Recreating Memories in the Kitchen

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but recently I learned an Italian phrase that I had never heard before: “fare la scarpetta.” Roughly translated “to do the little shoe,” the terms refer to the act of taking a piece of bread and soaking up the remnants of gravy or soup or whatever meal leftovers remain.

Upon investigating, I learned that the “shoe” reference is a metaphorical description of the bread. Like a shoe being dragged in the mud, the bread soaks up the sauce and becomes saturated with flavor. Continue reading

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The Perfect Pick-Me-Up

When I was in Italy I ate my fair share of tiramisu. During lunchtime at the Villa, the students eagerly waited to see if tiramisu would be served for dessert. The moments when the “pick-me-up” made its way to the buffet table, everyone would rush into line and proceed to take large spoonfuls. Sprinkled with coffee powder on top, the caffeine is not hidden. Yet despite the espresso laden ladyfingers and coffee dusting, the rich custard and overwhelming portions meant for very sleepy afternoons.  Continue reading

Un Giro a Siena

This past weekend I took a trip to Siena.

While I wish I could say that I was in the Tuscan city that is world-famous for the Palio horse race, its neighborhood rivalries and cuisine, I spent this Saturday evening in a local restaurant, imagining myself transported to the Italian province.

Located in Rhode Island’s Little Italy area known as Federal Hill, Siena restaurant promises diners “authentic Tuscan cuisine in a warm, inviting and lively atmosphere.” Having spent the last semester in Tuscany, I have been on a search for someplace where I could taste the flavors I fell in love with overseas. Continue reading

My First Kitchen[s]

Julia Child's Cambridge, MA Kitchen

Some girls dream about their first house with a white picket fence, a large yard for the dog and the kids to run around, and a front porch complete with a rocking chair. While this image seems absolutely wonderful, my idea of my first home is very different. For me, images of a fence or a yard or a porch do not cross my mind. Instead, my dream home is based around what my kitchen would like.

When I was a little girl one of my favorite “toys” was my play kitchen. Though it was relatively simple compared to the ones today with battery-powered microwaves, light fixtures, and ovens that chime, I adored everything about it. I could spend hours placing plastic fruit in the blender for “smoothies” or flipping “eggs” in the fry pan to serve my dolls for breakfast. Playing in the kitchen, I felt like a mother, the person the family could rely on to literally put food on the table. Perhaps an early sign of my future love of cooking, those moments with that kitchen are some of my favorite memories of childhood. Continue reading

Congress and my Dinner Plate

Did you know that United States government once placed a special tax on colored margarine? Or that Thomas Jefferson smuggled rice from Italy into the United States, a crime punishable by death?  Or that the school lunch program is one of the nation’s most successful welfare projects in history? If you are like me, then you probably did not know any of this information.

Although I consider myself a foodie, I realized today that there is much more to food than simply how it tastes and how it is prepared. At the National Archives in downtown D.C. there is a new exhibition that explores the government’s effect on the American diet. “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” seeks to educate visitors about the government’s complex programs and legislation that have influenced what Americans see on their plates and eat off of their forks. Considering that the exhibition is devoted to two of my passions, food and politics, I knew this was something I could not miss. Continue reading

When Ravioli was the Enemy

I have a secret I have to admit. Although I now feel like the reigning queen of all things Italian, including food, there was once a time when the idea of something wrapped in a tiny package, stuffed with cheese, and covered in sauce had no appeal to me.

I remember very clearly an evening at the dinner table when I was perhaps four or five years old. On my plate was a serving of ravioli, and there they rested for some time. Because my mom believed in the “you-either-eat-this-or-nothing” philosophy, I had very little choice but to succumb to the pressure of taking a bite of the Italian cheese pillows. I cannot recall what I thought after those initial bites, but I do remember the aftermath: me, isolated in the living room with a grape freeze pop watching as my mother cleaned up what remained of my dinner…on the floor.  Continue reading

An Italian (Dorm) Pantry

Flavia would be proud of my apartment’s pantry.

My love of Italian food is no secret, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that my D.C. kitchen is all but stocked with Italian staple ingredients. Considering items like tomatoes, basil, pasta, and balsamic, one might expect my kitchen to belong to that of an Italian grandma. Continue reading