and Favorita. And these are all other names that you might find around. I think, Gavi and Erbaluce for the white wines, you will find more commonly abroad than the others, but obviously the Moscato and Arneis and the big names that I’ve already named, you will be able to find those abroad.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you have more information on any of these wines? Like Barbera or Dolcetto?
Yeah, Barbera and Dolcetto are the names of the grapes and then they make a lot of different wines and you’ll find them named after like Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti. The same thing with Dolcetto and that comes from where they’re made. So ‘d’Alba’ means ‘from Alba’, ‘d’Asti’, ‘from Asti’, which is in the Monferrato, a winemaking region in Piedmont. Dolcetto, for example, you might find Dogliani. It might just be called Dogliani, even though it’s Dolcetto di Dogliani. That’s another place where it’s made, or Dolcetto di Ovada, which is a really great Dolcetto.
And all these are wines which are D.O.C., as we say in Italy, so that the denomination of origin is controlled.
Which means that they are certified to be produced from grapes from that particular region that their appellation refers to. Is that correct?
Exactly. Yes, it also puts some different guarantees on the quality and the time that it’s aged.
How many months or in what kind of material it’s aged in, wood or stainless steel. It depends of course on the wine. And then there’s D.O.C.G., which is, you could say one step higher.
And of course you can find wines of great quality that aren’t even certified at all.
But this is just a general rule to figure out what those letters mean on the labels.
Yeah, absolutely. I think if you’re not familiar with the wine, it’s a good thing to look for the certification because it will give you certain guarantees. Diana, it has been fantastic, of course, talking with you. It’s so fascinating and I wish really to take a tour now in Piedmont and go through all those valleys and try all the wines that you mentioned, because I do know a few of them, but I can’t say that I’m an expert, so I definitely have work to do.
Oh yeah, you should visit. You’re invited and anyone listening to the podcast is invited to come to Piedmont.
Absolutely. You’ll take them around personally.
That’s what Diana is promising you (laughs).
So, for you listening, if you have enjoyed this podcast, please do us a favor. Go on iTunes or whichever podcast player you use and subscribe. It really means a lot to us, and if you’re inclined, please leave a review as well on iTunes. Feedback is always welcome. Leave your comments there or on the blog. We’re very happy to hear anything you may have to say and it’s really important to us. Diana, again, thank you so much. It’s been awesome.
It has been great – thank you.
Continuing on the series of transcripts, up next is the textual form of an old episode with my friend, writer Gino De Blasio. In this podcast, Gino applies his amazing storytelling to describe the origins of the Slow Food Movement, in response to the fast-food orientated mentality that was spreading in Italy in the ‘80s.
Listen to the original episode
Hello and welcome to the audio blog, Paolo here for another episode of Thoughts on the Table with Gino De Blasio. Hi Gino, good morning, good afternoon actually today. How are you?
Not too bad. Good morning to you Paolo. How are you?
Good. Today we connected in the afternoon for Gino and morning for me. Much better, I have to say. Today, a-
Everybody feels more polite.
Yes, it’s more ourselves, I think, I hope. We’ll see. Anyway, yeah, today a different topic, today we’re going to talk about slow food and fast food. Gino, you were saying, you would like to start with some history of the slow food movement.
Yeah, and I think it’s a fantastic area, fantastic moment in food history. You have to go back to, this is me now storytelling, so kids try and keep awake, so you have to go really back to the mid 1980s. It was a time where capitalism, free market economics was rife. You have the Reagan era in the States, the Thatcher era in the UK. It was really at the forefront of thinking. Communism was being broken down from the east slowly and surely.
You have to think of this very wobbling time of what you could regard as really a capitalist machine, a capitalist model. What was behind that really in terms of food was fast food. Now, in 1986, at the height of this capitalism, the golden arches of McDonald’s sent Carlo Petrini into shock.
Italy already had some fast food chains. There was in the north, I don’t know if it was widespread all over Italy or not, a chain called “Burghy”.
A few of us would remember. “Burghy” is Italian pronunciation of “burgy” [from burger]. You were right, fast food was up and coming and a lot of people were interested.
Yeah. There was this fascination because culturally, you just look at the films that were being produced. 1980’s Italy was probably what you would say at its lowest in terms of quality. Foreign films were all the rage. If you look at the 1980s films, they were really highlighted by the Spielberg era, the Back to the Futures. Which it was so popular, I mean it was popular everywhere, but in Italy people were talking about the Delorean because they were so fascinated about the car, all these things.
That’s what it was embodying. That’s what it was trying to capture. I think Italy was trying to capture it through this idea of the food. Basically, Carlo Petrini, he started this movement in 1986 because McDonald’s opened on the Spanish steps.
That was his first McDonald, is that right?
I think that was the first McDonald’s in Italy.
It was in a lot of ways being accepted. This will be the norm, and that was Petrini was against. In fact, he was against this idea that food isn’t being savored, both in the preparation and in the execution and in the tasting. He conjured up this brilliant movement called the slow food movement. Really, the way to think of it is take the recipes from old, from yesteryear, we’ve spoken about it in the previous podcast, La Cucina Povera, those elements, but bring them to the forefront of our imagination again. We spoke last week about the polpette in a sauce. Now, that is slow food. All of these things which are classical home and rustic dishes, that’s what the slow food movement started to bring back to our imaginations. It was moving away from this capitalistic drive, and a lot of people see it as this anti-globalization movement.
