Ideally, each element of a meal will be built upon layers of flavor, with a focus on a balance between three main ingredients. I like to prepare each product in a different fashion, combining raw foods with grilled, and stewed foods with those that have been steamed. Thus the various pots and pans on my stove and countertop. All of this activity leads ultimately to colorful bowls, dishes and jars at the table as well as in the pantry. At my house there is always something happening in the kitchen, ready for use as a stepping stone for the next breakfast, lunch or dinner.
My choice of cooking method depends upon the primary ingredients at hand, the meal for which it is intended and the time I have for preparation. Most of all my cooking is motivated by the seasons. My aesthetics of food is determined by availability. The meals I create are determined by what I can find at the local market and favorite family owned stores. My inspiration is pragmatic in nature, constructed with what I have in my kitchen and who will be sitting down at the kitchen table.
This particular approach to cooking is typically Italian. My philosophy is based upon my Italian experience, which taught me that food is not only essential to life, but equal to happiness among friends and family. Just like my Italian friends, I always want to know what someone is cooking, where they purchased their ingredients and how they make it. Most of all I want to know why they make their food in a certain way. History is to be found in the recipes handed down from generations.
My heart starts beating and my mind racing when I see baskets of tomatoes, or peaches or sweet potatoes. I love fresh herbs, special salts, extra virgin olive oil, grains, beans and rice. I always make arrangements of my purchases, putting baskets of vegetables on the cupboard and kitchen table top, amongst ceramic pitchers and glass jars filled with rosemary, bay leaf and sprouting bulbs of garlic. Wherever I may be I am always keenly interested in farms, family recipes and kitchen stories.
My category of cupboard essentials forms an important part of my Italian attitude towards food. Preparing something in advance, makes cooking fresh daily that much easier. Having homemade products ready in the pantry reflect creative time spent in a productive fashion. Individuality is reflected in self-made herbal salt, spice mixtures, vinegar marinades, infused honey olive oil marinades and an array of basic sauces. They form the basis of a well-equipped kitchen. Although my cupboard essentials are never complete, they are also never the same. This makes cooking so very creative and interesting.
Portrait by Frank Verbruggen