It’s so tempting to call Marcella Hazan the “Julia Child of Italy.” The temptation made that much easier because I know so much more about Julia Child’s life than I do about Marcella’s, which I imagine to be true for many other cooks in this country. Reading the New York Times Book Review this weekend taught me far more about her life than I’d known. For instance, like Julia, Marcella did not fall in love with cooking until later in life. “She grew up in a household with a mother and two grandmothers who were ace cooks yet remained a culinary novice,” the Timesreview explains. And again like Julia, her husband was a strong influencer who introduced her to the world of gastronomy and fine dining, Victor Hazan is woven inextricably into the culinary career and life of his wife.
(I can think of two areas where Julia and Marcella are clearly not alike. Julia was a non-native interpreter of French cuisine for the American home cook while Marcella came to the States with a lifelong connection to her native Italian cuisine. And I don’t think any Saturday Night Live cast member ever did a send-up of Marcella the way Dan Aykroyd did Julia!)
To help us all learn more about Marcella, from the early years when she just began to find her footing as a cooking teacher and cookbook author, we can now turn to Amarcord, her memoir being released this week. Amarcord, for those like me who didn’t already know, means “I remember” in the dialect of Emilio-Romagna in the north of Italy. (And it’s also the name of a Fellini film from the early 1970s.) Take a deep breath before reading the subtitle, “Marcella Remembers: The Remarkable Life Story of the Woman Who Started Out Teaching Science in a Small Town in Italy but Ended Up Teaching America How to Cook Italian.” Whew! Could have had a batch of gnocchi whipped up in that time.
She is, no doubt, the Grande Dame of la cucina italiana, I refer often to her The Classic Italian Cookbookwhen I want to get at the nuts and bolts of Italian techniques and traditional dishes. I and others in the Seattle area have a chance to meet Marcella and Victor Tuesday October 14 at a gathering at ChefShop.com’s brick-and-mortar home on Elliott Avenue. Tickets are available here, and readers of Mon Appétit get a special off of 20% off the ticket price! Just write “mon appetit” in the notes field when you get to the check-out page (they’ll apply the discount when processing the order). Space is limited, so don’t delay in getting a ticket.