In terms of food, it actually is because it’s taking the local ingredients, local chefs, and bringing it altogether. I speak with a smile in my voice because it is a fantastic, fantastic movement, and one which I think can be unique to every nation.
It’s absolutely amazing, and I think if you were to look at, for example, there’s a … Can I say his name? The celebrity chef?
Yeah, of course you can. Yeah, absolutely.
Jamie Oliver with his Ministry of Food. That is almost going into the slow food movement in some regards. That’s about actually growing your own food, about making things basic in the kitchen, and giving people cooking lessons, which is what the slow food movement has become in Italy with Petrini’s latest Eat Italy.
It’s that one world Eat Italy, all is one, Eataly. These are big complexes where people can go to learn about how you grow your food, how you eat your food, where your food chain comes from. It’s all part of this movement which is really, like you said, it’s trying to dig back into the past and say, “This is what it is, fantastic to have it.”
It’s also behind the Salone del Gusto, the Salon of Taste that takes place in Turin in October. I think it’s every two years.
Yeah, I remember reading something about like how it was they have all these competitions of regional cuisine and some of the things. In your experience, fast food in Italy, apart from the burger of the 80s, how is it regarded? How do you see it as being considered?
Well, a lot of Italian food is fast by nature. A pizza takes 90 second to cook. Fast food doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing. There are a lot of chains that do produce something that can be considered fast food, the Autogrill
chain, or Spizzico, Ciao. These are owned by large organizations. Yeah, probably the slow food movement would have a lot against them. However, in my opinion, they do make something that is quite authentic. Overall, they provide a service which is useful when you’re traveling and often you’re driving around Italy, and stopping at the Autogrill is a very refreshing experience, and sometimes, you may even have a good meal. Actually, often you do have a good meal.
Yeah, I mean, this is probably for another podcast about service station meals.
Oh yeah, very interesting.
Yeah, there’s a whole podcast in it, but the one thing that I will always get for my friends who travel to Italy, if they’ve ever had to drive a car, there will always be stories, firstly, how they were scared for their lives whilst driving, and the second one is how well they ate.
It is amazing. You get such a variety, and it’s so cheap, which is the complete opposite to, well, in England where you look and get four times a price of what it would normally cost and it taste absolutely awful.
Yes. I think Autogrill is relatively cheap compared to a restaurant but is fairly priced. I’ll have to say, it’s not the level of other fast food chains where really the race for the lowest possible price seems to always be there. Frankly, shocks me to see that you can get a burger for 1.75. One eats that not because it’s the best way to use the $1.75, but because it’s the fastest, the easiest way.
I noticed there’s more McDonald’s in Italy.
I think people have become more accustomed to it. McDonald’s has had to change its menu for Italy. It’s now offering pasta, which you won’t find in England. I think it’s trying to cater for the local palate.
Also, there is a place for a chain, especially in the big cities, when people live a very frenetic life and they need to get from Place A to Place B and grab lunch in-between.
Yeah, and I think as long as the market demands it, there will always be a McDonald’s or a Burger King. I keep on saying McDonald’s but I think-
Oh yeah, it’s not just McDonald’s.
A generic fast food equivalent, which is why Spizzico has come about. People want a piece of pizza. It’s great idea. It’s a grab and go. It is what it is. It’s not the pizza which might be which my pizzaiolo makes.
Admittedly also, I get much better customer service from the Spizzico than I do from my pizzaiolo (laughs).
Very good point (laughs).
I’m usually getting a lot and lots and lots, into a lot of trouble with my pizzaiolo…
We should be talking sometime about customer service in restaurants-
Oh, that’s even another podcast… Yeah, we got service station, customer service.
Yeah, I wrote articles on both my blog. You can read about my view of Autogrill and my view of customer service in restaurants. A lot of interesting considerations, I think, that one can make. A good travel guide for people that want to visit Italy and venture themselves into what customer service is or isn’t.
It’s all relative, I think we’re used to it a little bit too much in Italy. Personally, I think it could be better, but at the same time-
I don’t think it’d be hard to improve.
No. It won’t be hard to improve. I am the first to admit it and I am sorry. I apologize to all the people that didn’t get treated the way they do at home. However, people go to restaurants for the food more than for the hospitality. You go to somebody who is the owner. It’s not your host necessarily. It’s the person that owns the place, and you adapt to their customs and their rules, as long as they feed you what you know they can make and make really well. We’re willing to put up with that. Yeah, we should talk about it some other time, so much to say.
So much. We’ve spoken at large about really the slow food movement. We’ve touched upon the fast food moment. Where do you see Italy now? Do you see it turning more towards the slow food or do you feel that we’ll be a cultural shift to more fast food orientated mentality? What do you see happening?
I think that the slow food doesn’t need to be a movement in Italy, necessarily. There is a large resistance built-in with the Italians. Fast food would naturally be there and grow, reach its potential, but it won’t takeover slow food. There is no such risk. You may even start to see a Starbucks, just to name some more brands in this episode. I don’t think espresso
will ever be lost in there and the many non-chains that make fantastic espresso in every Italian city. There’s no risk because of there’s such a at base palate that is entrenched in the people from Italy. You’ll occupy as much room as the Italian allow it to occupy, and then the rest will still be family dining and traditional restaurants.
