Monday, January 11, 2010

a surprise from lucca

It's funny, every morning, before brushing my teeth or eating breakfast, my computer calls to me. This morning, I got an email with the subject line, "a surprise from Lucca. " It was a letter from a Tuscan guy, Aurelio. Evidently, I met his mother, father and grandmother years ago when I spent the day cooking in their restaurant kitchen outside Lucca.

Dear Joanne,

Today,while i was cleaning some stuff in my home's library,i found this old letter that you sent us that i'm attaching you in this email.
I tought that probably no one ever replied you back,since my parents do not speak any English at all and me and my brother Lamberto were very young at the time : I was Studying in Florence so i was not working at my Restaurant and my brother was only 11 so he was still at school.

We're apologizing for this,but we are very happy to have found that letter today,and we can finally reply...with 15 years of delay !
It's like being in a movie....

At "Antica Locanda" the things are pretty like the same...

Nonna Ida is still in the Kitchen,even if she's not always there like before.
Mamma Raffaella is still taking care of the waiting.
Dad Adriano takes care of the wine and olive oil making at our farm.
My brother Lamberto grew up and he's now in charge of the waiting along with my mother.
And me...i followed my grandmother's teaching and i'm now the Chef.

The funny thing now is..that i often come there in California to organize cooking classes in private houses there,and i've been in San Francisco last october,i think i will be back there at the end of February/Beginning of March,and i'm not hiding you that i would be very very pleased to meet you.

I'm still a bit ashamed thinking about your letter,i'm so sorry no one ever replied you back but our parents do not know any English,and even if they kept that as a precious thing,they never told me anything about it before today,when i found it out.

Looking forward to hearing from you
Best Regards

Aurelio Barattini

Ironically in the past couple months, I've been thinking about that day... I remember cooking bistecca over the open fire with a little old Italian "nonna" who spoke not a word of English. I was Italian illiterate at the time but cooking together felt like a universal language. I'm not even sure I could have found the place again. Were their train tracks nearby? Was the facade painted a soft Tuscan kind of yellow? I couldn't remember much but one thing was clear, Nonna was one hell of a cook.

And then this morning, I got Aurelio's email and the attached letter I'd written to his family 15 years ago. And little by little, I put the hours of that day back together.

The year was 1995. I was in Italy scouting for villas for my cooking courses. I'm not sure how I met the family in the first place or came to cook with Nonna Ida. I kind of recall eating at Antica Locanda di Sesto the night before and talking to the family. I think they invited me back the next day to cook in the kitchen. I'll never forget Nonna taking me under her wing like a granddaughter. At the end of our day, you would have thought I was family as we all sat together and feasted on bistecca that literally melted in our mouths . See more...

AURELIO'S BISTECCA (in his words)

- One beef steak (1 kilo or more)
- Salt

The true steak (with bone which is like a “T” with sirloin and fillet) comes from tender beef preferably chianina breed.
Prepare in time the barbecue so that you can have a good ember with no fire. Place the grill over the ember (about 10 cm. above grill)
When the grill is red-hot place the steak (at room temperature, not washed and take it with your hands- no fork!)
Grill the steak 10 minutes o’clock without touching it.
Turn it with a spatula (not with a fork)
Grill for 5 more minutes, salt the grilled part.
Eat in the next minute, a cold Bistecca is damaged!
You can add some pepper, but NOT lemon.

TAGLIATA- Big steaks cut in slices
This is like a bistecca, but it is bigger and, when ready, it is cut in slices, without separating them.
To serve, you can put on top:
-rucola salad dressed with salt and olive oil and Parmigiano cheese
-olive oil with aromatic herbs
-fresh baby artichokes cut slices dressed with olive oil, salt and 1 spoon of juice of lemon


The Italian Dish said...

Joanne: What fun! I love it when life sends little surprises, like this one. How nice that Aurelo updated you on his family.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading his letter. What a fun surprise. I would love meeting him also. Hope you do and blog about it. Sandy M

Aurelio Barattini said...

Dear Joanne,
thank you for writing about me. I hope this will be the beginning of a nice friendship.