About Valeria

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A Venetian Upbringing

I grew up in the Venetian countryside, in a village with nothing going on for it, not even a beautiful landscape. The only good thing about it was the food.

Both sets of grandparents had their own garden – a source of fresh vegetables and fruits and a good form of distraction for their retired selves. In fact, when not small-town gossiping, you could find them putting their abundant spare time to good use in the veggie patch. Results were astounding. Production was so much higher than consumption that they would always share their crop with us. We never said no.

I got to spend most of my childhood and teenage summers in close proximity to both gardens, helping where I could in an attempt to let those long, lonely, humid afternoons fade away. First came cherry-picking, then bean podding, and eventually tomato canning. In time,  I began to see food as a cycle and learnt to live in anticipation of every season and its fruits. And so, as most of what we acquire early in life, seasonality is a concept that stuck with me. It’s remains one of the strongest influences in the way I cook and eat to date.

A (Student) Kitchen of Her Own

I left home age 19 to go to college, but I didn’t go very far the first time around – I was only a 45-minute drive away. What I was escaping from, mostly, was the suffocating atmosphere and the narrow-mindedness of the village. Padova, where I spent three years as a bachelor student in foreign languages and cultural studies, was most certainly not a metropolis, but back then it was enough to make me feel liberated.

Food didn’t interest me much at the time, but I came from a family who taught me what a proper meal looked like, and felt the pressure to start cooking for myself and learn how to do it decently. So I began to spend my meagre weekly budget on seasonal produce from the market and good staples that could go a long way, all to the detriment of my boozing allowance. Meals were simple and straightforward, heavy on grains and vegetables, but they were good and kept improving through practice and persistence.

Cooking became an interest, and eventually a healthy obsession, not without a little help from some life-changing encounters – friends, people who opened my eyes and introduced me to much of the fantastic food that is grown, made and produced in the region. They helped me understand what conviviality and sharing really mean. They made me a different person from the one I was when I left home.

The New Gastronome

More and more fascinated by the power of food to shape our lives, and, on the other hand, rather unsure of what I was doing with my life, I decided to change direction, dropped a career in foreign studies and translation, and chose to pursue my passion for food instead. Shortly after graduation, aged 22, I enrolled in a Masters program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences – the only university focused exclusively on food studies.

Pollenzo and the whole of the Langhe region, where the University is located, couldn’t contrast more sharply with the land I come from. Instead of flatlands, I was now surrounded by picturesque hills each marked by beautiful villages and castles and draped in vineyards. It immediately felt like the sort of place where I could live forever.

In the end, I only stayed two years, but long enough to feel changed for good. Masters aside – an experience I still struggle to find the right words for –  Pollenzo is where I met husband, Jesse. Although he was in my same program, I didn’t connect with him immediately. It struck me, however, that he was also from a small town in the middle of nowhere Illinois and that he had left at an early age to see the world. Halfway through the program, I started to invite him over for dinner to hear more about his travel stories, and, well, I fell for him in no time. We bonded over past experiences and shared dreams. We loved the same things. We clicked. I knew he was the one, and married him in my hometown seven months after the end of the Masters. I was 24.

Nostalgic Cooking

We moved to London after the wedding. More opportunities, challenges, chances…We wanted to give it a try. The transition from the slow life of the Italian countryside to the fast pace of the English metropolis hasn’t been easy at first, but we got used to it and came to truly love our new lifestyle. Our way of cooking and eating has adapted ever so slightly to the different speed of life and set of ingredients, but the substance hasn’t changed. Local and seasonal food and Italian-inspired dishes remain at the core of my cooking philosophy.

In turn, expat life made me the sort of nostalgic cook who seeks Grandma’s and Mum’s culinary advice and tries to recreate regional and family favourites. Living abroad made it clear that, no matter how far away from home I go, my cooking would always be deeply bound to my heritage – to that village in the middle of nowhere Veneto. Food is how I came to terms with who I am and where I am from.


The Foodblog

Somewhere amidst all these happenings, Life Love Food was born, first as a shy attempt to record my cooking experiments during university years, then as a journal about musings and memories, all somehow connected by the fil rouge of food.

The recipes are often linked to the seasons. Some are recipes belonging to my family’s repertoire, some others are regional classics. At times, they are borrowed from my favourite food writers. They will sometimes have a Mediterranean flair; others, they will come with a good dose of Venetian wit. Rest assured, however, that they will always taste better in good company and, why not, with a good glass of wine.

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