I certainly agree. I certainly think coffee, it’s not that I don’t think I’ll ever see a Starbucks, but I don’t ever think I’ll see the fruition of Starbucks or all the large chains. I think one of big thing would be trying to make people queue for their coffee. I can’t see that in Italy. I don’t think it would go down well, because of the culture where you walk in, you stand at the bar, within a minute, you’ve got your espresso.
The word espresso means quick. This morning I went to have a coffee in a chain and it took me nearly 8 minutes to get served and there was only one person in front of me. It is like, that just couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t.
Yeah, it’s weird. It’s the double-edged sword of good customer service. If they’re too good with the person in front of you, it may get very, very slow. In Italy, it wouldn’t be acceptable. You know what you gain, you know what you lose too, because there’s no way you can have a conversation with your barista because he’s got to move. He’s got to get on the next one really quickly.
As my granddad always say to me I many occasions, most things in Italy are slow, apart from the cars and the coffee. I think that’s different. Coming back to where we see Italian food moving, I think what would might be successful is something which is almost marks it really on a slow food ideology of the produce that we get is from a ten-mile radius from here. Things like that. I think that would see more success.
Yeah, the ‘eating local’ idea, I think, would be welcome. It does already happen. In Italy, we’re fairly lucky that we can grow a lot of produce locally, not all of it, but some more than other, more northern countries where it’s harder to produce locally without expensive greenhouses. I think it may become more of a trend to advertise that and enforce it.
Gino, I think we got to the end of this episode. It was a very fascinating discussion for me. I’ve learned a lot researching about it and talking about it with you, Gino, this morning. I hope that you people listening have enjoyed it. We’re looking forward to your feedback as usual. Please contact us. There are several ways, on the website, on my blog, disgracesonthemenu.com, on Gino’s blog….
As well as through our Twitter and Facebook handles. You will find them very easily on the websites. Thanks very much for listening. We’ll get back to you with another episode shortly. Bye-bye.
Back in May 2014, I published an unusual episode of Thoughts on the Table, but also an episode that meant a lot to me. I had just returned from a trip to Italy, where I had a chance to record a conversation with my grandmother, Chiara, on her life in northern Italy during World War II. In this conversation, I realized that I didn’t actually know most of these stories, so I asked a lot of questions focusing specifically on food and cooking during those difficult times.
This post presents the same interview in textual form.
Grandma Chiara has since turned 95, she still lives in her home and is doing great.
Listen to the original episode
I wanted to ask you a few questions on when you were young, so we're talking about… You were born in 1920, right?
Oh, I have to say my age? Well, I was born in 1920, so, in 1941 the war began. When I turned 25, the war ended.
And what did you have to eat during the fascism?
Well, during fascism, before the war, people used to live well. It's when the war started, that scarcity began. Scarcity of food, and the bombing of the wagons that transported food… Uncle Mario, my brother also fought in that war (World War II), when I got married he hadn't returned home yet. Instead my father fought in another war (World War I). Mussolini, il Duce, used to hold speeches in the squares – it was a mess…
And so, during the war, how was it? What did you manage to eat?
During the war we ate what we could – not everyone had enough even for basic needs. For me, in the home I grew up in, near Milan, before the war, I didn't suffer hunger because farmers had everything – we had bread, because we had flour, and also we used to raise our own cattle… Pigs we didn't have but other farmers did… and when they used to kill a pig there was a lot to eat. Take those farmers with pigs – they were able to raise the pigs because they had hay, bran, all those things. So when they killed the pig they had food in abundance. But there were also families which didn't even have bread to eat.
But was there a "minimum" provided by the government? Did you use to have a rations badge?
Yes, the badge was established by the government of war – that set amount of food per person: e.g. 100 g of bread per day, one kg or 2 of rice however often they gave it to you (must have been 2 months, 3 months – whenever the truck arrived, with 2 cardboard boxes of rice, those with the badge would get it – the last ones in line sometimes had to return empty-handed). But there was also the black market – those who could get oil under the table, maybe from warehouses, I don't know where they used to get it from, it was really expensive, but at least you could get it.
During the war your grandpa used to work with a person whose father worked on the railway. On the railway line from Milan to Switzerland, they used to put salt on the tracks – for winter when there was ice, so the trains wouldn’t slip. The father of this friend of grandpa – he used to collect the salt! He brought home big sacks of 4 or 5 kg. We used that salt for cooking – because there was no salt otherwise, they gave you maybe a 100 g of salt per month – so, you know what we used to do? That salt from the tracks, we used to boil it in water, then we strained it, and it would turn out still brown, because it was from the railway and there was iron in it! My father in law used to use a cloth as a strainer… and it was still full of debris! They used to put it into a jar, and we had it there to salt the food during cooking… like 1 or 2 tablespoons for every time that we made pasta, or soup, or something that needed salt. So it was salty water that we used to collect from the tracks… Look what I have seen!
No, I wouldn't have guessed that you had to do that… How was the kitchen? Did you have a wood stove?
Yes, we had a wooden stove.
Was it easy to find wood?
