madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking



my beloved aunt Ida

no, it’s not a movie star, it’s my aunt

My Aunt Ida is on Facebook. This is not an obvious fact. Sixty-plus years old aunties do not easily get on Facebook in rural Umbria. However, Ida is a very special person in our family. Despite her busy professional life, travel and family commitments, she has always been the soul of the legendary gastronomic parties we attended throughout my childhood.

I can hardly remember entering her house without perceiving the aroma of some delicacy simmering on the stove or in the oven. She has introduced the family to tiramisu back in the ’70, to the then rare smoked salmon, to a turkey terrine dotted with morsels of black truffle I still dream about. She made cannoli shells. This is an infernal operation involving paper thin dough stretched along stainless steel tubes dropped in boiling hot oil. Aunt Ida thank you, you’re my ever smiling stove-top hero.

Children of our family have not always been so spoiled for  choices. At the end of the XIX century, my great grandparents were hazelnut farmers in Librizzi, a little mountain village one hour drive from Messina in Sicily.

our home village

Librizzi in an early XX century postcard (courtesy of cousin Marylin).  More pictures here.

My mother, now 80, remembers that the hazelnuts were so important that the crop of the year were guarded in a room inside the house, not in a storage outside.  In her rare visits to the paternal grand parents there were no treats for the kids, may be an egg, fresh or cooked. This must have been around the 40s and people was too busy working in the fields to take care of entertaining the guests.

The hazelnuts were sold to local merchants who in turn sold them to bakeries or to peddlers. At village fairs the hazelnuts were toasted and made into threads so if my mom was lucky she would get to walk around with her  “necklace” of nuts. They were happy kids even without the plasticized confusion of modern holidays.

I find it so impressive that – in a very Proustian way –  memories are  so often linked with a taste, an aroma, an offering of food.  The chit chat is forgotten, the beautiful holiday clothes have gone to rags, trees have grown, loves have changed. How amazing though, that eating  something good, in a special moment, can be with us forever.

Author: madonnadelpiatto

Former scientist, I now run B&B and cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy, together with my husband Ruurd, daughter Tea and truffle dog Google. We love good food and wine, travel, beautiful handicrafts like textiles and pottery. We feel fortunate to be able to share our magical mountain with many friends from all over the world.

10 thoughts on “roots

  1. Absolutely loved ‘listening’/hearing your story. Ida sounds like a wonderful family member- I could almost smell the gravy! Thanks, C


  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. :-)
    Beautiful post.


  3. I totally agree Letizia. A beautiful post! Just like you I find tastes and smells to be able to trigger memories in a powerful way. By the way, now I know whom you take after: “la zia Ida” (who, by the way, does look like an actress)! Mi inchino!



  4. What a lovely post Letizia. your Zia Ida sounds like a real treasure and treasure trove of great memories….food memories are the best!!! Thanks for sharing this!


  5. Everybody should have an Aunt Ida in their lives!
    … and, of course, a life filled with food-related memories!


  6. Can Zia Ida be my ever smiling stove-top hero too? What an amazing women and what lovely post!


  7. “The chit chat is forgotten, the beautiful holiday clothes have gone to rags, trees have grown, loves have changed. How amazing though, that eating something good, in a special moment, can be with us forever.”

    This has to be a memorable quote – and its memorable-ness is a result of it being oh so very true and comforting all at once. What an inspiring and thought-provoking post! And not to forget the subject, a gracious looking lady in the truest sense of the word – Aunt Ida does indeed look like an actress.


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