Florence, Italy. My heart’s hometown. I took the adventure of my life in January of 2003 and moved there as an exchange student at Accademia Italiana, an international fashion academy mere blocks from the Ponte Vecchio. The six months that followed are responsible for planting many Italian treasures in my chest, cooking being one of them. For the first time ever, I had access to a kitchen of my own and couldn’t rely on my mother or the university dining hall to feed me. Gourmet everyday became a lifestyle. Gourmet everyday became attainable.
In that tiny, rustic kitchen with mismatched pots and a red tea kettle, I learned the fundamentals of Italian cooking–many of which have nothing to do with technique. I found a cookbook printed in English at a local bookstore, and soon learned that the preparation and sharing of food fed my soul as much as if not more than my stomach. I will never forget one afternoon in that kitchen chopping mushrooms with my flat mate. Crema di funghi was on the menu, and Pavarotti’s rendition of O Sole Mio crooned from our portable CD player–but the CD player wasn’t necessary. I think that song comes standard in Florentine kitchens. That moment inspired a cooking future that had as much to do with the setting as it did with beautiful ingredients. A familiar kitchen. A beautiful song. A glass of Chianti made not so far away. And loved ones who don’t mind if you take a bite off their plate.
Not everyone loves the kitchen, but I think most can appreciate the results [of its usage] sustainable to both stomachs and hearts alike. There is a kitchen in every home. And a gourmet waiting open the drawers, check out the spices and begin creating.
“And when food, and its preparation, becomes so much more than mere nourishment, when it becomes entertainment and folly and libidinal pleasure all rolled into one thing? At that point every meal, every snack, every shared moment of sustenance can be a celebration. And it should be–not in a super serious way where overthinking can drain the fun from these moments, but in a carefree, sunrise-happy way.”
–from the forward of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, written by Chef Mario Batali
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