Wood, we used to go to the bushes. And heating was also wood… nobody had heaters… maybe the rich? Perhaps they already had it. But us, the farmers, we had just a wood stove… or the fireplace – not even the stove! I didn’t have a stove until the last years, before getting married. Before there was only the fireplace. And we would go get wood in the bushes, long thin branches, with thorns. At home we had big chests in the corner for storing wood. When we had to start the fire, we would go get some of those branches, we would break them up (poking our fingers with the thorns), and also we would use some straw – we always had it from harvesting the wheat and rye.
We used to hang the cauldron on the fireplace, and it turned all black underneath, and then we used to get burnt flying debris, that would end up in the food. Any time you used to make soup or pasta, or you boiled water to make soup, there were those things in it, the things that when you burn wood fly in the air…
So you had your own wheat… did you make your bread?
So this is because you were farmers and had flour?
Yes, because we were farmers and farmers didn't suffer as much from hunger because had the land and cattle. But those who used to work in factories had more issues finding food.
But the government, did they ever take some of your harvest? Did you have to pay taxes on your harvest?
No, there was nothing to pay – whatever the farmer wanted to cultivate for themselves on their land, they were allowed to. With the rations badge you would pay for what food you bought, but it was cheap. Though there wasn't much to buy, so the amounts allowed to each person were very limited… There was also the black market, the black market was expensive because it was dangerous… if they caught you selling things, they would put you into jail…
Like for example those who had the pig. If they ate it and keep it in the family, that's one thing, if they sold it in the black market then it's a different story: if the authorities found out they could have come to confiscate everything.
Anyway, was there any meat from time to time?
Ohh, meat – there was 100 g per week.
And outside of that? When they killed a pig was there extra?
Yes, but it wasn't much. In fact our cow once had a calf – are you recording? – that then the calf died. So my father wanted to eat it, but you had to get the city veterinarian's approval that it was OK to eat. So the veterinarian came and said: "No, you have to dispose of it, throw it in the cesspit". So my father threw it out in front of the veterinarian. Then he waited until he exited the gate and he pulled the calf out. We washed it inside and out and we ate it.
What did you use to cook for dinner? Let's say, a common meal? A bit of everything?
Oh… in my home there wasn't much to eat… also because they weren't really good cooks. We used to prepare big pots of soup, and that's what we used to eat. We had soup, we cut down bread slices and soak them with milk or hot water and ate them. And then we had chickens – those we ate, boiled. And for Christmas – look what we had to do to make a bit of money – we used to raise ducks. So my father, to make a bit of money which we really needed, he used to keep one duck for us and another 4 or 5 he sold to people he knew, before Christmas. Every year we had those who we used to sell the duck to. But they would pay for it. It would be now, let's say, 10 Euros. Those days it would have been 1, 2, 3 Lira, it wasn't much but it was to have a bit of extra… Life was hard, really.
And then, with the money, we're you able to buy some extras?
Yes, also something to wear… Also: there was no soap! They used to give me the sugar badge and…
Paolo, on Saturdays, when I was riding my bike home after work, to be able to have soap to wash clothes, to wash ourselves, to wash the sheets, we didn’t use the kilogram of sugar that they used to give us monthly. But instead, my coworkers and I, who used to work together on the looms, we had a store in town that would take the sugar and give us soap, or a bit of money. For instance, for 1 Kg of sugar we would get a piece of soap. The soap they used to make themselves, with animal fat – not like the soap that we have now… it was what it was – we used it to wash clothes… Look what we had to do in war times…
So, sometimes you had excess sugar, that you didn't need, and you traded it for soap or money…
Yes, for us using sugar seemed like a waste, we had more use for a piece of soap to wash ourselves, to do laundry… soap was more useful, they didn’t give you soap.
Maybe for those who had kids, they needed more sugar.
Yes, probably. Soap: you use it all the time – when they came home from the fields, all dirty, the clothes all covered in dirt… you needed soap. With a brush and some soap you cleaned them a bit. There was no laundry machine; it was a "disaster".
Well, off course – there was no hot water, right?
Hot water?! No, the water was always cold. There were those who used to wash clothes with ash, the fireplace ash.
How could they wash with ash?
I'm asking you!… they used to boil it, then strain the water and use it to wash – they used to say that things turned out clean… I don’t know.. . My mother never used ash – we always were able to go get some soap.
And also you were saying that there used to be curfew. RightÉ
Yes, but what I am telling you right now refers to the first period of the war – then towards the end we started to live a bit better… I don’t know why. In the month of April 1945 there was the armistice and thing gradually improved. Then from April to September (the actual end of the war), we started to live better those months… provisions started to arrive, there was no more curfew, and food started to be available. I remember I was in the field with my father and I heard church bells from all neighboring towns… And one person was coming on a bicycle saying "the war has ended! It's over, it's over!" This was the month of April. I got married the 12 of May – the month after. My brother (uncle Mario) was serving in the war and he couldn't come in time for my wedding. He came home in September when they started to discharge the soldiers (those who didn't die, of course).
I see, and then the post war times – how was it? I know there was crisis…
Yes, for some time there was crisis, but then jobs started to resume, the factories started to increase in number… I was OK, I never stopped working.
So the crisis in the first after war you didn't feel it?
