Welcome and thank you for joining me this weekend.
As a child I was a gourmande, much more than I am now. I still love eating, but I’ve made some personal and ethical choices about food and I’ve become picky, whilst as a little girl I’d eat almost anything and I was very greedy.
Seafood, vegetables, and, of course, desserts, were some of my favourite foods. Although pasta was never my first choice, I loved my maternal grandmother’s pizzoccheri, buckwheat pasta similar to tagliatelle, drenched in garlic butter, bitto and casera cheeses and mixed with verza – savoy cabbage – and potatoes.
Originally a poor dish from the mountainous Valtellina area of Lombardy, pizzoccheri are now quite the delicacy and not many know how to make them. If you’ve watched Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy you would have seen the actor-turned-author try his hand at making them in the Milan episode.
When nonna Lidia would enquire what I wanted for lunch or dinner when I visited her – which happened very often – I would regularly ask for this dish (unless it was a hot spring day or summer, in which case pizzoccheri would have simply been too rich for the warm weather – this is food created to feed big, bulky mountain shepherds in the winter months after all).
Although I no longer eat cheese or butter, this is one of the dishes I still remember most fondly, and that was very much present throughout my childhood, teens and twenties. Pizzoccheri remind me of my grandmother, joyfully preparing something she knew I loved, ate in copious quantities and then asked for seconds. Like a good Italian nonna, it brought her joy to feed me, and it brought me joy to eat her food.
Alas Lidia’s no longer around to make her signature dish, but she’ll always be remembered for it, and in the last few years I’ve made many new memories of food.
The seafood feast in Nice eaten with one of my best friends whom I’ve known since we were two. The simple but delicious Jazz-themed plant-based food in a beautiful restaurant in Bilbao after a day taking in art at the Guggenheim. The vegan ‘Oriental path’ five courses meal at Ristorante Ghea in Milan, accompanied by more wine than one should drink at lunchtime. The plant tasting menu at Gauthier in London as new love was blossoming, and again, a year later when love had indeed bloomed. The homemade Turkish food we hungrily ate in the warmth of the night after struggling to find a restaurant that made local cuisine instead of serving ‘fish and chips’ and ‘Tesco sausages’ on the coast in Turkey. The not so local but mouthwatering Guinness mousse in St Lucia, overlooking the bay, illuminated by the twinkling lights of the moored yachts. The terrible pizza in a random restaurant in Genoa, eaten in the best company. I could go on…
Be inspired to make new memories with our feature Five must-read books about food and travel around Europe.
Treat yourself, travel and enjoy the traditional local delicacies without worrying about food labels. Even EFSA says that overall nutritional value of individuals’ diets is more important than single product profile, in this week’s news.
And whilst The ethics of honey production and our interview with Dr Gunhild Stordalen shed light on some uncomfortable truths about our food system, the good news is, there are plenty of options to align one’s values’ with one’s taste buds.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend,