WHAT AM I DOING HERE - Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market - Marcella Hazan, Victor Hazan

Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market - Marcella Hazan, Victor Hazan (2016)


Victor Hazan

For sixty years of an inseparable relationship, Marcella had a partner. A sometimes, but not always, silent partner, a partner standing by in her kitchen, a partner for her daily explorations of the food market, a partner in the conversations about cooking that were an indivisible part of dining at home and out, a partner to give her Italian prose English expression. I was, and continue to be, that partner.

Marcella’s passion was teaching. She had studied to become a teacher, and in her youth she taught mathematics and the biological sciences. Marriage revealed her genius for cooking and, in the latter half of a long life, cooking is what she taught. She wrote this book knowing it would be her final opportunity to guide other cooks toward the most desirable choice of ingredients, to share with them her knowledge, her methods, and her thoughts in producing what she viewed as one of the richest sources of contentment: good home cooking.

Anyone who has cooked with Marcella will recall her saying: “Don’t think so much about what else you can put into a recipe. What you keep out is just as important as what you put in.” There are dishes, of course, that benefit from a copious variety of ingredients. The minestrone that Marcella used to make for us could contain a dozen vegetables or more. She packed her books, however, with ­recipes listing no more than five ingredients, often even fewer. Her famous tomato sauce that traveled the world has only three. In recent years, simple cooking has become a frequently cited ideal. Cooks and food writers often talk about it. ­Marcella practiced it. She was a tireless defender of the respect that was owed ingredients. “If you have something fresh and wonderful cooking in the pan, don’t crowd it with herbs and spices and other odd companions; give it room. Let it speak out.”

Marcella wrote in Italian, fast, without hesitation, leaving no space between lines, filling several legal-size notebooks with her manuscript. She concentrated on such ingredients as you can buy without assistance, on produce, on pantry items, on salumi. Excluded therefore are seafood and meat, for whose purchase you depend on the cooperation of a reliable fishmonger or butcher. The ingredients that she describes are those that you’d be likely to find in our kitchen. They are associated with Italian cooking because that is what Marcella did, but they are common in everyday cooking for many cuisines.

She loved this project and dedicated to it the customary passion with which she worked. It took me a long while to fortify myself, to open her notebooks, to read that ­familiar hand. This became the last tribute I could offer, to give her book its English-speaking voice. I have worked alone in the kitchen where Marcella reigned, and I have been testing recipes with many of the ingredients she discusses here. It is remarkable how well her simple approach works. Every day of our life that Marcella and I ate at home—and that accounted for most of our days—Marcella cooked a fresh, satisfying meal. With the insight into ingredients that she provides here, good cooks should be capable of using her as their model, to invest the taste of their own cooking with the clarity that is Marcella’s.