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More Stories - The Way
What I Learned in My Mother's
by Giuliano Hazan
My earliest memories of my mother's kitchen would
probably be of the pots and pans I would regularly pull out of the cabinets, and
of olive oil. I suspect the olive oil incident is more indelibly
etched in my mother's memory than mine. One day I decided to pour an entire
bottle over myself, and the term "squirmy baby" took on new meaning for my mother.
As I grew older, the kitchen continued to be one of my favorite places to hang out,
and I was often perched on a stool watching my mother prepare our meals. Instinct
and intuition play a very important role in cooking. I think I mostly learned to cook through osmosis
while watching my mother cook. I got to help, too. I probably stirred
my first risotto when I was tall enough to reach the pot!
One of the things I learned was that once one got to know a dish, recipes were really
only to be used as a guide. Except for desserts, my mother almost never measured.
I remember she would say that if she had chopped a little too much garlic or onions
she wasn't going to throw away the extra, she would just sauté it a little less.
Or if she had chopped too little she would sauté it a little more. The most
important ingredient in the kitchen, she would always say, was common sense.
Just as important as watching my mother cook and helping whenever possible was sitting
at the family table and eating what my mother had prepared. Accumulating those
taste memories was indispensable to me when I started cooking for myself.
Just as a painter or a sculptor has an image in his or her mind as they work, when
I cook I am often recalling a taste or flavor that I am trying to recreate.
What is probably the most important thing I learned is a love and respect for good
food. It not only makes one of life's necessities more enjoyable but
it brings a family together as well. Mealtimes were always a special part
of our day, and they continue to be now that there are three generations at the