I suppose you could say I’m a bit of a cliché. I moved to Italy to study in Bologna and the rest was history – my love affair with all things Italian, especially food, began.
The seed was sown at quite a young age. Having been dragged round a million churches in Italy on family holidays by my parents, rather than being taken to every child’s dream, Disneyland, I didn’t stand much of a chance. My parents bribed me with promises of ice cream in return for one more fresco, in some church, in some hilltop Italian town. Sounds like heaven now, but it definitely wasn’t a seven year old’s idea of fun.
Now I couldn’t be more grateful for this enforced cultural education – I ended up living in Italy on and off for three years, mainly in Bologna but also on the coast of Tuscany just south of Livorno. The food between the two places couldn’t have been more different – Bologna (also known as ‘La Grassa‘, ‘The Fat’) is a mecca for tortellini, lasagne and of course, tagliatelle al ragù – NEVER spaghetti. The coast of Tuscany is a celebration of the freshest seafood, whilst head twenty minutes inland and you’ve got la tagliata (sliced steak with rosemary and olive oil or rocket and parmesan), wild boar and polenta galore. I could go on all day recounting the culinary triumphs of the region but I’ll stop here.
Over the three years I learned how easy it was to make tasty, simple food, as long as you have good ingredients. I learned from Italian friends, friends’ parents, friends’ ‘nonnas’. Now, several years on and living in London, I take inspiration from places I’ve been, restaurants I’ve eaten in, people I’ve met, chefs whose recipes I’ve read, the culinary revolution that seems to be taking place in the UK and most importantly, my friends. I love to cook to bring people together, enjoy food and enjoy each other’s company. Down with TV dinners! Let’s do it the Italian way because, the words of Federico Fellini, ‘life is a combination of magic and pasta’.