Tag Archives: cooking and memories

Two dishes, from two regions and two bisnonne… Abruzzo and Calabria

When we cook the same dishes that our ancestors cooked it connects us to them, to our history and it also brings us back to something within ourselves that we mightn’t have thought of for some time or something we hadn’t yet discovered. Just the aroma of a dish cooking can release a trigger of deep memories that lets things rise up and take shape in us.

I grew up in Australia, far from where my great-grandmothers, Maddalena and Francesca lived in Italy. And yet, here I am, almost a century on, cooking the same dishes they cooked, a lovely connection to these two strong women. The dishes are maccheroni Calabrese (knitting needle pasta) and pasta alla chitarra (guitar pasta) made on a ‘chitarra box’ I got from Abruzzo. I sought to make sauces that reflected their history too. The maccheroni Calabrese (pasta rolled on a knitting needle for its shape) has a richer red sauce with melanzane and chillies that Francesca’s town of Palmi is known for. And the chitarra pasta has bitter, wild greens added to the passata, inspired by Maddalena walking hillsides near Fossa picking wild greens into her upturned apron and taking them back to cook with. It also has pecorino cheese on top because that part of Abruzzo is known for its sheep.

These dishes (pictured) are from my kitchen so they are a little rustic (as are their photos!) and mightn’t live up to those cooked by my bisnonne, but they made me feel happy and reminded me of those before and sometimes maybe that’s all we need when it comes to cooking.
Hope your next time cooking is delicious and joyful! Zoë xx

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Pikelets and scones…

These lovelies are some baking treats from having more time in the kitchen of late (and there’s been some fiascos as well as triumphs, I admit!) Roger is the scone baker in our house so gets credit for these. He likes following set recipes, while I’m more of a ‘bit of this and that’ cook, assessing as I go. The last time I baked scones was in a school ‘home economics’ class where the teacher said my hands were too warm for the dough (cool hands are better so scones aren’t tough apparently).

Great-grandma Charlotte was the scone baker in my family. She even entered some at the Ipswich show and gained second place for ‘best plate homemade scones’ in 1927 (her breads won several firsts!) Her daughter, Lorna, my grandma, preferred talking politics with a cigarette in hand than cooking, though she did make a mean fried rice. I feel for her as she’d have been great in a professional career but most women in those days didn’t get that chance. I had a thing for pancakes and pikelets from a young age and that page of my first cookbook is splodged with attempts. Just like the kitchen now wears flour over the benchtop and a bit on the floor too.

The thing about home cooking is, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t turn out quite right. When there’s that comforting, cooking scent in the house (if not too burnt!), a cloth spread over the table and a cup of tea or coffee ready, eating what you’ve cooked while it’s still warm can unexpectedly bring back happy memories and stories of people loved, now long-gone, and just for a little while, all feels well.

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