No, we were ok, we didn't lose our jobs, there was no unemployment – we, my family and friends, all worked. I remember that during war times they used to take us to the city square, in Arconate where the plant was, on the street to Busto Arsizio, they used to take us to the square because Mussolini was speaking. And he used to go up on a balcony of a house in the square, and repeat in the microphone: "Believe! Fight! Obey! – Believe! Fight! Obey!" And it was loud, speakers everywhere…
How many times did you have to see him? Did the dictator come around often?
Yeah, he came – during war times il Duce was in command – he was the dictator. And us, in the factory, along with those that used to live in the area, other factories (foundries, mechanical) used to gather in the square to listen to him. He was talking about the war; and he was talking about the rations badge: "We will give you a badge…" Every now and then he would talk, there was a set day: in the factory they used to put out a sign, like: "this Wednesday at 3pm, il Duce will speak in the square", they used to stop all work, stop the looms, and get all workers out to the square. And the square was full of people, and he was up high on a balcony, with the flag, and he talked. He used to say all that was happening, for example: "we will give you the rations badge, don't worry – now we are at this stage of the war…". And he continued talking all throughout the war… until they caught him, and they killed him! He had a mistress named Petacci and "donna Rachele", his wife. And the story continued that way, until the end of the war. Then in September everything ended and we could all do what we wanted again. Before, there was the curfew and we had to cover all lamps in black fabric, so you wouldn't be seen, also in our home. This was so we wouldn't be seen by the airplanes. Because when they were coming we had to escape to the fields! During war time, when we heard the airplanes we ran to the fields in our pajamas – my father used to take me inside the irrigation canals, because we were worried that they would bomb and kill us. So without flashlights or anything we used to go down on our knees to hide until there was the end of the alarm… this because before the airplanes arrived they used to sound a siren "uuuuu…" and then go! We were all running to escape. You used to see everyone running to the fields. So, we were going into the fields, lying down on the ground. In Milan they bombed – so much bombardment there, also in Legnano – Milan though it was very bad.
So the big cities, the most populated centers were bombed more, whereas the countryside was left more alone.
So when we were hearing the alarms, we were ready – the head of the family always had a bag with the documents, the little money that he had and all the documents demonstrating property of the house, any insurance, etc. Because – if they were to bomb the house, you would have ended up with nothing. You wouldn't have had anything that said that it was your house – so they had a bag with all the important documents.
Grandma, you know I did not know all these things… Thank you so much, very interesting – and also hearing from your voice was incredible. Thank you, we are closing here the recording – then when it comes out I will let you know, OK?
Back in March 2014, I had the pleasure of having Frank Fariello (Memorie di Angelina) on a podcast. In the episode, we discussed the differences between Italian-American cooking and the food of Italy, a topic on which Frank is remarkably insightful, being a third generation Italian-American who lived in Rome for 10 years.
This post presents the same interview in textual form as an enjoyable read, and as a searchable reference.
Listen to the original episode
Hello, and welcome to the audioblog. Paolo here again for another episode. Today I have a special guest with me, Frank Fariello from the fantastic blog, Memorie di Angelina. Hi, Frank. Good morning.
Hey Paolo, how are you doing?
Good. Thanks so much for accepting to connect with me. It’s an honor.
Frank accepted to be interviewed, and I have prepared a lot of questions. I’m sure, like me, you’ll be very interested to know his answers. We want to know a lot more about you, Frank.
So let’s start from, of course, from you. Do you want to introduce yourself to our listeners?
Sure, why not? My name is Frank, as you know. I’ve got an Italian last name, Fariello. I am from New York originally. I was born in New York City actually, but lived in the suburban part of New York for most of my childhood. I am a lawyer by training and by profession, and still continue to practice law, but I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life outside of the United States. I actually took some time off [from the profession]. I was thinking about leaving the law at a certain point in my life. I had about ten years under my belt as a corporate lawyer in New York and was kind of tired of the rat race.
So I took some time off. I was thinking about becoming a professional chef. Cooking has always been my passion. I went and lived for a few years in Paris. There are great hotel schools, as you probably know, in Switzerland, in the French speaking part of the country. So my plan was to go to France, perfect my French, and then go on to [the Hotel School in] Lausanne. As you know, that was [where] one of the great Italian chefs of the time… a Milanese, named Gualtiero Marchesi [had been trained].
Oh yeah, of course. Super famous.
Do remember him? Very famous. A little bit controversial, I understand, among some Italians. They called him “Il Francese” because he had a certain different way of approaching Italian cooking, but I had studied his work and found him quite inspiring. I knew that he had gone to Lausanne, to the [hotel] school there and wanted to kind of follow in his footsteps.
In any event, [I never made it to Lausanne.] I was [in Paris] for a couple years, then lived in Vienna for a couple more years. At that point, I had returned to the practice of law. Some old colleagues from New York had convinced me to get back into the profession, and they were based in Vienna and Moscow, so I was doing some work there. Then, in about 1995, so this is going back a few years, I saw an ad in the paper for an international organization based on Rome. Of course, I’m an international lawyer by trade, [but my practice had been in private international law]. I had always been interested in [practicing public international law] in an international organization. I applied [for the job] and “only” 9 months later, I was hired. I went down there and spent 10 years living in Rome.
Yeah. That was a fantastic thing. I had always kind of wanted to… It sounds like a cliché of course, but wanted to sort of discover my roots. Actually, my roots are not in Rome, they’re farther south in Campania and Puglia. But still, it was a great opportunity. So I took it.
