A friend of mine gave me a copy of the book My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss for my birthday a couple of years ago. I loved it. I loved the author’s passion for food and her ability to take me into her life and share her joys and sorrows along with some excellent recipes.
I had to go for blood work one day and so I was sitting in the waiting room at the lab with dozens of other sick and unhappy people, waiting for my name to be called. I was reading My Berlin Kitchen at the time and had the chapter open to the part where she is talking about making the perfect Bolognese sauce.
I was physically squashed between two people and trying very hard to not touch or be touched by them in the crowded room. But I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the man on my right was leaning over to read my book.
I turned towards him and he started to talk to me. He was elderly and seemed quite crippled in pain – he moved slowly and stiffly and held a cane.
“I see what you are reading” he said. “I am an Italian chef. I used to own my own restaurant here in Calgary. For years it was the best Italian restaurant. Now my no good son owns it and he has changed all the recipes and the food is stupid. He doesn’t want to cook the old ways – he has some new chef who does things with food that are not right.”
He shook his head slowly and said, “The quality of the ingredients is most important and no it doesn’t need to cook that long. Also my trick was to add a touch of cinnamon to the sauce – but my son says its not right. I came from the Old Country – I know how to make a Bolognese.”
I noticed that all the people around us were listening to our conversation.
I started to ask him about what kind of tomatoes he used, but my name was called and I had to go. We shook hands and I thanked him for talking to me and telling me his secret. I wished him well.
He was a very proud man, and I could see that he felt unappreciated for his years of experience.
If I hadn’t been reading that book, I would never have met him.
If I hadn’t been reading that book, I never would have been told his secret ingredient to his traditional “Old Country” Bolognese.
So thank you Louisa Weiss – without your memoir, I would never have had my own little story to tell about the Italian chef.
Live, Love and Eat lots of pasta…