I come from an Italian Background.
Food is as much a part of the culture as using our hands to speak.
Growing up, my household saw the merger of Siciliano and Calabrese gastronomy – both from my mother’s experience brought over from Limpidi, Dasa and Valentino in the Catanzaro region of Calabria and the rich, deep history of the Vizzini, Catania region of Sicily introduced by my grandmother and father.
Unfortunately, home life was rough, and I left at a young age. Out in the real world and reliant on my self to feed my hunger, you soon realise that eating out will burn a hole through your meagre funds as fast as a gambling addiction. The second lesson you learn, there is only so many 2-minute noodles you can eat for every meal.
A thought crosses your mind at some point – how did my parents manage to feed us for so little? That’s when you realise that not only was home cooking delicious, it was cheap too.
So, brought about by a desire to eat, a desire for variety and a longing for the food I was raised on, my adventures in cooking began.
As luck would have it, I lived in a heavily south-east Asian influenced suburb and into a share house with a Vietnamese lad who’s mother took some pity on me and taught me a few cheap and easy recipes to get me started. The next few share houses also provided continued motivation as most roomies were adapt at cooking out of cans or from frozen food packs.
I still recall the horror of when I was offered “spaghetti” which was delivered from a Heinz can on a slice of heavily buttered toast. I distinctly felt like a vegetarian Muslim who had been served pork – outraged, but confused over which reason I had the stronger objection.
My adventures in cooking have coupled with my desire to push my own envelopes, constantly striving to try new foods, new ingredients and new methods. When you couple that with a hardcore geekiness and a passion for gastronomy, you end with someone who gets excited just at the thought of it all. I love it all – the recipes, exploring markets, hunting out farmgates, acquiring cookbooks, rare and quirky ingredients, getting lost in a kitchen supply store for hours, academic musings, the nifty tools, the ideas and inspirations that keep me up at night scribbling away recipes and even the exploration of restaurants and cafes.
Being in Australia and specifically in one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Melbourne, it has been a goal that has been easier to achieve than most other locations. I may complain a lot to those around me, but in truth, I am extremely lucky to have some fine markets and fine food purveyors that makes gastronomic exploration a both a possibility and a joy.
On a deeper, more personal note – the one consistent element of my life has been food.
It has always played a large part that goes beyond the standard aspect of eating for survival.
It has been both amazingly positive and destructively negative.
I have suffered with weight issues all my life, flipping between emotional and “void” eating, sleep eating, binge eating, anorexia and then back to obesity. That has been the destructive element food has played in my life.
However, from a positive aspect, it has given me a creative outlet. I can cook. More than that; I can compose and create. It is an area where I do shine and it provides me with such great comfort. This is the only area of my life where I can return to to recover my self confidence, I’d even go so far as to say, recover my equilibrium.
It’s one of the few simple, basic things that I can do, and it’s effect is to fill the house with a warmth and an aroma which I hope conveys “you are home, take your shoes off and relax, for we dine among friends and loved ones.”
My ownership of the kitchen, is my ownership of the heart and centre of my home.
Which is where I care for my friends and loved ones.
That is where my sense of place is.
This, is where I come to you from.