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Re-creating childhood food memories

Ciao, my name is Jessica and I am Australian born and Italian raised.

My parents and grandparents were all born in Campania.

My mother’s side is from Gesualdo, in the province of Avellino. My father’s side from Vallo Della Lucania, in the province of Salerno

I did not grow up learning how to make pasta, and I wasn’t in the kitchen on a Sunday preparing it with mamma and nonna.  And sorry to spoil the illusion, but neither did most of my friends and their Italian families!

I was raised by a family of unknowingly great cooks.  Nonni, genitore, zii and cugini (grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles and cousins) who chose to celebrate their traditional Italian cuisine, cooking it week after week, giving me an intense appreciation for good food that’s easy to make, nutritious and above all flavoursome.

My cooking journey did not begin with a childhood yearning to be a cook or a chef. I appreciated cooking but probably didn’t get to do much of it because mum, dad and my nonni were always in the kitchen preparing amazing meals for the family.  I also always felt a little apprehension- could anything I cook really be as good as nonna’s or my mums’ food?

As life would have it, there came a turning point where I wanted to learn how, and it became apparent that I had to ‘step up to the plate’.  I became passionate about learning the recipes I grew up with and feared that they would be lost if I didn’t keep them alive in my family.

I wanted to recreate all the nostalgic childhood food memories for myself and my family.

My husband and I like to take our 3 girls to Italy every 2 years if possible. His family is from Calabria and we both have more relatives in Italy than we do in Australia. We are committed to keeping the traditions going for our children and to make sure the next generation learns the language and culture that we were fortunate enough to be born into.

It was a memorable family holiday to Campania, visiting my parent’s hometowns that sparked the idea for my first cookbook.  As well as their home towns, we also explored the Amalfi Coast.  Popular areas like Positano, Amalfi and Ravello and the lesser-known ‘touristy’ towns of Maiori and Minori where we were treated like real locals because of my dad’s Neapolitan accent.  Like any Italian family on holidays, our whole trip revolved around food, and we indulged in all the traditional foods of the towns whilst also discovering new delicacies.

Following that trip, I decided to spend some hours in the kitchen with my parents, actually so many hours I lost count.   My mum, a great cook, and whose recipes are sought after amongst friends, was patient, taking me through all of her cooking steps.  My dad, who loves to cook, was not so patient and had his own particular way of doing things.  More often than not he’d think his version was better and sometimes arguments would break out about who was right and wrong, often we’d end up in fits of laughter and many times I’d be left confused and with no  recipe! I’m sure anyone with Italian parents can relate.  Fortunately though, I enjoyed the theatrics of it all and it didn’t deter me.

The final result; a cookbook of 70 recipes of ‘food memories’ to keep these dishes alive for the next generation. Available mid April 2022. Order at www.thelittleitaliancook.com.au

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/thelittleitaliancook/?hl=it

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