As Jim and I donned aprons for our day-long cooking class in Rome, Chef Stefano Cirillo spoke of two ironclad Italian cooking rules:
1. Never more than five ingredients, and
2. Fresh, fresh, fresh.......always fresh!
I have never forgotten those rules which have now been emphasized by more than one Italian chef. That day marked our first cooking class ever "in Italy" and what a day it was. One of the highlights of our first trip to bella Italia. On the return flight to Canada, Jim and I promised each other to try a new Italian recipe once a week. That pledge over the years has morphed into what we now lovingly refer to as Italian Fridays.
Cooking in Italy is a beautiful, love-filled family ritual with traditions passed down from generation to generation. I know of no Italian family who does not have at least one "legacy" recipe handed down from Nona. With no Nona and no Italian blood to which we can legitimately lay claim, Italian Fridays are completely experimental and expectations, as you can imagine, flexible. Armed with Italian cookbooks generously gifted by family and friends, recipes from my Passionate Cook classes and pages from cooking classes enjoyed in Italy, Jim and I choose our Friday repertoire. The chaos and laughter then begins!
One early favourite were our golf ball-sized, rubbery gnocchi. Such an epicurean delight! My teeth have never been the same. Jim and I communicate on Italian Fridays with hands waving and gesticulating. Who knew it was contagious? Scary that we actually understand each other. Frances Mayes refers to the "cooking dance". How correct she is. Upon moving from Thornhill, the different configuration of our new kitchen in Uxbridge threw we two wanna'-be-chefs into bumper car mode until we learned the new cooking dance steps necessary to survive each other. Oh, and then there is the wine. All Italian meals are accompanied by wine.......so, thankfully, is Italian cooking! If the meal is terrible, who cares?
Are we improving? For sure. Practice makes perfect, right? We even serve our experiments to family and friends.....our guinea pigs. Thus far no one has died! Good sign, eh? We must be improving!
A stack of Italian cook books now sits on our kitchen counter ready to be perused by we two wanna' be Italian chefs. Italian Friday calls and needs planning. Addio per ora!