There are as many ways to cook as there are cooks. No person, region or ethnic group owns a particular dish, recipe or style. We all borrow ideas from each other. It can be difficult to figure out who was the first to use a specific ingredient. Italians lay claim to pasta, but the Chinese probably invented macaroni and many spices came from the Far East or the New World.

Food is memory. Most of us crave the tastes of our childhood. The recipes we share here is food we personally know. Unless you are a confident cook, you wouldn’t serve something you’ve never made before to your guests. You’d at least test them on family beforehand.  We aren’t trying to impress you with creativity, but just offering recipes that taste good.

Everyone remembers their family meals and what they talked about. Like most Italians, my family talked about food–where they bought it and how it was cooked. What was most important however was the experience of sharing food and laughter with people they loved. I recall a dinner this past winter where my cousin Rosella spent an hour on her tablet showing me pictures of food her cousin in Italy had made.

Today the communal family meal is being abandoned. People don’t seem to have the time, skills or inclination to cook anymore. Despite this, food is endlessly promoted by cookbooks, bloggers and celebrity chefs. Unfortunately we live in a virtual world where nobody experiences anything first hand.We want to watch others do things, but lack the motivation to cultivate the necessary skills ourselves.

The recipes we offer don’t require you to master any fancy techniques. This food is simple with an emphasis on flavour, nutrition and lightness. The simpler the recipe, the healthier it is. You don’t have to be an expert to know when something is delicious. Your taste buds tell you.

Auguste Escoffier, the legendary French chef (1846-1935), believed that good food is the foundation of happiness. He wrote, “The richer the cooking is, the more speedily do the stomach and palate tire of it.” He wanted people to enjoy their food not be overwhelmed by its production. As a friend said after a recent trip to Paris, “Sometimes, you just want to eat an apple and some peanut butter!” If you emphasize the quality of your ingredients you don’t even need a recipe. Bread, wine and cheese is a quick, classic meal that’s also deeply satisfying.

These recipes are tried and true. I once had lunch with a famous chef/cookbook author. I told him I had tried to make his bagels but they turned out like hockey pucks. He laughed and said, “That must have been one of the recipes we didn’t test.” Don’t be fooled by the pretty pictures in fancy cookbooks.

Every time you make a recipe it tastes different. Why? Maybe the water was colder, the butter came from a different cow, the flour was from Saskatchewan not Sicily. Recipes can only be a guide. They reflect individual preferences, cooking habits and ingredients. Perhaps cooking is not about recipes at all. It’s about where you are in the moment.

  • Cooking stimulates the senses. The better developed they are the more enjoyable and healthy your choices will be. There’s a reason bright coloured, sweet smelling fruits and vegetables attracted our attention a million years ago.
  • Always try to work with what you’ve got on hand. It may not taste the same, but how will you know if you don’t experiment. Someone had to grind up fatty meat, spice it, stuff it into animal intestines, and let it age, to create sausage.
  • Don’t rigidly adhere to measurements. Everybody’s taste is different.
  • Spice is needed to bring out the flavours of food, and salt is a spice.
  • Enjoy yourself! Cooking should be interesting, relaxing and fun.
  • All you need to be a good cook is forethought, timing and the right stuff.