“That old world of mine was in Romagna, the southeastern, sea-rimmed corner of Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy. It has its own distinctive dialect, as every place in Italy does. In Romagnolo, the dialect of Romagna, amarcord means “I remember,” compressing the three slow-footed Italian words “io mi ricordo” into a single, swift, emphatic one.” Marcella Hazan, Amarcord
There is a wall of cookbooks in our study but only one occupies a place of honor on the kitchen counter - “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan. It’s propped up beside the bowls of fruit, onions, garlic and tomatoes that I reach for on a daily basis. Its spine is broken, its pages dog-eared and spotted with tomato sauce, olive oil, brodo. It is without doubt the most well-used and well-loved volume in my kitchen library.
Marcella Hazan is the woman who taught me about real Italian food and I am terribly saddened to hear of her death this morning at her home in Florida. I sent Marcella a message a few years back to tell her how much Audrey’s class enjoyed the focaccia I made for an ancient Roman lunch using her recipe and was surprised (and thrilled) when she wrote back. I am undeservedly fortunate to have been able to correspond with her, however briefly, and I will be forever grateful to La Professoressa for her invaluable instruction. If you enjoy the Italian food you eat at my table, then you have Marcella to thank in large part.
I never had the pleasure of taking a cooking class with Marcella but in her books, she was a strict and generous teacher, precise but never pedantic. She is the voice in my head when I cook Italian and the woman who told me, ”methinks you’ll have to take your daughter in hand and spend a little time in Italy.” Very good advice indeed. She taught us that simple is not the same thing as easy and that affectation is anathema. She shooed us away from the garlic press and showed how to use our brains, our palates and our experience to answer that most vital of culinary questions - how does it taste? She was a lover and champion of art, music and architecture. She was, in other words, the consummate Italian.
I send my condolences to her husband and collaborator, Victor, and to her son, Giuliano, daughter-in-law, Lael, and her granddaughters. In the last message I received from Marcella she said, ”Florida will be my last stop on the long road I have traveled.” That she took our hands and showed us the way down the road is a gift for which we will be forever grateful. She made me a better cook, a better writer, a better person. I remember. Amarcord. Grazie, cara Marcella.