Hubby made pesto the other day as our basil is beginning to get “leggy” and may have to be cut back soon. I know some of this post will be repetitious to longtime followers, so do bear with me. I’ve previously mentioned, Hubby grew up in a small Georgia town and I in small Louisiana towns. In my case, North Louisiana, which at that time did not embrace Cajun/Creole dishes the way they do now. On the other hand, both of us enjoyed the standard Southern fare of fried chicken, homemade biscuits, a can of bacon drippings on the stove to use as seasoning, etc. In other words, our culinary experiences did not expand significantly until we left our respective homes.
As I may also have explained, there are not many Army personnel in Italy, more Navy and Air Force which is why we never expected to be assigned there. Notwithstanding the intensely difficult professional positions we were in, there was most assuredly personal pleasure in spending 18 months in Tuscany. One surprising thing we discovered about Italian cooking was how very regional it is. Pesto is a good example. Predominantly a dish found in Liguria, especially around Genoa, there were only one or two restaurants where we lived that carried it on the menu. The same was true of something like veal saltimbocca – very popular around Rome and rarely seen where we were. Certain others, such as frito misto (the fried seafood mix) was common almost everywhere as was pizza.
The other thing we hadn’t realized was how quickly sauces were created and how few ingredients were often used; the key being freshness more than complexity. What we call marinara was usually referred to as pomodoro. Garlic, olive oil, crushed or diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and that was it – maybe fifteen minutes to prepare. Stir in cream and it became a rose sauce. Although the demands of our jobs didn’t allow us to travel as much as we would have liked, we did make it to Venice where other delicious dishes awaited us. Okay, I didn’t care for the varied ways of offering cuttlefish, but Hubby thoroughly enjoyed them.