Girolle Mushroom and Speck Risotto

Five years have passed since that gloomy night when, standing in front of the stove in my tiny kitchen in via Peschiera in Bra, I showed Jesse how to make a proper Venetian risotto. We weren’t dating yet, not officially at least; but my kitchen had quickly become a focal point, a gravitational centre in our strange, undefined relationship. Cooking and eating together was a way to feel each other out, to test our compatibility, to make sense of who we were as individuals, and as a couple. Everything in our lives back then passed through the filter of food. Food filled our days – we were studying it in all its aspects, eating it copiously, often cooking it collectively – and permeated our minds, our conversations. We breathed food, dreamed about it, talked about it all the time. Naturally, we thought it was only going to work between us if we could make our eating habits collide, our food ideas click.

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Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Peppers

Eggs seem to be the last thing I eat before leaving for a long trip, and the first when I come back.

We made eggs on that rainy Monday, the day we left our little Wimbledon flat behind us – white walls and all. The meal felt nostalgic, a dejà vu of sorts. We ate on the set of plates we didn’t want to take with us, which made us feel even more unrooted, fully conscious of our nomadic nature. All around us was an empty apartment, tainted by the same sort of emptiness we found when we first moved in three and a half years ago. Our life was now packed into eight heavy boxes and four suitcases. The time had come to move again.

We made a meal with what we had left in the house: in the freezer, we found a bag of ragù we thought we could keep for Christmas; there was one good bottle of red wine left, which we wanted to save for a good occasion that never really came; and then, a little Parmesan, some bread, and four eggs. Cooking with these few ingredients, we managed to create something that was so decadent it made us slightly ashamed. Still, we didn’t regret a single bite of those soft eggs cooked in meat sauce, topped with grated Parmesan, mopped up with bread, and washed down by Valpolicella. It made us full, yes, perhaps too full to move bags and boxes down the stairs; and a bit tipsy, too, maybe too tipsy to face a plane ride; but it made us happy, giggly, and it washed all sadness away.

We left for the airport right after lunch. The front door closed behind us as the rain was falling heavily outside. We knew we were going to be back soon, but it still felt like the end of a chapter – the white walls now turned into white canvases, ready for other people to mark their lives on them. To my surprise, I was OK with that, with all of that really – the change, the novelty that was awaiting us, the unknown. I knew it was going to be good for us. I didn’t shed a tear as the plane took off, not like I do every time I leave Venice. That was the sign I wasn’t really leaving home, but I was rather going towards it – finally landing in Venice to stay for a while.  

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Jujube Polenta Cookies

A few things have happened since I last wrote here. The biggest news is that we’ve left London for the time being. I’ll be staying at my family home in the Venetian countryside for a little while. Leaving my day job, moving from London back to my village seemed a tad daunting at first, but I’ve been making the most of this newly found spare time by doing all the things that I love doing: cooking and reading, mostly. But also, exploring my home region of Veneto further and deeper, writing, and taking precious notes for projects that are materialising on the horizon.
The garden at our family home is exploding with the best autumnal colours, and with a few edible delights – pomegranates and jujubes. You might have caught sight of a jujube shrub or tree before; for one, they are very widespread in Veneto. Traditionally used as ornamental plants, locals slowly began to appreciate them for their fruits, which they would use to make confectionery and liqueurs.

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Nonna’s Tomato Sauce

tomato saucetomatoes

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. (You might remember her from this chicken story. Well, she just turned 95 and made her first appearance on a foreign national paper.) 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.

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