I’m a 38 year old mum, and broadcast journalist now based in London. Over the past 15 years I’ve reported from over 25 countries for BBC TV and radio news. But as someone who loves eating and talking about food, the highlight was without a doubt 2 years based in Italy. Most people swoon with envy when I tell them this, then look disbelieving when I insist it was really hard work. No really it was!
I’d love to say that during that time, I spent loads of time cooking incredible Italian food. However it would be more truthful to say I invested a lot of time eating out. Being a reporter, often travelling on my own and working long hours didn’t exactly suit planning and cooking recipes. By the time I got home to my flat in the rooftops of Rome, I was usually carrying a delicious takeaway from a nearby restaurant, and some amazing cheese from one of the most famous cheese shops, which unfortunately for my waistline was right round the corner.
I travelled the length and breadth of the country, not just exploring the glamorous Italy adored by tourists, but also its underworld of crime and corruption. I interviewed hundreds of ordinary Italians with extraordinary stories to tell. When I came back to the UK, I couldn’t bear to part with the shoebox of business cards and interviews I’d collected. Instead I boxed them up and squirrelled them away in our loft. They soon disappeared behind bags of baby clothes, a car seat and a bouncy chair. The memory of being a foreign news correspondent obscured by the whirlwind of family life and juggling part time work.
Around the time when my daughter started eating proper food, I found myself thumbing through the same baby and child cookbooks as many of my friends, looking to expand the rather limited repertoire of meals I was churning out. Which got me thinking … what were those Italians I interviewed (mostly busy parents too) serving their little darlings and could I get some ideas from a culinary tradition that is so child friendly? So I dug out that box of contacts and started getting back in touch with some of my interviewees. Not about news stories this time, but about the everyday business of cooking and eating with their families. And most importantly, what meals do they rustle up when they’re running late and kids are demanding supper five minutes ago. Before I knew it, the Italians I contacted started handing me a treasure trove of secrets; not just pizzas and pastas, but an extraordinary range of simple dishes and cooking techniques that give their children the love of food they keep for life.
I’m now testing and adapting their suggestions in my own little kitchen. It doesn’t boast ingredients bought from a fancy pants deli, but from regular shops and supermarkets and I use dried pasta rather than making my own .. life’s too short! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m certainly no professional cook – although now a million times more competent than my twenty-something year old self who once cooked a first date frozen potato waffles (in the toaster) sandwiched with processed cheese. We’re now married, so at least he saw the potential!
I hope you’ll join me on this culinary adventure, and find at least a little bit of inspiration here. I’d also love to hear what you think and any suggestions.