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.
The New Gastronome
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 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.