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  • The Cookbook
    Page 2 of 2

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    Once again I have to reiterate that everything my father does and thinks about has to do with Italian food. Every day, whether we're in America or Italy, my dad's first thought is about what he's going to eat. Some days he'll call and tell me what he has a taste for, some days he'll call me to come over and right there on the kitchen counter are the ingredients for what he wants me to cook that day. If I'm not sure exactly how to prepare something, even dad will tell me to check "the book."

    This cookbook has even travelled with me to Italy on a number of trips. One day while we were in Calabria dad says "…you should go to the slaughter house and get some meat." The look on my face must have been one of sheer confusion because I have never been to a slaughter house nor did I have any idea where it was. Dad's response, with a wave of his hand pointing in the general direction of the mountains, was "su la" (literal translation: up there). The very first thing that comes to my mind is the day a few years ago I was presented with a skinned rabbit. In America, we buy our meat at the grocery store already neatly packaged, but I managed to muddle through butchering and cooking it, and I must admit – it turned out great. My next thought was that I was in some deep trouble because nowhere in mom's cookbook was there any instructions about preparing anything that had just been slaughtered.

    The next day I enlist cousin Franco to take me to the slaughter house with strict instructions from dad to get some lamb. My Italian is know where near being fluent, so I ask him how to say lamb in Italian – his response, just tell the butcher, he'll know what you want. Well, unless this butcher speaks English – which is unlikely – again I find myself thinking I'm in for an interesting shopping experience. Franco understands what I need so he does all the talking at the slaughter house, from what I need to picking out the exact cut of the animal that looks the best. I come home with not only lamb, but ground meat and chicken all for the different spaghetti gravies I'll be cooking.

    Cooking in Alessandria del Carretto is a bit more of a challenge than cooking at home – the stove is powered by a propane tank, the spices are fresh and more pungent than I'm used to and jarred tomato sauce and paste are non-existent here. So I'm faced with recently butchered lamb, bundles of fresh oregano and parsley, and a fairly large basket of garden tomatoes, but I grab my cookbook, and get to work. Once the gravy is simmering on the stove, I think I can relax a bit, but then there is a knock on the door. It's our next door neighbor and she says she just had to stop by to find out what the delicious aroma coming from my kitchen was. I tell her I'm making gravy and once again this American born Italian girl manages to surprise another Alessandrini with her cooking skills.

    Later, as I'm watching my father eat his pasta, I'm filled with a sense of relief and pride, but am struck with the realization that I could never have done any of this on my own. I raise my glass of wine in a toast to all the wonderful cooking teachers I've had in my life and awed by the fact that my family cookbook has once again come to my rescue.

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    Article Published 10/13/11

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