Category Archives: Current Events

grazie dal cuore, marcella hazan

Marcella Hazan, food writer and considered one of the foremost authorities of Italian cuisine, died September 29 at the age of 89.

essentials

Ms. Hazan married and moved from Italy to New York with her American husband in 1955. Ironically, she never cooked before she got married. But later, after beginning a cooking school and giving cooking lessons from her home, her husband encouraged her to publish her first cookbook, “The Classic Italian Cookbook”,  in  1973. She believed simple, good ingredients lead to delicious dishes and is credited with bringing traditional Italian cuisine to the American public.

Thanks to Ms. Hazan’s wisdom and detailed, quite simple and beautiful recipes, I often fry with butter and vegetable oil  (a must when you make her Asparagus Risotto) instead of extra virgin olive oil when required for better, richer and milder taste.  Her “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” (published 1992) cookbook sits on my counter and is the source of my favorite dishes including braised pork chops (Modena style) and risotto, my guide to using herbs, and provides extra meaning after the news of her death.

This NY Times article, “Remembering Marcella”, provides more information on Ms. Hazan’s life and cooking.

In honor of Ms. Hazan, below is a reprint of her simple and delicious tomato recipe.

Ingredients

 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano or Italian imported whole peeled tomatoes)                   

5 tablespoons butter               

 1 onion, peeled and cut in half                   

salt   

Preparation

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
 
Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
 
Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
 
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sugar sammy

Last week Public Radio International’s “The World” featured  Canadian Comedian Sugar Sammy.  Sugar Sammy has found a way to poke fun at the hot issues surrounding the French and English language conflict in Montreal and other regions in Quebec, from the perspective of an Indo-Canadian living in French Canada.

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Francophone – Anglophone tensions are up in Quebec right now (the only Canadian province where French is the sole official language – English speakers represent the minority) and have been highlighted with the latest news frenzy over an incident dubbed “Pasta-gate.” The international news has targeted the region’s well-funded language law enforcement that cited a restaurant for using the Italian/English word “pasta” instead of its French equivalent and tried to ban it. (Click here for a good article about the incident from The Guardian.) Last time in Quebec, when exasperated that I couldn’t find someone who spoke English  (It’s still hard for me to get used to a French-speaking region a short drive from our U.S. borders),  I was quickly reprimanded for the belief that they should speak English. Why shouldn’t I speak French? Point taken. Resistance to the global move towards English language supremacy is nothing new. And there is a long history involved with the Quebec conflict, much more complex than language alone.

The Quebec-born son of Indian immigrants, Samir Khullar – or Sugar Sammy as he goes by – has found a way to get the dueling French and English speakers of that region laughing at each other and themselves –  at least during his shows.  I think it’s brilliant – it may not change policy today, but laughter is always a good icebreaker and I believe begins the process of compassion and understanding.

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Sugar Sammy believes in a demographic in Montreal that live in French and English on a daily basis. After years of doing separate French and English shows, he has started to do bilingual stand-up comedy shows – something he was told would never work – to French and English-speaking audiences. He has experienced much success, with sell-out shows. He even has the politicians playing along.

Sugar Sammy can make you laugh in four languages – English, French, Punjabi and Hindi . He now does four separate shows: in French (En français, svp!), in English (Illegal English Edition), the bilingual show (You’re Gonna rire) and a new show aimed at Quebec’s Indian immigrants and their offspring (Indian Edition). As a half Mexican/half German with a French first name, I’m intrigued. I’m crossing my fingers that our summer trip may coincide with an Illegal English Edition show because, sadly, we don’t know French. Yet.

I remain convinced that bilingualism is a true gift – I send my kids to full Spanish immersion public school in California. I just hope we can all get along and appreciate our capacity for speaking different languages. In a place like Quebec it might be a long shot. But Sugar Sammy might just make it a little easier and a lot more fun.

Photo credit: CBC

You can learn more about Sugar Sammy here. 

latin love

My Latina half is feeling quite proud these days. That says a lot since most of the time I feel like a Mexican imposter because the German culture my mother – the other half – raised me with has influenced me more. But even with my mixed Mexican/German race, I still have my Hispanic surname and my Spanish isn’t bad thanks to my Papi who spoke only that language to me.

pope-francis

Anyway, the Latino world is pumped up lately for several good reasons; in part many thanks to us, our American president was re-elected, and this week Rome elected the first Latin American pope – an Argentinean Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) –  who is said to be simple, humble and intelligent.

On a smaller scale than the pope, there is another reason to be proud.  A few months ago, a (previously) little-known Cuban-American poet was selected to write and recite the Presidential Inaugural Poem. Richard Blanco is the first immigrant, Latino and openly gay poet chosen to read at an inauguration and, at 44, also the youngest.

gulf-motel

I first heard of Richard Blanco  on television while I was watching the inauguration and he delivered the selected inaugural poem,  “One Today”.  I later heard him interviewed on NPR where he read from several of his poems, including one from his collection, “Looking for the Gulf Motel” , which explores his cultural and sexual identity as a Cuban-American and gay man, and his family’s influence on him. His writing is very personal, and he writes of his immigrant experience which reflects the diversity of America, what it means to be an American, and the immigrant  search for “home” .

If you missed his reading at the inauguration, the following is an excerpt from “One Today”. Read the full text of the poem here.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
 each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper — bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives — to teach geometry, or ring up groceries, as my mother did
for 20 years, so I could write this poem.

Pride, indeed.