I have watched my grandmother and my mother cook for years, perhaps I am the only one in the world with a mother who cooks even better than my grandmother. I have observed them on the most different occasions, from the lunches of the week in Summer, to those on Sunday. Christmas dinners and various birthdays. Onomastics (which in the south are sacred and are worth more than birthdays) and despite the discussions on dosage, cooking, ingredient or oven temperature, the main feature I always noticed was calm.
They were never in a hurry, although fast and careful not to burn anything. They were neat and tidy while putting the whole pot set in between. Multitasking, because they were able to cook three dishes at a time, set the table and scold you at the same time!
Their calm was my ruin. Because the few times I approached the cooktop in their place in an attempt to imitate them, I often panicked, as if a huge clock ticked in my ears and told me I was going too slow. I not mixed enough, I flavored badly, I risked burning the sauces and above all, above all, I was unable to wash and put back what I was dirtying.
My older cousin was more like them, albeit less patient. I could also hear her snorting from the other room, where they had relegated me with my younger cousins – because if there is a talent that they have always recognized me is entertaining children.
But when my grandmother was alive, I couldn’t enter the kitchen anymore, and when she got sick my cousin took over. With the support of two aunts who, however, do not have the tranquility and virtues of my mother.
My mother, you can tell, have fun when she cooks, trying and experimenting. She does it with grace and discipline, yet with extreme creativity. She never brags. She is never sure of the result, even if for thirty-one years I can say with extreme certainty that there is no one, and I mean NO ONE able to beat her. And I went to restaurants with michelin stars!
My mom has a talent. And she knows how to use it. As had grandmother who got up early in the morning to plow the field and return in time to bake the bread, which tasted of love and smelled of her.
I wonder what she would think of all these cooking programs that have made time an enemy, where speed is the only ally, what she’d think about pressure, competition, shouting, the show. Especially about Bastianich throwing dishes or Cracco yelling while the competitors are looking for the right knife to fillet the fish.
My mom likes to watch masterchef, but she often criticizes this side of the program and the copies that have been made of it. Speed doesn’t help, she always tells me. You have to be focused and take your time, it is absurd to have the hands of the clock marking the flavors. So it is frustration rather than love that cooks.
I thought about it a lot when I went to live alone, because initially having a poor lunch break and arriving to dinner very tired, I prepared dishes quickly, I consumed them with ferocity. Then I stopped. I remembered the Sundays I spent watching Mom and Grandma, and I slowed down. I took my time. I cooked with calm, patience, tranquility. I still burn my fingers with oil and I can’t clean while I cook, but the quality of my dishes has definitely improved. I feel it and my guests know it, who in fact compliment me and even ask me for advice.
Who knows what grandma would say now about my meatballs with sauce. Mom tried my cannelloni and had to capitulate. I’m not at her level, I will never be, but I got good!
Barbieri would tell me that the presentation of the dish sucks and Canavacciuolo would turn up his nose on the portions. But I don’t want to participate in Masterchef, it’s not my desire, as much as I enjoy watching it comfortably lying on the sofa. Watching competitors scramble here and there in a frenzied dance against television time, smiling, thinking of the calm, patience and tranquility of Sunday family lunches.