Flavoursome Fuel

Cucina povera is an Italian phrase meaning the cuisine of the poor, or peasant cooking; the literal translation is, poor kitchen. The reason I mention this is because a few nights ago I was watching TV and I heard a chef say, food is fuel. I thought this was an odd thing for a professional to say, as most chefs want us to believe they are creating gastronomic masterpieces rather than just filling us up with the culinary equivalent to diesel.

The concept of cucina povera is becoming trendy with many chefs now serving up platters of rustic food. However ask any aged Italian about it and they’ll shrug at the concept, saying it’s a romantic notion to give the humble cooking they grew up with out of necessity a fancy name.

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You could say that peasant food could be classed as fuel, as traditionally it was served up solely to stave off hunger and to nourish the peasant farmers. The concept is to create meals from what you have, be it from the garden or the store cupboard. One of the staples of poor food is polenta and if made well it can be as comforting as a bowl of creamy mashed potato. So last night I grabbed a few items from the store cupboard and made a simple but satisfying supper.

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Polenta is cheap but commercially produced brands can be gritty, so I prefer to use a local brand that’s extra fine and results in a soft texture. I rehydrated some porcini mushrooms, made a tomato and sausage sauce and after cooking the polenta in home made chicken stock, I served it up and sat in front to the log burner enjoying a satisfying supper.

Hoarder or OCD

Friends always laugh at me saying my obsession with ‘being stocked-up’ is like preparing for a nuclear war. Today I was putting some pasta in the cupboard and realised anyone looking in from the outside would not be wrong in assuming that: [A] I’m partial to De Cecco pasta. [B} I’m a bit obsessive. [C} I’m a hoarder.

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  Yes I do like De Cecco pasta, in fact back in the U.K. a friend once called me a pasta snob, as I only ever buy this brand. At this    moment in time I have twenty-eight packets of the stuff ranging from boxes of lasagne sheets to linguine and tiny little stelle (stars) that you drop into soup.

  I don’t think I’m a hoarder, I don’t really collect things apart from music albums, oh and don’t forget the Staedtler pencil obsession. I used to keep all the posters, set lists and related paraphernalia from when I was in a band and amassed nine scrap books, however a flood saw to their demise and that ended my only collecting habit.

  OCD does feature in my life and this means I sometimes have unfathomable reasons for doing things. In particular I can never allow my stock of toilet paper to fall below four packets, I don’t know why it’s four but as soon as the fourth packet is opened I’m down the shop buying a new pack. Someone did comment that at least we’ll be okay if we get a sudden attack of dysentery. My current stash is five and a half packs on the window ledge in the bathroom. Another oddity is that despite not being perishable, they are used up in rotation, with newer stock going to the right-hand side at the bottom of the pile, as usage is from left to right. 100_8421-crop

I think I’ve always liked to see kitchen cupboards full, I’d hate to look for something and not find it. I always think it’s best to be prepared for every eventuality, sudden guests near lunchtime or an unequivocal desire for tinned carrots. My mother always stressed the importance of having a well stocked kitchen and I think it has sort of stemmed from there.

Don’t even get me started on the freezer, yesterday I was kindly given some crumpets brought over from the U.K. and there was only enough room in the bread section for six of them so we had to eat four of them so as not to waste them. (Yes there are sections, meat, fish, veg and processed food and even a section for home made soups and stocks.

Is it OCD that drives my desire to build up this food stock, possibly or maybe I’m more comfortable knowing that if anything did happen to prevent me getting to the shops I at least have enough stockpiled food to keep me going for a while.

Though what incidents are likely to necessitate this I’m unsure: sudden snowfall, illness, alien invasion?

I do believe there has to be a modicum of obsessive compulsion involved, particularly with the toilet rolls situation and if you look inside my cupboards all the tins are in order and facing the front: which makes perfect sense as you can see straight away what’s where and what’s what. The maximum amount of tins per item in the cupboard is six any extra stock is stored in a separate place all together where no firm rules regarding numbers or position apply.

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Of course everything has to be in the correct place. Dried goods like pasta, rice and pulses have their own cupboard, as do cakes and biscuits; albeit a small one as we eat very few of these and tinned goods are never mixed with jars. Jars reside on the shelves made by a friend to fill a recess in the wall where the sink was originally and having just glanced at it maybe five jars of anchovies is a little excessive as are four of artichoke hearts. But as I’ve already said, you never know what will happen.

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I would imagine that due to the regimented way I store things and the number patterns a psychologist would determine that it is OCD rather than hoarding. But should the earth become subjected to an invasion from the far depths of space, during mankind’s panic there’ll still be a little house in Italy where you can get good quality pasta and soft toilet tissue.