Cucina Povera

This post has been brewing in my head for many days now. After about two months of blogging, I was reflecting on the fact that out of 112 posts, 36 are about food, 13 more than the next leading category (“Style” which I apply to anything I can’t categorize that might be vaguely style related). I know that I love food and cooking, but as I continued to write about and contemplate food, I started to meditate on what attracts me and so many others to the kitchen.

During this contemplation, Bon Appetit and Saveur both featured articles that discuss cucina povera, an Italian cuisine named, literally, “cuisine of the poor.” Don’t let the name fool you though, because the food is absolutely delicious and more satisfying than you could imagine. It was while I was reading about cucina povera that I realized what really attracts me to food. The defining features of this cuisine are its faith in the ability of just a few ingredients to create an amazing meal and its resilience in the face of scarcity and adversity. Because these recipes were first drafted by the poor, they feature a small number of locally available ingredients. They have streamlined the flavors and textures to what is required for a satisfying meal. At the same time, there might be a shortage or complete lack of any one ingredient at any specific time, so the recipes are easily adaptable to other ingredients.

Although other cuisines in Italy and beyond clearly take pleasure in featuring exotic or rare ingredients, employing molecular gastronomy tricks, or creating amazing and complex flavor compositions, I believe that to some extent all cooking is about knowing what you need to accomplish your vision and about being able to think creatively and adapt on the spot. Moreover, these are qualities that I admire and strive toward not only in the kitchen, but in a much more general sense: simple satisfaction, streamlined efficiency, flexibility, and ingenuity. So that is why you end up reading about food a lot here and why I love it and think about it and write about it all the time. Food can bring out the best in all of us.

{image from Saveur; read the Saveur article; cook bass from the Bon Appetit recipe}


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