My name is Philly (my full name is Filomena) and I was born in the 70s in Pagani in the province of Salerno. I grew up in a matriarchal family because the strongest figure I’ve ever met is my grandmother.
Her name was Carmela, born in 1912, she was my mother’s mother, she dictated the law at home and still today, after more than 20 years from her death, I miss her.
My mother, who is called Sofia, adored her, I have never seen a daughter have such devotion to her mother, so much that I have always been convinced that if my mother could have drawn up a ranking of her affections it would have been:
2- Me, my sister and my two brothers
3- Her brothers
4- My dad (aware and resigned) whose name is Alfonso
This ranking is a bit funny, but I swear to you that even now I am convinced that this is the case. Let’s go back to cooking: mum has always cooked to feed us and she was also quite successful, but I reject that my vocation for cooking came from her.
Grandma, on the other hand, cooked for the pleasure of doing it and did it in industrial quantities, so given the implication, I really think I got it from her.
At Christmas grandmother made “struffoli” but obviously not only for us but for: uncle Natale, uncle Antonio, the neighbor, the lady upstairs and the doctor, so it was for the tagliatelle on Sunday, for the sanguinaccio in February , for home made pasta at Easter and for gnocchi on Saturdays. Basically it started in the morning and you didn’t know when it ended. I liked this a lot and I gladly took part in it. They made me put the confetti on the struffoli just removed from the boiling honey, they made me carry the “pettola” of the tagliolini on the bed to dry, they made me turn the sanguinaccio, hollow out the gnocchi and put the shortcrust pastry strips on the pastiera.
Growing up, I was given more demanding tasks, so much so that I was able to do everything on my own, but always using grandma’s recipes.
The smells and atmosphere that was in the house in those moments were beautiful and when I think back today I have a great nostalgia for my childhood. Another good memory that I have, again thanks to my grandmother, is when in August we made supplies of tomatoes for the winter. My grandmother gathered my mother, daughters-in-law and neighbors in our cellar to prepare the large supply. We children were very happy both because that was a special day, during which we were free to play as much as we wanted and then because they put us all around a table with in front of each, a bottle like Peroni beer, a basin with fillets of tomato, tomato puree, basil and a wooden stick, all we had to do was put the tomato puree, a few basil leaves and the tomato fillets in the bottles pushing them with the wooden stick. How much we liked this thing and do you know which memory I have left the most, obviously apart from the smell of tomatoes? The burning and itching that gave me the juice and the tomato seeds that clung to me. These are some of my childhood memories, the beautiful ones, those related to food and that are imprinted in the mind and heart. The aromas and flavors of that happy age have made cooking a joy for me, a pleasure to share with others.
Continuing to cook grandmother’s recipes means that her memory is always alive, every day as if she were next to me, like when as a child she taught me to hollow out gnocchi.