The first time I heard that phrase was when watching the two greedy Italians. I just love the interaction between Antonio and Gennario, the scenery, not forgetting the food or the sounds. At times I really miss living in Bella Italia, the markets, the restaurants. Oh, the weather too. Just now I’m sitting listening to the tail end of a storm, my weekly delivery of groceries became a click and collect. Luckily, for me, Stephen was at work. At least the power is back on, I spoke too soon, the lights are flickering on and off.
L’arte d’arrangiarsi, as a concept, I was already very familiar with. My mum was a teenager in war torn Britain, being raised in a rural community did help, there was no real shortage of eggs, milk and butter, even so rationing meant that nothing could be wasted. One of the most useful things that anyone, responsible for feeding a family, can pass on is the art of making something out of nearly nothing.
I find it fascinating, to take very little and turn it into something utterly mouthwatering. To do this you have to be able to cook, it helps if you actually like cooking. Which if you have read any of my blogs, or know me you may have guessed I rather like cooking. Everyone can cook though. One thing that really bugs me is the ‘chefification’ of food. I know it isn’t an actual word: it’s towers of food, squiggles and smudges on plates, jenga stacks of chips and don’t get started on the noughts and crosses board arrangement of asparagus on a rissoto. Mama mia! The delicious asparagus should be flavouring the rice not decorating it. It really saddens me people say they can’t cook; what they’re really saying is that they can’t make dishes that can pass for fine dining. That’s not what cooking is about.
How many students, despite having passed through several years of doing Home Ec are clueless about how to cater for themselves? Why? Whoever designed the curriculum, i.e. the government, hasn’t a clue about what students really, really need. The day that Joseph gave up on cookery at school was when he had to poach pears and make a raspberry coulis . His personal tutor had told him the course would help him to cope with catering for himself. Several years later he still hasn’t poached another pear. He can make a really good ragu, is adept at making fresh pasta, has a wide selection of Asian dishes he is confident at making and can make a selection of traybakes. I digress.
L’arte d’arrangiarsi, or making the most of what you’ve got it now is consciously at the heart of my cooking. It is turning a large onion, a couple of carrots and some celery into an Umbrian minestrone; with the addition of some brown lentils and leftover gravy from Sunday’s pulled pork. It’s never ever throwing chicken bones out before making a stock. It is using a left over portion of a roasted butternut squash to make a curry to go along with some plain basmati rice and a garlic loaded riata.
Above all it is not wasting anything. I had to throw an aubergine out yesterday and I can’t tell you how much that hurt, especially as they seem to make infrequent visits to the supermarket shelves in lerwick. We are moving to live near Glasgow and the idea of having access to things like an Italian delicatessen, a Chinese quarter, a variety of Asian shops and perhaps even being able to get a veg box delivered to where I live, is just too much. It doesn’t take much to please me.
Before you go shopping take a last look around your store cupboards and fridge; do you really need to go shopping today or even tomorrow? Or can you use that last head of broccoli to make a pasta sauce, along with some olive oil, garlic and chilli powder or flakes? Have you got something put by in the freezer you should use up? Do you have half a cabbage wilting away Have you tried Madhur Jaffrey’s cabbage and red lentil dal? It’s delicious. Once the fridge looks really bare then it’s t ime to go shopping.