Very interesting that you were at one point pursuing the career of becoming a chef, and considered changing [job] entirely. You know, it takes a lot of courage to do that. I’m not surprised that you were pulled back…
Yeah, well it takes a lot of courage, and maybe that’s why I didn’t do it ultimately!
Yeah, but you did do something else. You started writing this blog that has become the most popular blog about Italian food today. So it is a fantastic achievement, and it obviously speaks to the quality of your work. I’m not surprised to see that your interest went as far as to bring you to Paris. So that really makes a lot of sense now.
Yeah. Thanks. Yeah, it is a great… That’s one of the great things about the blog. It allows me to enjoy the [culinary] world without, of course, the back breaking work and the horrendous hours of actually being a restaurateur.
I see. Well, I’m sure it takes up a lot of time anyway, but certainly it is a different activity. Yes, I can see that. So when did you start Memorie di Angelina?
Well, it actually started out when I joined Facebook.
I didn’t set out to be a blogger, to be honest. I joined Facebook and, like a lot of people on Facebook, I started discovering old friends from high school and college and law school and all the rest of it. I decided I wanted to share some recipes with my friends, so I started posting recipes to my profile. That was a lot of fun and people were enjoying the recipes, but I was frustrated by the platform. It wasn’t really as flexible as I wanted it to be, so I cast around [for ideas] and decided to start a blog. Just for my friends, initially. That was the only ambition I had was to continue sharing those recipes, but to do it in a way that was easier to get the point across. And… the rest is history. The blog got some attention and, next thing I know, 5 years later I’m still blogging!
Yes, and thank you for that. It’s a great resource for me as a cook, and of course a great point of reference (that I often quote) to talk about what I talk about, which is authenticity and Italian food of Italy today, which is something that has become sort of my battle – so to speak – to try and fix Italian food in North America. As you know, my battle is against the type of Italian-American food that is not advertised as such. I have respect for Italian-American cuisine, but I really think it should be called for what it is. I’m all for certification as well to try and, whenever possible, certify Italian food – continental Italian food of Italy today – as such. And I applaud any kind of certification like Pizza Verace, which is a great association based in Naples that certifies around the world, and Tuscanicious, which by the way you were just recently awarded. Congratulations.
Yes. Well thank you. That was a tremendous honor for me. It’s a great validation of the work I’m doing… My blog is about Italian cooking of all kinds, not really focused on Tuscan cooking in particular, so the award was, in a sense, a surprise. But a wonderful one.
Yeah, it is a great honor, and you deserve so much. So yeah, authenticity is important, but I also find that many of those self-proclaimed Italian restaurants simply serve food that is just plain bad food. That is really sad to me. I really think that there is such thing as good food and bad food in general, and in fact a lot of my friends who actually have been to Italy told me that they really liked the real Italian food so much better. Which may signify that there is an absolute value to flavor. I don’t know how you feel about that.
I certainly agree. All kinds of cooking can be good, and I enjoy all different kinds of cooking. But I firmly believe there is such a thing as good food and bad food. Even as a kid, I remember comparing the Italian food that you might have in a restaurant with the food that my grandmother made, and I knew liked my grandmother’s food a lot better! To some extent, Italian food is a victim of its own popularity. And unfortunately restaurateurs-some of them who should know better, others who perhaps don’t-take advantage of that popularity to frankly make a buck on the cheap. I hate to put it that harshly, but I think in some cases that’s what it is.
Following a popular trend. When you say “Italian,” it seems to sell more. Right now they’re starting to say “Tuscan” or you know, “Sicilian,” trying to go down to the region which makes it [sound] even more authentic.
Yes, indeed. I don’t know if you know Nicoletta Tavella – she’s a fellow blogger. She also has a cooking school in Amsterdam, and I heard an interview with her with an Italian radio or TV… I can’t remember which. She was talking about some of the funny products that they sell in Holland, like “Tuscan pesto”, whatever that might be! So this is not just North America where this kind of thing happens. As you say, “Tuscan” has that caché. Never mind that there is no such thing as Tuscan pesto. But anyway…
So Frank, speaking of authentic food, I would like to go back a little bit to your grandmother. Because you’re a third generation Italian-American, but yet you seem to have such a precise image of Italian food. Yours is not distorted at all. I’m Italian born and raised there. I spent my first 30 years there. I read you… I really cannot detect any difference in how I would describe it. You just describe it better than I would. It’s true.
That’s very kind of you to say. I think I have two advantages maybe over other Americans or other foreigners who are pursuing [the study of Italian cuisine]. One is I actually grew up with Italian cooking. My grandmother is the reason why my blog is called the way it is. It’s a tribute to her, because she really imprinted those flavors on my palate, if I can put it that way.
That’s a good way [to put it].
