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bits and bites

May 22, 2008

This past year, I’ve changed the way I cook.  It started with a trip to Hawai’i, where we ate tons of fresh fruit (and shave ice). 

Ella with Jo Jo’s shave ice in Kaua’i.

Then there was my ongoing hatred of the big grocery shop.  And my ongoing envy of friends who were wonderful cooks, like John and Barb (you know who you are).  And my husband’s glee at a well-prepared meal. Then I discovered Jamie Oliver.  And read the 100 Mile Diet

I realized:  I can be a good cook.  Instead of pining for some talent in cooking, I decided to teach myself to cook.  Fresh, local food.  An avoidance of canned and frozen food.   I acquired kitchen tools that I never ever used before, starting with a lemon citruser (a gift from my mom).  Then a lemon squeezer.  A mortar and pestle.  A parmesean grater. 

New essential items started showing up in my fridge, like fresh herbs and real lemons and limes.  I only bought bread at the bakery.  The rumblings of a little revolution were happening, and compounded by our time in Italy.

After eating in restaurants for a week, one night in our little apartment in Abruzzo, I cooked dinner.  We went to the little hilltop town of Penne earlier that day and bought tomatoes, garlic, and onion from the little hole in the wall produce store.  Then we picked up parmesean, Italian sausage and buffalo mozza balls from the deli.   Oh, and some vino russo (very important).

We asked the Nonna of the house for some olive oil.  She generously gave us some lettuce for our insalade.  Then I started the task of cooking in our little kitchen, which had no oven and a mini-bar for a fridge. 

Something about the love I put into that meal, and the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients totally worked.  I think the beautiful thick green olive oil was the crowning glory.

But Mike and I devoured that meal like we hadn’t eaten in days.  And while it wasn’t fancy, it was just plain good. 

Shop local.  Shop fresh.  Use olive oil.  Drink red wine.  Those are my lessons from Italy.

Sue in her little kitchen in the region of Abruzzo, Italy.

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