Cross-cultural culinary musings

Raggio Image
05/28/2010 - 05:10

In reply to your request for "more cross-cultural musings", Annec, here is another of my Dad's inventions. He makes a peperonata (peppers, onions and tomatoes stewed in a little oil until soft) and then, five minutes before taking it off the heat, he adds...chutney. Try it. I never make it any way else now. He also adds chutney to his green beans and tomato (fagiolini al pomodoro). What is interesting about my Dad's cooking is his take on recipes: I will never forget the recipe he took from Ada Boni (Il talismano della felicità) which was Agnello al forno con funghi (Roast lamb with mushrooms). He brought it to table announcing it as such and then added "We only had pork, so I used pork, we didn't have mushrooms so I used peppers, and your mother had a cake in the oven, so I braised it on the hob." When we children asked why he still called it lamb etc. he replied "That's the recipe". We have learnt never to query his reasoning and certainly never to expect to eat what he said he had made but just enjoyed the end result!


What an amazing Dad you have!, dinner time must be a whole new experience when he is cooking. I offered my neighbour here chutney (made from the pears he had given me), acted as if I was offering him a poisoned chalice, have also given it to italian friends, but am not convinced they ever ate it. A brave younger italian friend came for dinner, her mother told me later that she had worried about what she might be offered and was relieved that she enjoyed it!, I should have given her your dads Agnello/Pork dish , that would have been confusing.

My dad’s father was one of the MIA in the Great War, so he and his brother were brought up by their mother who, unusually for the times, decided she did not need a man to enable her to bring up her boys – anyway, as she used to say, no-one could compete with “her Antonio”. This meant that my dad, who was 3 when his dad was declared dead, spent a lot of time with his mother, watching her cook. As a result, after he married my mother, who is Roman, he would often say “Why don’t you make me sfinci/sfinciuni/fritedda/frocia di piselli/sanceli/farsumagru… And my mum would say “I don’t know how to make it” and he would say “just do as I say” and would begin to list the ingredients, then tell her what to do and half-way she would inevitably say “Oh but these are zeppole/pizzette/carciofi con fave e piselli/frittata con I piselli/sanguinaccio/vitello ripieno… Translations: deep-fried pastry balls covered in sugar ( a cholesterol bomb!), little pizzas (but that probably didn’t need a translation!), artichokes cooked with broad beans and peas, pea frittata (Italian omelette), blood pudding made with pig’s blood, chocolate, cinnamon, pine-nuts and candied fruit ( and NO, I will NEVER even taste it, much as I like the last part of the ingredient list!), stuffed veal.  Yes, you would be correct in thinking that ours was and still is a family very focussed on food.

Thanks for the ideas, Raggio, your Dad is also my kind of cook, plenty of inspiration and imagination. I collect recipes; however, I must confess that I hardly ever follow them exactly. I add or omit ingredients all the time. They also help me to create new dishes with whatever I have at home. And no doubt about your Sicilian ancestry, I think that the word "farsumagru" would only be understood there although there are other "vitello ripieno" varietes elsewhere.