At a very tender age, it’s so natural. She was special because she did not [compromise on authenticity]. Of course, she was first generation, and there’s a big difference as the generations proceed, in terms of assimilation and adaptation. She made her dishes just as she learned them growing up in Italy, in that small town in Campania. I verified that when I went to Italy and ate those same dishes, some of which I didn’t realize existed outside of my grandmother’s kitchen, by the way. I was almost shocked to see them on menus, in store windows. I remember once, it was around Christmas time, and we went down to the Amalfi coast for a vacation to get away from Rome for a bit, and I looked in a pastry shop window and found my grandmother’s honey balls: Truffoli! I had no idea they actually existed other than as an invention my grandmother had made. But she recreated all of those things, and quite well, I think, given what she had to work with. Of course she had to make some compromises, because not all ingredients were available in the US, especially back in those days. The other thing, of course, is that I spent 10 years living in Italy. That’s irreplaceable, too.
You know, getting to know Italian cooking, especially Rome because that’s where I was. But I liked to travel a lot, all throughout the country. And being a foodie, the first thing I wanted to do was try the local dishes. I used to ask people, “What should I try?” and “How do you make this?” And I’m an avid collector of cookbooks.
Anywhere I went, I always bought a little local cookbook to find out what the local dishes were and try to recreate them when I get home and all of that.
Yeah, and I love how you put these cookbooks as reference in your blog posts whenever you can, because… you can quote them, and use the collective knowledge that they accumulated into themselves. So we were talking about adaptation and the fact that Italian food sometimes, as generations go by, changes. Evolves. Why do you think this is happening? Is it a matter of adapting to the local palate, or is it more the fact that the ingredients are not available, or that the ingredients are different?
That’s a good question. I think originally, of course, it was about availability of ingredients. I think if you look at first generation, Italian Americans in particular, that was a big thing. [And then some differences reflect an expression of the diaspora community.] I sometimes talk about Italian American cooking as a sort of celebration of plenty. This is immigrant cooking, so it was made by people who came from very humble backgrounds. Certainly in my family that was the case. [They celebrated] the fact that they now could afford to have meat any time they wanted. So Sunday dinners were often kind of “meat fests”: We’d have the pasta dish, dressed with Neapolitan ragu`, with sausages and beef and all these other things… And then yet another meat course would come after that, usually roast chicken or something of this kind. So it’s a lot about just kind of enjoying the fact you can afford to have all of this food that perhaps back home you couldn’t. That’s of course the first generation.
I think the second generation is a bit different. And I saw this also, by the way, in reverse when I was living in Italy. Children of immigrants put a huge premium on fitting in and assimilating, and feeling that they were part of the country they were born in. Sometimes even almost in opposition to their parents’ generation.
You’ve seen this probably–
I have seen this. I know a lot of Italians. They have Italian last names so I approach them in the workplace, and often they actually… reject their origins. They don’t speak Italian, pretty much by choice. Yeah. It’s strange, but in a way, it’s assimilation. It is forcing yourself to stop being typecast, because I suppose it happens.
Absolutely. I think that that goes for the cooking as well, and eating habits and the rest. You kind of, you want to be kind of more American than the Americans.
Of course, when you try to go back and recreate the dishes, that’s going to have an influence. And then there’s the third generation… I’m third generation – I think there’s a bifurcation here, because there’s some, like myself, who kind of want to recapture something.
Then there are others who just kind of keep on going and proceed with further Americanization, to the point where basically, other than the name, they are more or less indistinguishable from any other Americans.
Yeah, absolutely. The problem is that some of them own a restaurant…
Yeah. Yes. That’s when things go awry!
I saw this thing just yesterday. We were in this Italian café, I’m not going to say the name, and they had “Italian burgers”, okay? (You don’t see Frank, but he’s shocked!) With a side of pasta, of course (!) And I really like the place, actually. I go back there because they make really good omelettes, actually. They cook something that is not really an Italian dish, but they do it really well, and I really like them. But then they do these things… Just because they call themselves Italian, I think.
Yeah, that’s the marketing thing again. You sprinkle a little oregano on top of it or a little melted mozzarella or whatever, and suddenly it’s Italian this or that.
Yeah, I know. What’s even worse is when you throw in ingredients that totally don’t fit in with a dish. You just posted today your carbonara, and you talk about cream as a common addition in North America, into carbonara. Obviously, that does not belong in the dish. It’s totally unnecessary, it changes it entirely. You know, in this case, the addition of ingredients is done in the attempt to… I don’t know, make the dish more rich. To make it more flavorful. I don’t know. What do you think?
Well… I think that’s often very true, and I agree about the cream. I think it actually, if anything, takes flavor away. But yeah, it’s probably meant to make the dish richer and more [appealing]. Again, this celebration of plenty that I talk about, and it can go a bit too far. It becomes almost an overdoing- extravagant. That’s true for example, in the use of herbs and spices and so on, which in fact is, as of course you know very well, not at all typical of good Italian cooking. Just the opposite. It’s all about discretion and balance.
And balance. And I think, you know, the problem probably is that the fewer ingredients you have, the more they have to be right. They have to be flavorful, and they have to have the correct flavor. So maybe I’m thinking it could be that sometimes one adds more ingredients to try and compensate for the lack of flavor of local produce, which… wasn’t grown in the same sunny lands of Italy. I’m thinking tomatoes, as an example.
That’s the classic example, of course. It’s the bane of any Italians I talk to who come to the States, and I’m sure Canada is the same way… They always ask me: “Where are the good tomatoes?” It’s an endless search. Of course, you can find them if you go to a farmer’s market, but you have to really make an effort. The great thing about Italy is any old supermarket will offer you wonderful produce. Of course, it’s even better if you’re growing your own… I was very lucky because although I spent most of my stay in downtown Rome, for the last three years, we lived outside of town.
