Guest column: The language of cooking

B&B Duo Padroni

She spent hours learning the English translation of the words she has been living with all of her life: aglio – garlic, cipolle – onions, melanzana – eggplant, cucinare – to cook. Repeat: aglio – garlic, cipolle – onions, melanzana – eggplant, cucinare – to cook. Why is this language so difficult! Cooking delicious dishes is a lot easier.
So it seems to her, she who has been cooking the traditional dishes of the Oltrepo Pavese for almost forty years now. The receipies of these dishes have been handed over from generation to generation, from each nonna to her daughter. Now Leda has to explain them to foreigners, people that don’t understand Italian, the language of cooking.
You, the foreigner, the pupil, are fortunate: it is learning by demonstration, learning by doing. Le mani in pasta: putting your hands in the dough, as the Italians say. It’s self-explaining and doesn’t need many words of whatever language. Leda shows, prepares, chatters on in Italian (the list of translations is lying somewhere aside), laughs a lot (that helps too!). Every now and then we lend a hand and discover that the things that look so easy in her hands, really aren’t. Forty years of daily experience come to bear.
Who minds? We’ll try the dishes at home over and over again: ravioli, risotto, maybe a antipasto or a dolce. And we will get better at it, in a while. For now, we we’re satisified, knowing we will be eating some of Leda’s fabulous dishes later on, at pranzo in her Ristorante Bagarellum.

Stef Smulders runs Bed and Breakfast Villa I Due Padroni together with Nico Boots. The B&B is situated in the hills and vineyards of the Oltrepò Pavese, in Lombardy, the North of Italy. In co-operation with local restaurant Azienda Agrituristica Bagarellum they organize cooking classes for their guests. During a morning’s lesson chef Leda of Bagarellum tells and demonstrates to the guests (in a mixture of Italian, English and gestures) the secrets of her delicious and traditional dishes.

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Janneke Scheepers

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