Hi, my name is Noelle. I started this blog as a way to challenge myself to expand my culinary skills while exploring the diverse, regional food history of Italy. I’m of Italian heritage on both sides of my family (as well as Polish, French, Scottish, etc.) and so this blog also serves as a way to learn more about where my family comes from. As a third-generation American, I don’t actually know all that much about my ancestry. I’ve always had an interest in genealogy and I think it’s important for family traditions, stories, and — of course, recipes — to endure. I believe foodways are key to understanding each other and our cultures.
Italian food is one of my favorite cuisines and easily found here in the Northeast. Although, according to Waverley Root, author of The Food of Italy, a typical Italian restaurant in the United States is “…composed of a helter-skelter collection of dishes from a dozen different areas which for one reason or another have become familiar to foreigners” (Root 1971: 11). These dishes have in some cases been disconnected from their regional origins and instead have come to represent Italian cuisine in general, erasing their particularities. So while most of us Americans are well-acquainted with pizza and a handful of pasta and meat dishes, we are not necessarily accustomed to the regional variety that Italian cuisine has to offer, although this has changed somewhat since Root’s analysis.
I grew up one of three busy kids with lots of after school activities that kept my parents running from place to place, so I don’t have many early homecooking memories. I started cooking — slowly but surely — as a student at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. In my second year of college, I moved to apartment-style housing on campus and had access to a full kitchen. Hampshire had a pretty great cafeteria (none of that Pizza Hut, Sbarro stuff) but it was wonderful to be able to buy groceries and prepare my own food. The Pioneer Valley is part of the Connecticut River Valley and thus this fertile area is home to many farms, providing year-round access to local, healthy food. The Valley is a foodie’s paradise! The farm-to-table movement has been alive and well in Western Massachusetts for a long time, giving us a pretty awesome restaurant scene and lots of inspiration for home cooking.
After five years of experimentation with cooking and learning about food, the kitchen is now my favorite place to be. I feel like my best self in the kitchen. It is a place of comfort and enjoyment but also a place to challenge myself and to employ limitless creativity. I always look forward to coming home from work and making a meal. Cooking allows me to activate my mind, my senses, and my whole body — sometimes it can be quite physical! I also love that cooking allows me to provide healthy, wholesome meals for my husband and me.
The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my culinary adventures so I can chart my progress and have a repository of recipes and experiences to come back to, but I’d love to have you along for the ride too!
In “The Idea” you can learn more about the goals that guide this project. “About Me” is a brief introduction to what I do when I’m not working on this blog. “Favorites” is a list of my go-to eateries, both locally and globally and “Resources” is an ever-growing record of the articles, books, TV shows, and other media that help provide context for this blog.
At My Year of Italian Cooking, you can expect recipes, anecdotes, history tidbits, and lots of delicious food. Thanks for reading and happy cooking!