In a kind of a rural area. I grew my own vegetables, my own tomatoes, my own zucchine. We even had hens, a hen house, and we got the eggs. If you’ve ever eaten eggs right from the hen, it’s just something incredible.
And I have. My grandmother had eggs from her chickens. You’re right. It was incredible.
And we had peach trees, too. The peaches off the tree were something else. Of course, if you have a peach like that that’s dripping and sweet and lovely, you don’t need sugar on it. You don’t need anything on it. It’s just beautiful the way it is. I think you’re quite correct about how best quality ingredients makes lots of different extraneous flavors unnecessary. But if you don’t have that kind of quality ingredients, then of course, the temptation is to make up for it in other ways.
Yeah. I can see that. Frank, I wanted to also talk a little more about you as a food blogger and the food blogging activity itself, and becoming as popular as you have become. The question that I have for you is, did popularity change you? Do you feel the pressure of having so many viewers to keep up and produce always more interesting [posts] and continue the volume of production?
Well, yes and no. I do try to blog once a week, [although lately I’ve been so busy it’s been more like once every two weeks]. I try to keep to that rhythm and not go beyond it, in part because I don’t want to raise expectations of people. In the middle of the week, or on off weeks, I will post old posts on my Facebook page. The great thing about cooking is, of course, nothing goes out of date. You can take a post from two years ago and send it out there, and people who haven’t seen it before will enjoy it. This posting schedule is realistic for me. I have a day job, like many bloggers. I kind of envy those who are dedicated full-time to the food business. That would be fantastic, but I’m not, so this is kind of a hobby for me. But I do try to stick to this schedule because I know that there are people who occasionally, if I slip, will send me messages like, “What happened? Where is this week’s installment?” Of course, I feel awfully guilty about that!
I’m hungry. What happens?
Yeah. Right? But I try to keep it realistic. So you know, once a week is a realistic level [of commitment] for me.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you get a lot of requests? Do people ask you for a certain dish?
Yes. Yes. I do get requests from time to time. I try to put them on my list but I have a blog plan, so it can be a while until I get around to them. I’m trying to hit all the major dishes in the various regions. The vision I have for Memorie di Angelina is, more than a blog, as kind of an online cookbook.
So I am trying to be, if not comprehensive-because that’s practically impossible when you’re talking about a subject as vast as this one-but as complete as I can make it over time. So I do have a plan that I’m following, and if a request falls well within the plan, I’ll do it. Occasionally, it’ll be a request for something that’s actually Italian-American rather than Italian. That’s the other thing.
I keep those requests on the “back burner”, because once in a while, usually on Columbus Day, I do like to feature an Italian-American dish.
So you have a plan. Do you think you can just go on forever, just because it’s such a vast world?
Yes. Well, forever, perhaps not. But I won’t live forever, either, unfortunately. I think it’ll be a while until I run out of [dishes to write about]. I don’t really need “ideas” in the sense that, unlike other bloggers, I don’t really try to do creative things too much. But occasionally, I’ll feature my own take on a classic dish. Dishes generally have lots of variations, especially the more famous ones, so I’ll express my preference.
I bring that much of my own personality to the dish, but I try to be faithful to the classic recipes. That makes it easy in a way. I don’t feel the need to invent things.
Of course the repertoire of Italian dishes is so enormous that it’ll be awhile until I run out of recipes.
Which is really fantastic. I guess there are also many other ways to present your work. I saw you have a Flipboard, I think it’s called, now.
Yes. Yes, my Memorie di Angelina Flipboard
has become quite popular. It’s really taken off, and I’m pleasantly surprised. It was kind of a lark. We had a snow day once, and I said, “Let me put one together.” And the response has been excellent.
Fantastic. I saw it. It’s really nice. It’s like a digital cookbook, a recipe book. I love the format. It’s awesome. Yeah.
I’m quite pleased with it.
Have you ever thought about publishing an actual book?
I get that question quite a bit. I guess my answer is I’d love to, but when would I possibly find the time? This is the thing. Again, having a day job makes it difficult. But if I ever feel like I can take a couple months off, sabbatical, maybe. Why not?
Why not? Looking forward to that. I just want to end this interview – thanks so much, Frank, it was amazing, of course – with one last question about your time spent in Italy.
If I were to ask you now, you’ve been back for a few years now, what do you miss the most?
Wow. That’s an interesting question. I guess, I mean… the food, I guess, would be one big thing. Probably the biggest, I mean, from the point of view of someone who is so obsessed with eating and food as I am. As we were talking about, the excellent quality of the raw ingredients you have to work with. It makes cooking so… In a way, almost too easy. You know?
There’s so little you have to do to those ingredients to make them taste good. It’s fantastic. And beyond the food, of course the beauty of the country. And the warmth of the people. That’s a cliché, but I think it’s true. Well, Romans can be rough, too. But they’re always honest. I think the thing is that they may not always be polite, but they’re always themselves, and I appreciate that.
Fantastic. Thanks, Frank. It was a great pleasure having you here. Well, we’ll keep in touch, and–
Maybe later on, we’ll have another chat together.
Look forward to it. Take care, now.
Fantastic. Thanks so much again. Bye-bye.