Ode To Joy: A Trip To Alda’s Kitchen
by Gabrielle Hamilton
MARINA DI Leuca, Italy
SOME years ago I came to possess, of all things, a husband. People who know me well are still scratching their heads about this, as am I, but this particular husband comes with a perk: his Italian mother. That mother, Alda Fuortes de Nitto, who is 80 years old, cooks eggplant that satisfies like meat, grows her own olives, peels apricots from her own trees and sun-dries her own tomato paste. I adore her and our summer visits to her summer home in Apulia, at the tip of the Italian boot heel.
She drives like a bank robber, and calms my new baby as only a mother of six can. She exhales in little staccato bursts that make it sound as if she is perpetually enjoying a private joke, and hip surgery has not stopped her from cooking delicious meals for the entire family.
Her food is so simple and prepared with such dispatch that it is almost unnecessary to speak of recipes, and wrangling one from her is more of a poetic than a didactic encounter.
How many potatoes? “To the eye,” she says. How long should I cook the onions? “Until you put a dent in them” is her answer. What is the melted butter for? “Per la faccia,” she says, for the face.
The first meal of Alda’s I recall was a lunch of simply vegetables, well boiled. The table was set with a cloth, a water and a wine glass, five pieces of good silver per setting. And a cruet of her own golden, buttery olive oil in the center – all this for a spare lunch of zucchini, green beans and chicory. Left out on her Salentino pottery, covered with netting to keep the flies away until we arrived after a long, intensely hot six-hour motorcycle ride from Rome. We sat in the cool, dark dining room, eating the most delicious, unapologetic, undressed meal of a lifetime, the harsh glare of the white-hot afternoon shuttered out
Read more of this delicious NY Times article here, by the author of Blood, Bones & Butter (most definitely on my must read list) ∞