NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - For Fabrizia Lanza, the author
of the new cookbook "Coming Home to Sicily," preparing meals is
not just about recipes but also about gestures and a way of
"It's the way you put yourself in front of the table, how
you add the water," said Lanza, who returned to Case Vecchie,
her family's cooking school in Sicily, after years as an art
historian in northern Italy.
"It's living according to a very natural rhythm."
Her cookbook contains 100 family recipes from the school,
which is situated on one of the island's oldest estates. Guests,
amateurs and top chefs alike, are encouraged to harvest the
vegetables and observe the cheese-making even as they learn to
cook in the Sicilian manner.
Lanza, who joined the business in 2006, spoke to Reuters
about the pleasures of starting over, living off the land, and
being blessed with "a good fork."
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: "I wanted to introduce myself to this world. My first
career was as a museum curator and art historian, so I'm quite
new to all of this. It's my way of seeing, of cooking, and my
way of getting into coming back to Sicily."
Q: Why did you return to Sicily?
A: "I was doing this art business for many years and I was a
bit fed up with living in the north (of Italy). I really wanted
to eat a good salad and a good tomato and I was bored with the
grey sky ... I felt if I did not leave I would never leave.
There are points in your life when you feel you can start
Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: "I think in Italy all of us have some basics. We've all
spent time, in the kitchen. Italians talk continuously about
food. I never really learned from my mother, nor did she learn
from her mother. We were just around food all day long. It's
another way of learning. It's not instructions and rules, but
it's from your body."
Q: What do the people who visit your school find there?
A: "I offer mainly an experience. We make everything from
scratch, including the bread. I get my flour from the local
mill. I make my yogurt every morning. Everything is done there
and it's done as it's always been done. We grow everything. The
lamb is from there, the cheese is from there. It's living off
the land and also having a cultural understanding of why this
wheat is grown here instead of there, and why is this vinegar
made this way?"
Q: How does Sicilian cuisine differ from the rest of Italy?
A: "Sicily has different ingredients because we have
different vegetables. Sicily is really diverse, with an amazing
variety of landscapes, of terroir, of soil. Few foreigners
realize that. We have this small island, so you think well
that's it, but when you travel to Sicily you realize how
different the food and cultures are."
Q: Is there a typical Sicilian ingredient?
A: "A very special ingredient is wild fennel. It's not the
domestic fennel you grow in vegetable gardens. It's a wild
version that grows in the mountains. I've seen it growing here
(in the United States) only in California."
Q: Does your art history experience inform your life at the
A: "This is one of the wonders of life: that nothing was
wasted. The art historian comes up all the time in my life.
(Coming home) I was overwhelmed by the pleasure, the beauty, how
much I had missed. I was captured by the freshness of tradition
and the stories behind the food."
Q: What do the Italians mean when they say someone has "a
A: "'Una buona forchetta' is an Italian saying -- a good
fork. It is a small title that my grandfather used to give when
he saw someone eating with pleasure."
Cherry Peppers Stuffed with Tuna (serves six to eight)
1 pound cherry peppers
1 cup white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
5 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Two (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna, not drained
12 green olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
Cut the tops off the cherry peppers and carefully remove the
seeds. Wash and set on a towel to dry.
Combine the wine, vinegar, sugar, garlic, cloves, and bay
leaves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high
heat, then add the peppers. Reduce the heat and cook, covered,
until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain (discard
the cooking liquid and spices) and cool.
With a fork, mash together the tuna, olives, capers, and
anchovies. Stuff the cooled peppers with the tuna mixture.
(Reporting by Dorene Internicola; editing by Patricia Reaney)