These spectacular soft shelled crabs were made to celebrate my Swiss citizenship, me, CRABtree, now Swiss. They seem an appropo way to introduce this section of the site where food speaks, literally and figuratively. Having grown up in a small but loud family of (southern) Italian/Spanish Americans food has always had a deeper meaning for me than eating. The words Foodie or buon gustaio are a part of it, and there is more. Yes, the idea of good quality, creative home cooked meals is important and then there is the message of the meal, the story it is telling. Growing up I would not have been able to express this idea, it was so embedded in our family structure that it was like breathing, I was totally unconscious of it.
It was only as a young adult living in Shreveport, Louisiana where the concept became clear to me when one of my closest friends, who happened to be the the boyhood friend of the South African man I was briefly dating, explained a silence I did not understand. "He is speaking, there in the kitchen, here on our plates each night. The food, it is his way to communicate, listen, taste, you will hear him." Each night for a week elaborate meals were prepared and consumed, and I did hear. I heard him and then the stories of my family began to become clear to me. Food, as a language, as a teller of stories, is inherently a part of who I am.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of me sitting on the counter in the kitchen of my great grandparents home. The counter runs the length of the entire kitchen and I am next to the stove where a pot simmering, it's aroma fills the entire house, it is Papa's pasta fagioli (pasta vagol in our family), he has me stirring it. It was his love song to us, even now thinking of it brings tears to my eyes 45 years later. The preparation, the presentation, everything to do with food from as long ago as I can recall is a language that tells some sort of story, long or short. When my mother met my husband (then boyfriend) for the first time, the poor man nearly ate himself to ruin. From his first cup of coffee accompanied by a freshly baked cheesecake topped with homemade strawberry coulis each morning to the elaborate meals each evening - pork loin rolled in freshly cracked black pepper, an entire Thanksgiving dinner in October to name a few - my mother was saying, "Welcome to our family, she loves you, you are one of us, period." With her food she told him all her heart had to say, and his stomach thanked her.
This section of my site is dedicated to this language of food, to recipes and their stories. Clean versions of the recipes are available for you to download for free in pdf form in the story and separately in the Recipes section (storyless).