Monday, February 27, 2012

Marcella Says...

As you can imagine, after forty years of cooking nearly every day, I have amassed a somewhat large cookbook collection. One hundred twenty-nine books to be exact.  And that is not counting the four books on wine and the numerous compilations of food writing, pamphlets and regional or promotional books, or the books I gave away when we moved.

I have five loose leaf notebooks of tried and true recipes including family recipes that I have used and continue to use; three notebooks chronicling thirty something years of dinner parties and holiday celebrations as well as a handful of magazines that I just can't seem to give up.
Of course, when I was first married I had the obligatory Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker Cookbook,  The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, and a small but authentic Mexican cookbook given to me by my husband's beloved cousin. It wasn't until we returned to the States in the mid-seventies, when my husband was a medical resident working those infamous 36 hour shifts, that I sought out some evening cooking classes--for companionship as well as the good food and priceless tips.

It was at a series of classes by a local cooking teacher that I was introduced to the cooking of Marcella Hazan. I had never heard of this woman who was presented to the New York food world in 1970 by the late Craig Claiborne of the New York Times.  She went on to write six books on Italian cooking which changed  forever the way Americans thought of Italian food. She taught cooking classes for years in her New York apartment and in Venice.

I am a huge fan of Marcella and have all six of her books.  But there is one that I had forgotten about.  Her last book, Marcella Says, is fabulous.  She takes you by the hand and stands by your side through each recipe.  It is a Master Class, with Marcella whispering in your ear. The essay she wrote telling us why we should be making our own pasta was so inspiring, I pulled out my old pasta machine and got to work!

I don't buy too many cookbooks anymore.  So much is available on the internet through magazine sites and blogs. But I treasure Marcella's books and hope to read her memoir next.  It's good to know at 87 years old, she is still drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes, and living with the love of her life.

A future post will show my pasta dinner.  Ciao.


  1. I slowed way down on buying cookbooks because of lack of space and the fact that we move so often. You're right, with the internet, it's so easy to google some ingredients and get ideas as starting points. I also rely on the library now to test out books. That's one impressive collection you've got there. Can't wait to read about your pasta dinner!

    1. I agree that the library is a great way to test out new cookbooks. Unfortunately,our small library has a less than stellar collection of cookbooks.

  2. When I read about an 87 year old drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes I wonder how much control we have over our health. I also noticed her living with the love of her life. Can love trump it all... Interesting.

  3. Wonderful wonderful post Michele. Thoroughly enjoyed this read, and the photograph of your extensive library. It's true-at a certain point maybe we have enough books!
    Marcella Hazen is indeed a treasure.

    I'm looking forward to your pasta adventure post.

    Ciao Bella!

  4. My cookbook library looks much like yours, and numbers a similar number...but it's so sweet that I head back to the same ones, over and over, like you. On the opposite end, while I have my share of Italian cookbooks (being Italian and all), I am attracted by some classic Americans, like David Tanis...

  5. I don't know David Tanis. I'll have to do some investigating.