“When we told Nonna Villella that sun-dried tomatoes were selling for $40 a kilo at the local supermarket, she thought we were joking. She had quietly gone about making her filled sun-dried tomatoes for as long as we could remember. The thought of spending hard-earned money on a food that relies on the sun, which is free, and tomatoes, that grow in the garden, baffled her. Plus the fact that the commercial variety was vuote (empty) – well, that was simply madness.”
New cookbooks appear every week, many are written by celebrity chefs; others are spin-offs from popular television series. It’s refreshing to find one that is grounded in a different ethos, one that comes from the desire of two women to simply share the food rituals and family recipes from their own families. This is southern Italian food at its very best, it’s what you’ll find on the dining table of Calabrian migrants and it’s food made and served with love.
Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!) begins with a manifesto of 10 principles to live and eat by – and it’s a list few would quibble with:
1. No One Eats Alone
2. Plates are served full
3. No adults-only rule
4. Plan for leftovers
5. Have plenty of good bread on the table
6. Two courses and a salad constitute a meal
7. Always offer a second serve
8. Stay loyal to tradition – no fusion
9. Meals celebrate the seasons
10. Always present a small token of appreciation to your host…
The first three chapters cover the year’s main rituals – tomato season, autumn preserves and ‘making’ the pig (although a word of warning, this chapter is not for the squeamish). If you’ve ever wanted to produce enough passata for an entire year, this tells you how. Or maybe you want to preserve the goodness of the autumn harvest in a range of pickles to liven up your meals throughout the long winter months? Or make your own salami or pancetta? It’s all here. The rest of the book is devoted to ‘everybody loves pasta’, ‘mangia! mangia!’ (a substantial section devoted to main courses) and dolci (sweets).
The recipes are well set out and there is an abundance of atmospheric illustrations. It’s easy to follow and its philosophy sits within the growing local and international slow food movement. It’s all about using what’s in season to the best advantage and wasting nothing; this is sustainability in its original and most engaging form. You can find versions of many of the sauces and preserves in your supermarket, or in a more gourmet form in delis and speciality shops. However they will rarely be as good as those made with ingredients you’ve either grown or selected yourself.
Teresa Oates and Angela Villella began writing Mangia! Mangia! when they realised that a wealth of food knowledge was dying along with the elder generation of their families. They committed themselves to recording recipes and traditions before they were lost forever and in doing so have produced a volume that is likely to become a ‘must have’ for all who love Italian food.
Reading Mangia! Mangia! is like borrowing your own personal nonna, full of wisdom and warmth, and to top it off she’ll help you make the best pasta e fagioli you’ve ever tasted. I have only one problem with this book – I’m going to need to move house to accommodate all the preserves I want to make!
Angela Villella is a former school teacher turned union official and Teresa Oates has worked as a personal chef and caterer. They were both brought up in Italian-migrant families, surrounded by a vibrant passionate food culture and they have been friends for over thirty years. For more information please visit www.mangiamangia.com.au.
Title: Mangia Mangia
Author: Teresa Oates & Angela Villella
Publication Date: 28 March 2011