Amarcord: Marcella Remembers - Teaching America How to Cook Italian

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9780061720734: Amarcord: Marcella Remembers - Teaching America How to Cook Italian

Marcella Hazan is known as America's godmother of Italian cooking. The owner of her own cooking schools, and author of bestselling and award-winning cookbooks, she has collected invitations to cook at top restaurants around the world.

Her story begins in Alexandria, Egypt, where an early childhood accident would alter the course of her life and bring her family back to her father's native Italy for medical treatment. In Italy, Marcella was fulfilling her ambition to become a doctor when she met Victor, the love of her life. After their marriage, they moved to America, where Marcella knew not a word of English or a single recipe. She began to recall and attempt to re-create the flavors of her homeland, giving cooking lessons in her tiny New York kitchen. Soon after, Craig Claiborne invited himself to lunch, and the rest is history.

Amarcord means "I remember" in Marcella's native Romagnolo dialect. Marcella, now eighty-four, looks back on the adventures of a life lived for pleasure and a love of teaching, and the twists and turns that brought her love, fame, and a chance to forever change the way we eat.

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About the Author:

Marcella Hazan was the acknowledged godmother of Italian cooking in America. The recipient of two Lifetime Achievement Awards (from the James Beard Foundation in 2000 and the IACP in 2004), she was the author of many classic cookbooks, including Marcella Says... and Marcella Cucina.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Nancy McKeon All the atmospherics of those Olive Garden "abbondanza" TV commercials aside, Italians can be a stern lot when it comes to food. And in the field of Italian cookery, the role of taskmaster has fallen for the past several decades to Marcella Hazan, author of six major cookbooks and widely regarded as the person who taught America how to cook Italian. Now 84, Hazan, retired and living in Florida, has produced a memoir, Amarcord (Romagnolo dialect for "I remember"), in which she recounts how a young girl trained to teach science in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy came to lead Americans out of the great miasma of red sauce. The general outline may be known among foodies, but it's charming enough to bear repeating: In the late 1960s, Hazan was taking Chinese cooking courses in her adopted city of New York when her fellow students asked her to teach them to cook Italian. She tried to get the New York Times to publicize her classes, and eventually food writer Craig Claiborne invited himself to a working lunch. "It was October 15, 1970," Hazan writes. "I have never since then had to be concerned about how to occupy my time." Hazan taught courses around the world, with students paying thousands of dollars for the opportunity to be held to her high standards. What I've left out of the above outline is perhaps the biggest factor in Hazan's life: Victor Hazan, the Italian-born, American-raised son of Manhattan furriers who whisked a young Marcella Polini Hazan off to New York in the first place. He's the one who liked to come home from the office for a traditional lunch every day, encouraging his young wife to venture into her new city and language by shopping the local markets. He applauded her foray into cooking, then into cooking classes, then became her collaborator, honing her recipes and translating them into English for her first tome, The Classic Italian Cookbook, published in 1973. The Victor Hazan revealed in this book is formidable. Victor doesn't like chicken, Marcella tells us, so she makes no chicken (left unsaid is where her chicken recipes come from). Describing the bathroom renovations to their Venice apartment, she says, "He allowed me to keep the tub, but everything else had to go." And elsewhere, "It always went Victor's way." But if Victor is stubborn, so is she. "I did not allow comings and goings during [cooking lessons], and I did not accept anyone coming late," she writes. "Anyone who refused [to clean squid] was asked to leave the class, and none ever did." She makes one half-hearted attempt to blame her moods on a longtime assistant, Maria, who "worked with a scowl and a heavy heart," surmising that "some of that glumness had started to rub off on me." The first chapters of the book are delightful. "Little is left of the world I was born into eighty-four years ago," Hazan begins, going on to describe a home where food was provided by nearby farms and summers were spent by the water in Hazan's native Cesenatico, on the Adriatic Sea. When the book moves to the more workaday world of cooking classes and book contracts, the charm begins to fade. We meet just about every boldface name the Hazans have ever encountered -- Burt Lancaster, Danny Kaye, James Beard, Julia Child -- and a verdict is rendered on each and every one. In short, the book is a kind of accounting ledger: Who loyally stood by the Hazans and who did not. Her original publisher? "As far as I could see, he could do nothing right." Chuck Williams, founder of the Williams-Sonoma chain? Still under suspicion for not confirming whether Hazan introduced his sales team to balsamic vinegar. The black list goes on: Bloomingdale's, which replaced Hazan's street-front shop with one for Michel Guérard; her former partners in an Atlanta restaurant that slipped into foreclosure; the city of Bologna, which didn't pony up a new location for a cooking school when Hazan's first lease ran out. What you wind up thinking about Amarcord, then, may depend less on how much you treasure Marcella Hazan's teaching than on how deep into the dirty dishwater you want to sink your arms.
Copyright 2008, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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