Regarded as the Godfather of the Italian cuisine, Antonio Carluccio owes it to his mother: “My passion for food came about in order to provide the food that my mother used to prepare, I was just always around her as she was preparing food, and that gave me the confidence to do it myself. You pick it up, steal it almost, and when you are alone you remember it all. I had to learn it myself. My mother was, involuntarily, my teacher.”
By the age of 33, he earned his first 3 Michelin Stars; Marco Pierre White also owes it to his mother: “I decided to write down every memory I had of my mother and then I dissected every single memory: memories of the two months we’d spend every summer in Italy, of her always checking the fireplace for fallen birds before lighting it, of feeding us warm fruit straight from the tree, of making us patchwork quilts and toys and clothes. When I started to get an understanding of who my mother was, I realised that I was my mother’s son, in that I am soft and gentle and romantic and sensitive… After this, my food changed overnight, and ever since I’ve walked down the road to self-discovery, aided by the knowledge that the emotional impact she had on me was enormous…the insecurity and pain I carried over my mother’s death was what drove me to achieve three Michelin stars and by achieving those three stars I built my monument to my mother”.
I may be the Goddaughter version of Antonio Carluccio and unlike Marco Pierre White; I hold minus three Michelin Stars; but what we obviously have in common, is a wonderful mother.
I was 4 years old when I went to kindie and I remember those nasty butterflies pinching my stomach. I cried my life out to the point that supervisors asked my brother to leave his class to look after me until it was time to go back at home where my mother would greet us with hot pots of winter stews of meatballs with potatoes or braised beef with green peas; all simmered with homemade tomato broth, to keep us well fed and warm.
She was always either cooking or knitting for us, and it was utterly annoying every time I got interrupted from playing so she could take measurement of the “under construction” blouse against my own body, little I knew back then that her intentions were to keep me warm with authentic woollen rather than fabricated polyester.
In Summer; I watched my mom preparing the winter pantry through bottling tomato sauce and fruit jams; particularly apricot and figs that she bathed under the sun for days; preserving stuffed eggplants and olives in olive oil; pickling wild cucumbers in brine; and drying mint leaves in every room in the house. (excluding the toilet, if you are wondering)
In winter, I watched my mom preparing summer refreshments of lemonade, rose water, blackberry, and grape molasses to keep us distracted from commercial ice creams and bubbly sodas; which by the way never worked. you see? there was this bar by the pool within a resort where we used to spend summer, and I had thin arms that were long enough to slide inside the poorly locked fridge and collect ice creams for my brother, cousins and myself, every night after their closure. I didn’t feel any guilt though no one told me that what I was doing was wrong. I was too young and believed in Plato’s republic.
I was 18 when I moved to Beirut to study. For my mother, it was like I was joining the army! We went a convoy of three cars loaded with tupperwares, blankets and my cat. And every night, my mother would call to have the same conversation that I started to believe she swallowed a radio:
– Are you hungry? if you are, eat!
– Are you cold? if you are, use a blanket!
I was 27 when I immigrated to Australia, and I have no idea what I was thinking. My parents had a black face, and those butterflies I had when I was 4 were back with their siblings this time. Yes, the same sun was up, the neighbour left to work at the same time he did the day before, everything else looked normal but my life that day was not. It was the longest 24 hours for everyone on that plane except mine, I spent them planning my way back…and I haven’t (yet)
But it’s in Australia, that I experienced what Antonio Carluccio said earlier, Which I now dare to say: “My passion for food came about in order to provide the food that my mother used to prepare, I was just always around her as she was preparing food, and that gave me the confidence to do it myself. You pick it up, steal it almost, and when you are alone you remember it all. I had to learn it myself. My mother was, involuntarily, my teacher.”