Stories from the kitchen - Lunch with Nonna
Ever since I was little I have cooked by my Nonna's side. My childhood was spent observing her and my mother cooking together, sharing stories and secrets in the heart of the house. I remember the way she would always include us in whatever was going on; shaping biscuits, shelling peas or making pizza dough, my sister and I would always be involved. We would always know how she wanted things done the proper way and she'd be making sure we did it. She was one of the first people to introduce me to the ways of the Italian kitchen and I haven't been able to escape it since.
I have always been fascinated by food, always asking what was for lunch or dinner. Our family meals were held around our dining room table, the whole family eating together. Food in our family is a celebration of nourishment, everything made from scratch and with everyone collaborating (and arguing) how things should be done.
Coming from a mixed heritage background gave me a broad sense of taste but, having an Italian grandmother has meant that Italian flavours have always come through strongest. My Nonna grew up on a rural Italian farm; cooking has always been in her blood and she has passed on to me the knowledge of her farm-to-table style of cooking. I have my own recipe book where I document my family's recipes; Stories From The Kitchen is my way of visually documenting my favourite pasttime. I am often found in the kitchen and my love of good food draws inspiration from my Nonna's cooking, so when we cook together something special happens.
On this day, we decided to cook one of our favourite meals - an Italian classic, Pasta con sugo e polpette. We start the same way we always do, by preparing the sugo; first in the pan goes Olive Oil (Italian of course), then finely chopped garlic and fresh or puréed tomatoes. Next was passata, salt, pepper and a splash of water, all left on a low heat. Later that morning the kitchen had come alive; the smells that wafted through the air are synonymous in my mind with Nonna, they bring back memories of late nights spent assembling lasagna, hurried weeknight suppers and family celebrations.
"You know all my secrets" she whispered in my ear, then a cackle of laughter rang out through the kitchen. "After all these years," she said, "you've picked up your Nonna's ways of cooking."
An hour and a half after we started cooking we were ready to bring the food to the table; our food is always made with love, laughter and a lot of care. We sat down and raised our glasses in a toast, "Buon Appetito!", and with great eagerness we all tucked in to enjoy a delicious (and ever-so-slightly decadent) mid-week lunch. It's these lovely rituals, the simplicity of cooking together and the sharing of good food, that breaks up the everyday; these are moments to be cherished and enjoyed.