A chat with food writer Giulia Scarpaleggia

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a food writer and photographer, as well as teacher of Tuscan cooking classes in her family house in the countryside. She was born and bred in Tuscany and started this blog in 2009 to collect family recipes and stories. If you like traditional, seasonal food, the Tuscan countryside and a genuine approach to life, you’ll love her recipes.

We chatted prior to her event with fellow food writer Tessa Kiros for Florence Writers on the 21st March at 6.30pm. Hope you enjoy learning more about this very interesting woman.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?

I am pretty sure the first recipe I learn to cook was the Italian crema pasticciera, our thick pudding-like custard. The family version of this recipe has an easy ratio to remember: one egg, one tablespoon of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, a quarter of milk. There were many superstitions related to making a good crema, as always use a wooden spoon, always stir clockwise, or anticlockwise, cook the crema on the smallest flame and never watch tv while stirring!

What was the most unusual experience, place, etc. that inspired a recipe?

On top of Duomo of Florence, exploring the roofs and the breathtaking view. There, surrounded by all that impressive art and the beautiful roof tiles made by the artisans in Impruneta, I felt the urge to prepare a peposo, a black peppercorn beef stew.

The Impruneta craftsmen have always been famous for the jars, tiles and vases made with their renowned earthenware. Along with the Tuscan terracotta, they became famous also for the as much glorious peposo: the meat was simmered with patience, for a very long time, at the mouth of the old ovens. The ingredients were few and simple, just marbled meat, which takes some time to be cooked but eventually turns out soft and juicy, black peppercorns and red wine. No tomato sauce though, since the import of tomatoes from America was still far to come.
It is said to have been Brunelleschi’s favourite. If it inspired the Florence dome, it is definitely worth the 3 hour simmering on low heat.

When creating a new recipe, does it come to you visually, by scent or taste first?

It is usually the seasonality that inspires me a new recipe, so it is a mix of scent and taste, a pairing of seasonal ingredients. Many recipes come to my mind when I’m walking in the countryside, this is when I can let my thoughts run free, and they come back with ideas for something to cook.

Does music inspire you and if so, what do you listen to while you cook?

I often listen to music while I write or cook. If I’m writing, it is usually a soft, non-intrusive music, often soundtracks as Amelie or The last of the Mohicans. If I’m cooking, it is usually a bolder kind of

When preparing a recipe, do you usually think about the social context in which you find yourself?

Yes, I always think about a recipe that can be shared, appreciated by other people, cooked for someone you love… that’s why I aim to simple food, to feed and nurture, not to impress. I write for people with different cooking skills, so I try to be precise with instructions, trying not to give something for granted. Also, I always say buy the best ingredients you can afford, and make the most out of them.

Is there a story you wish to portray when you choose your ingredients? 

I tend to shop at the market, especially for fruit and vegetables, or directly from the producers for cheese. Even when I go to the supermarket, I search for local ingredients and smaller producers. I search for human stories, I want to know the people behind the food.

How would you inspire new generations to step down from a fast food mentality towards a slow cooked and homemade cooking experience?

I think new generations are inspired by stories. Searching for those stories in ingredients and producers naturally pushes you towards a more meaningful approach to cooking. Then, it is all a matter of organisation, of planning a few simple meals during the week made with seasonal ingredients. Even those recipes that require a long cooking can often be made while doing something else, like watching an episode of your favourite series on Netflix!

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