“I’ve always been a passionate about food and everything started when I was a child. I used to go to my grandmother’s house to cook with her.”
Fabrizia Fiori’s email led me on a short, but sweet trip down memory lane.
I recalled sitting on a kitchen ladder beside my paternal grandmother while she demonstrated how to make chocolate chip cookies with black walnuts from the tree in her back yard; I remembered standing next to my maternal grandmother in her utility room, observing the traditional way she made bread. I sat on a bar stool watching my mother bake cakes: white, chocolate, pineapple upside down, banana, and pies: apple, peach, cherry, coconut cream, lemon meringue, pumpkin, pecan. Bowl licking–an essential ingredient.
The joy of baking cookies and cakes–play for preschoolers–gave way to more serious stuff when I became my mother’s sous chef at the ripe age of seven. Not to say that my adventures with baking stopped. I remember swapping cookie recipes with the mother of one of my playmates at nine. To this day, that cookie, crisp, with oatmeal backdrop fronted by a soft cinnamon twirl is a favorite (recipe available on request).
Several things influenced what went on in our kitchen. My father’s vegetable garden along with the changes in American cuisine as a result of the development of frozen foods, Campbell Soups, and jello among others. The American Woman’s Cook Book, Betty Crocker and The Joy of Cooking played a role. Likewise, my parents were aware of the basic 7 food groups established in the 1940’s. By the time I graduated from the family school of culinary arts I could pull off stuffed bell peppers, baked beans, fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and tuna noodle casseroles.
Showing a proclivity for cooking, my parents decided with my approval, that I would be the designated chef during school vacations. Menus and recipes posted on the door of the refrigerator by my mother facilitated my assignment to put dinner on the table by 6:00 PM. Her rule of thumb: a proper meal must include a salad, veggie, potato and protein. Little did she know, she was contributing to the making of a foodie.
In some cultures a woman is not considered ready for marriage if she does not know how to cook. I would have fit in to those cultures.
In preparation for the trip to Sardegna I pored over Motus Travel’s website:
Motus Travel Sardinia www.travelmotus.com/
“Enjoy cooking classes” jumped out at me. Oh my goodness! I contacted Mario Delitala, managing director of Motus immediately. He responded by setting up a class with Fabrizia Fiori. I sensed that this would not be just any cooking class! On the given Saturday we drove from our hotel in Cabras to the nearby city of Oristano. Fabrizia met us at the historic center of town and led us to her home. As we followed my inner psychic had me jumping up and down. I knew I had met a foodie soul mate.
No one is more prepared to teach Sardinian cooking than Sardinian native and resident Fabrizia Fiori.
Not only did her grandmother teach her the typical dishes of her family, she taught her what Sardinians value most. “She taught me that the most important ingredient was what she called ‘pizzico d’amore’ (pinch of love). She meant what is most important is the passion you put in what you’re doing.”
After that, “my mother introduced me to the Italian word for culinary: she bought me Cucina Italiana, the first Italian culinary magazine. Every month we spent spent a lot of time cooking the classical Italian recipes garnered from the magazine.”
On graduating from the university in Milan where she studied languages, Fabrizia worked as a German and English translator until she joined and began creating events for the Slow Food Movement. From 2006-2012 she ran Slow Food Sassari where she got to know the most important high quality food producers. She continued her culinary education through several Master of Food classes about specific topics: wine, cheese, fish, meat, sweets, chocolate, beer and spirits and obtained her Sommelier certificate from the worldwide AIS.
Today Fabrizia is a gastronomic guide, culinary teacher for tourists, and a personal chef for local people. In 2013 she won the television food competition Cuochi e fiamme.
Why does someone become a chef? For the same reason a writer becomes a writer, a painter becomes a painter. They have to. Fabrizia started as a child and never stopped!
In 2013 she participated in the Italian food competition Cuochi y Flamme and won.
and has been a guest chef on the Gambero Rosso food channel.
We arrived at Fabrizia’s high tower condo at 5:30. Her husband out of town, the three of us would spend the entire evening cooking then feasting on the fruits of our labors.
Fabrizia opened our class by explaining various flours that would be used to make three separate pastas.
She followed the explanations by hands on detailed, step by step instructions.
Making chiusoni, a typical pasta from Gallura in northeast Sardinia.
After the pastas we prepared the dough for Seada the famous Sardinian dessert.
And, its young pecorino cheese filling.
The final feast included a salad, vegetable, protein and in this case rather than potato, three typical pastas.
We finished the meal with seada. The world famous Sardinian fritter filled with salty pecorino topped with sweet honey made for an intense, but divine ending to our cooking class.