It was fitting, in a way, that we were coming home from the apple orchard with a car laden with fresh, local ingredients, when Paul saw a post on facebook that Marcella Hazan had died. Hazan, the Italian-born cookbook author who taught generations of Americans how to create simple, fresh Italian food, died Sunday. She was 89.
Hazan was best known for her six cookbooks, which were written by her in Italian and translated into English by Victor, her husband of 57 years. The recipes were traditional, tasty and sparse — her famous tomato sauce contained only tomatoes, onion, butter and salt — and mirrored the tastes of her home country, where importance is placed on the freshness of food, rather than the whiz-bang recipes inside a chef's mind.
She eschewed the American-style Italian food that suffocated mushy pasta in grainy meatballs and tasteless cheese. She begged home cooks to use more salt and once wrote that if readers were concerned about salt affecting one's life expectancy, to "not read any further." On the topic of garlic, Hazan took a sharp view.
"The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking," she wrote in her 2004 cookbook "Marcella Says..." ''It must remain a shadowy background presence. It cannot take over the show."
It was Hazan's 1973 cookbook, "The Classic Italian Cookbook," that led gourmands to draw comparisons between Hazan and another larger-than-life cookbook author: Julia Child.
The two women were longtime friends; Child told People Magazine in 1998 that Hazan was "forbidding because she's rough ... that's her manner, and she's got a good heart."
In 2004, Marcella Hazan wrote, "Simple doesn't mean easy. I can describe simple cooking thus: Cooking that is stripped all the way down to those procedures and those ingredients indispensable in enunciating the sincere flavor intentions of a dish."
I got to know more about Hazan when I joined a group of cooks from St Louis, Palm Desert, Tallahassee, Alaska, New Jersey, Alabama, and Ontario in cooking our way through Marcella Hazan's cookbook 'The Essentials of Italian Cooking'.
Before you say 'it's been done' - of course it had but we did it with a certain style. :-)
One of the interesting things about this cook-a-thon (my day was Saturday BTW - a day I shared with my pal Palma), is that Marcella joined in. She commented in detail on our posts daily, letting us know what we've done wrong, and cheered us on like the best of cheerleaders.
I loved this comment she left one one of my posts:
The reason Italians can nourish themselves freely with butter and cheese and not worry about arteries is that they walk, to work, to home, to school, to the market, to the movies, to romantic encounters. Put that in your diet.
Yes indeed, love food in balance . . . secret to good living!
RLP Marcella, thanks for your amazing advice and lessons.