In earnest, I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. Dispatching a book into the world, I mean. I thought, perhaps, that it was going to feel like a piece of you leaving your body and starting a life of its own – as if one day your arm decided to stop responding to your commands and became a thinking entity. And, in part, that’s how it felt. But it also felt like the gnome in the movie Amélie. Have you seen it? If you have, you might remember how, at one point, the gnome starts sending Polaroids from the places he visits. It’s funny, but that’s what the book did to me, too. Not only did it breach into the world, it also began to send me postcards from places like Milan, London, Zürich, Venice, Paris.
This, of course, is all thanks to you. It is you who send me pictures of Veneto in your kitchen, in bookshops, in cafés and any other place in which a book feels at home. It is you who turn it into a living thing – by using it, splattering it, reading it and, hopefully, loving it. So thank you for this, from the depth of my heart. Thank you for buying the book and for filling my heart with warm pride. Thank you also for the many sweet notes, emails, messages. I am beyond humbled and so, so glad you are enjoying reading and cooking from it. Please keep them coming, please keep sharing. It truly means the world.
I am coming to you today as an old friend you don’t see for a while would: I’m full of things to tell you. The excitement is such that I might speak quickly and jump from one thing to the next without much of a connection. But I’d rather be overflowing than forgetful. So please stick with me, and we’ll get to the recipe before you know it.
First and foremost, I meant to tell you about Veneto, my cookbook, which will be released this Thursday. I feel like I’ve talked about it for so long now, that I’m struggling to fathom how fast time has passed. One week and those of you who preordered it in Europe will have a copy at their doorstep. I’m excited and terrified. Most of all, though, I just can’t wait for you to see it. It’s time.
Then, the book trailers.
Eggs in tomato sauce aren’t a novelty in my family kitchen, but for some reason, they fell to the very bottom of our repertoire. Until now. I especially love the fact that this dish assumes different names depending on where it comes from: shakshuka is very in vogue right now, but in Italy we’d rather call it uova in purgatorio (eggs in purgatory) or uova al pomodoro.
My take, however, looks at shakshuka for add-in ingredients: from the peppers in the sauce to the feta and the the sprinkle of parsley on top. All that said, whatever the name, this is a dish to make whenever you ache for comfort and simplicity, and that is at ease as a weekend breakfast as much as an impromptu dinner.
I have been travelling a lot in July, not so much in August. The two months had a noticeably different rhythm and a very opposite feel. July felt suspended, ethereal, with me constantly on the move and up in the air, struggling to feel settled or make sense of where I was, for I wasn’t anywhere for long enough.
August, in contrast, was a static month, and yet one full of restless anxiety, of changes, of big announcements and strict deadlines. I suppose all these factors, in different ways, are part of the reason why I have been absent from the pages.
However, I did want to share more about a short visit I paid to my homeland back in July, and to my nonna in particular. When I visited, I found her in her beloved ‘basement kitchen’ while she was jarring tomatoes and making fresh tomato sauce. Needless to say, she jumped on the chance to teach me a thing or two about canning while we chatted the morning away.
Zucchine alla scapece – this traditional Neapolitan dish of fried courgettes marinated in a vinegar solution, where fat slices of garlic and roughly torn mint leaves were added – remains my favourite way to eat courgettes to date.
When in Campania, I always order it when I see it on a restaurant menu, and I have even tried to reproduce it in my tiny apartment. It admittedly took me a little while to gather the guts to do it, but the first good occasion presented itself on an unusually chilly day in June, in the form of many small, crisp, lightly ridged Roman courgettes. Since then, though, frying courgettes have become some sort of celebratory ritual in our home. It is something we save for the odd rainy summer day when the breeze is fresh and flows freely, sweeping away the dreaded cooking odors.