Lunch today is an homage to Marcella Hazan who has died at home in Florida aged 89.
A hero passes.
She was in the line of Julia Child and Elizabeth David–self-taught talents who were cooks rather than chefs.
Marcella wrote in her memoirs:
“Cooking came to me as though it had been there all along, waiting to be expressed; it came as words come to a child when it is time for her to speak.”
Born in Italy, she settled in America with her Italian-American husband, Victor, confessing to no experience in the kitchen–only the memory of the smells from her Grandmother’s kitchen on the east coast of Italy.
She learned fast, built a repertoire of recipes and started running cooking classes in her Manhattan apartment. One day American food writer Craig Claibourne came to lunch.
The rest is history.
Her cooking was classic Italian, recognising the strongly regional nature of that cuisine. She wrote in Italian–husband Victor translating–and she never lost her Italian accent.
An exigent cook by some accounts (so was Elizabeth David), “tough” was how she described herself in a late interview with Mark Bitman (another hero).
Her cook books are extraordinarily comprehensive and, like Elizabeth David’s, readable. The recipes feel authentically Italian.
Authentic and simple best descibe her cooking, with roots in the kitchen of her nonna, in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, about 120 miles south of Venice.
She has inspired me for nearly 40 years. I love my well-thumbed, stained, patched-up copies of her books.
My friend, Marc Urquhart, who knew of my passion for her recipes, surprised me with the gift of her cookbook that he specially arranged to have inscribed by her.
Grazie tanto, cara Marcella, for the many hours I’ve spent cooking with you in the kitchen and sharing your food ’round our table.