Friday, July 3, 2009

La Cucina Americana

Several years ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the art history of the Roman Empire in its formerly glorious and still vibrant capital city. Bella Roma, oh how you changed me! The art was jaw-dropping, Michelangelo paintings and life-size marble nudes and the such, but I think my favorite part of the five-plus weeks was the food. Scratch that, I KNOW my favorite part was the food. In that short span of time, it was like my mind and taste buds and stomach were completely reborn; like I had been stuck in Plato's proverbial cave and suddenly I was in the light for the first time, tasting food the way God and the angels above meant food to be. I ate everything and everything in sight, savoring the simplicity of the dishes and the freshness of the ingredients. We lingered at sidewalk tables hour after hour after hour over the multiple courses and bottles of wine. I can hear the Vespas buzzing past now....

(Shaking myself out of a reverie, just a moment please....)

I really want to have that kind of food experience here, at home. We are surrounded by farm country, and the girls and I even have our own garden. So why is it then, after having the experience of food ecstasy, that I find our family eating (brace yourself foodies) peanut butter and jelly on generic Wonder Bread, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Aldi cardboard cheese pizzas, and mozzarella cheese sticks aka string cheese? I have fallen so far. God, why have you forsaken me? Forsaken us? Why have I been given fussy children who can't appreciate the flavor of food without a bunch of synthetic additives? Sweet zucchini and succulent eggplant, lovingly tossed in fine olive oil and roasted to perfection, receives a chorus of yucks ends up on the floor. Pasta pretending to be spaghetti smothered in tasteless jar sauce accompanied by overly salted garlic bread wins me the mom of the year award. There has to be a solution, a compromise, a place where the food contains nutrients!

I have to figure out a way to combine the freshness of the Italian kitchen with the prepared items at the American grocery story. They need to be juxtaposed in a way that isn't anathema to the kids. I have to realize that Nora and Emily are growing up in the States, don't know anything else, and can't be blamed for their penchant for eating crap. After all, I am the one that introduced the Mac and Cheese. I started this mess, and I need to end it now. This week I started with the pizza. It wasn't pizza rustica de Napoli, but it wasn't you're Tombstone either. I took

1 Aldi cheese pizza
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, cut into slices
3 large basil leaves (from the garden), torn into tiny bits
Grated asiago to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano to taste
Lots of love

I covered the top of the cheese pizza with these ingredients and baked it for 17 minutes at 450 degrees. Not too bad, Ryan and I actually enjoyed it. (It was the love the overpowered the cardboard crust). And Nora only complained a little bit about the 'matos. She doesn't like 'matos. Fresh ones that is; the 'matoes in the jar of Ragu are "delicious". Chef Mom of la cucina americana has a lot of work ahead.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to smile knowingly and hand you a list of my well-worn and successful tricks of the trade. In reality, I'm too busy pouring out the frosted flakes and just trying to get anything into my kids to write that list down :)