I always liked cooking.
When I was a child, I spent hours sitting near the kitchen table looking at my father while preparing ingredients for his recipes.
My father had two passions: singing opera (he was a natural basso trained as a baritone) and cooking; very often — while at home, he combined the two. When I was around, he talked to me too, revealing some of his secrets for the dish he was preparing.
My father cooked not only to feed our family, but for the pure pleasure of creating delicate, tasty, flavored dishes. The most part of the recipes I learned from him, were the ones he learned, in turn, from his mother: grandma Consolata.
Cooking was his way to feel less the melancholy of living far from Sardinia, keeping tradition alive and be happy.
Dad was famous among our friends, relatives and neighborhood for his tomato sauce, the meatballs, for his potatoes and artichokes stew, for the different variations of risotto he made (he mastered risotto in a way that even my mother, her parents and relatives, who were natives from Piedmont, praised him), and a lot of other dishes.
I am so grateful to my father for having taught me so many recipes and for having shared with me his savvy tips.
He was keeping on repeating to me: ‘Maria Alleni (my name in the language of south Sardinia), cooking is about passion, method, simplicity, organisation, discipline, order, clarity, vision and cleaning. It is not a mere exercise in putting ingredients together.’
Dad was also used to say: ‘If you are able to cook, you will never suffer of starvation, wherever and whenever you might be.’
I learned the basis of cooking and started cooking myself at 11, but it was already two years that I started baking cakes (I did it by myself as none of my family, but grandma Consolata, was able and willing to do that). Since then, I never stopped cooking and baking cakes.
Some days before he died, I agreed with an Italian lady here in Brussels, that I would have gone to her house providing cooking, to earn my life here.
Cooking is, and it has been, the link with him, my roots, my family, the tradition and a very good way to overcome the pain of his death.
I have in mind of writing a book, to be shared with my sister and with those in my ‘big tribe’ in Sardinia, with all the recipes I learned from dad.
Sometimes, while I am cooking — no matter if I’m at work or at home, I feel his presence, I hear his voice, I recall moments of my 48 years spent with him.
Dad was very creative while he was cooking, but also very organized, he had method, discipline, vision, passion, the ability to keep things simple, he had always clear in mind the final result and — as any other cook, he always kept clean the kitchen and all the tools he used.
Till a few days ago, I was not completely aware about the big lesson he passed to me.
Then I realized — while cooking of course, that the way he approached cooking, can be applied to every single aspect of our life: no matter if private or professional.
If we have passion, method, the ability to keep it simple, if exercise ourselves to discipline and order, if we have clarity and vision, we cannot miss fulfillment in our lives.
Thanks dad for having being such a teacher!