Italian Grandmothers.

[27 Nov 2010 | By | 7 Comments]

italian sign

Need I say more? Who wouldn’t want an Italian Grandmother, full of old-world charm, well-earned wisdom and vault to the greatest generation of food mavens. In our current culinary climate, we are attempting to reach back across the ages, to best practices of old: making pasta from scratch, preserving seasonal produce, knowing our butchers and farmers by name.

They did it right, they dedicated their lives to preserving and drying and cooking foods as the seasons slid by. They nourished their family, nurtured their loved ones and despite living hard lives: have a depth of kindness in their eyes that is unmatched.

Italian Grandmothers are icons, mavens, stalwarts of their homeland and neighborhoods. The matriarchs. And best of cooks.

grana padano

I just read two books—one a novel and another a cookbook—that reach for the cherished [culinary and otherwise] wisdom of Italian Grandmothers. I highly recommend them both (I don’t say that lightly, I am big on thanking companies for products that they send for my review… thanking is thanking. Recommending means: worth your time). I WILL say that these books grabbed my heart a few layers deeper, due to my fond memories and food experiences of living in Florence, Italy, for a year (we lived there Aug 2009 – June 2010) where I cooked my heart out—and developed attachments to varying regions, cuisines, seasonal ingredients and cooking methods.

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily
BY Jessica Theroux

I am insanely jealous of Jessica—and the year she spent traveling around Italy, absorbing the various regions and soaking up all forms of wisdom from 12 different Italian grandmothers. Jessica: can I come next time? This beautiful book is threefold in its benefits: there are 100 Italian recipes, accompanied by an agri-inspired photo journey across Italy and bits of story and wisdom from 12 grandmothers.

meatballs from dario

The second book I read while on the treadmill… but would make a perfect pool-side or beach read. I loved it and am sad the book is over. I still think about the characters in the novel and it makes me smile. Written by Melissa Senate, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School is about a woman stepping into her Italian Grandmother’s big-shoes-to-fill; she sets to run her grandmother’s cooking school… and learns about the wisdom of friendships, bittersweet love and the pursuit of finding oneself.

I confess. This book was delightfully close to my heart, in part because I just started offering cooking classes (no school yet—I am starting with classes in people’s homes—and will go from there!). These last few years I have been ‘finding myself’ in food too; from attending culinary school to blogging and cooking and spending a year in Italy. It is fun to start to see it coming together, beginning with cooking classes, developing relationships with food companies and even talking to [cookbook] publishers.

BOTH of these books are shown to the RIGHT, in the brown box marked ‘talking about.’ If you want a closer look, click on the book and it will take you to Amazon (where you can peek inside the cover, etc.).

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  • Seb @ pedometers said (27 November 2010 at 10:00 pm):

    Thanks for a great post and the book recommendations. it brought tears to my eyes. I had an Italian Grandmother, my father’s mother. She lived in Florence and died in 1968 when I was 16. There are just two of us left in the family now. Myself and my cousin, she’s 87 and lives south of Pisa. She is more like my mother and we visit her every year. Her food was incredible and I remember writing down her recipes as far back as 1974 and every time I visited after that. Sadly she can no longer cook, although she loves to eat out when she feels up to it.

  • bellini said (28 November 2010 at 10:55 am):

    Either of these books would make great reading. I especially love the fact that you are offering cooking classes these days. Perhaps that is an activity for my next trip to Seattle in the Spring.

  • janelle (author) said (30 November 2010 at 2:46 pm):

    Seb: Thank you for sharing! She sounds lovely; how wonderful to visit family in Tuscany every year.

    Bellini: I will keep you posted!!! I hope to update my site to have a ‘cooking classes’ schedule and description soon…

  • Krista said (3 December 2010 at 1:34 pm):

    Those books sound SO good! :-) I love books like that, ones that pull me in and connect me to the hearts of people I don’t even know. Lovely. :-)

  • Matilda said (14 December 2010 at 5:59 pm):

    When you think of Italian grandmothers you think of incredible warmth, love and great cooking. These would make ideal Christmas gifts for anyone who loves to cook.

  • Melissa Senate said (19 February 2011 at 5:12 pm):

    I missed this very lovely, touching post somehow! Thank you so much for your mention of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School–I’m very happy to know you enjoyed it.

  • janelle said (22 February 2011 at 2:17 pm):

    Krista: I know! Me too!
    Matilda: they were lovely books, good ideas for gifts;)
    Melissa: what a TREAT to hear from you! Thank you for your book. It was the perfect timing to read it; it helped propel me to start teaching cooking;).