I dedicate the qui project to my family: my parents, my brothers, my husband, my children. But, together with me, within this project, there’s another important person: my aunt, zia Rita.
Zia Rita belonged to the Masseria Castelluccio, where I spent almost all Sundays until I was 18, and all my summer holidays, often with my brother Ugo and my four cousins. Zia Rita was always there, she was the mainstay: she left me, and us, with a huge empty space, just a few days after the qui project was created, but she’s here with me, she taught me everything. She was the woman managing the kitchen of this big manor farm, with a lot of people in it: we were thirteen … fourteen … fifteen people sitting at the table every day.
Zia Rita had me cooking with her when I was only four years old. She told me: “Grazia, you can do it, you can do everything, you can knead, I’ll teach you!” She was the most generous person I’ve ever met. She never said “This is my recipe”, because everything had to be shared.
She never cooked and never taught me to cook by using the exact dose of ingredients, because someone could always arrive, so we could always set an extra place at the table: I still can see her quickly shifting all the forks, the knives, the napkins and dishes to set another place.
And every time I knead a focaccia bread, or I cook the broad beans, she’s here with me saying: “Come on, Grazia! Add some more, you never know someone will sit at the table with us today.”
I have another beautiful picture of her in my mind: the “Acqua Sala”, in Italian “Acqua Sale”. It’s a traditional dish of Ceglie Messapica, a summer recipe, very poor but delicious. At that time zia Rita used to say: “Come on, Grazia, let’s make the Acqua Sala: it’s time for you kids to eat!” I had always been a little girl to her, even when I was forty years old, mother of three children, I was still a little girl.
With zia Rita it was always a celebration! Everything tasted very good because she always added the essential ingredient of her cuisine: love and benevolence. Zia Rita never cooked because she felt it was a duty, or because we had to eat: she always cooked so that all of us could sit at the table together, and in order that every one arriving at her manor farm, which had the doors always wide open, could sit at table with us and share the meal she had cooked wholeheartedly.
This is what I’d like now to convey through qui: how to choose the best ingredients and cook, but not only for ourselves, not only because we have to eat, but because it’s nice to share the meal all together.
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