I have been taking photographs of my mum Giuseppa while she demonstrates her preservation techniques. We have acquired this natural routine of teacher/student/master/apprentice, a step-by-step creative process.

IMG_1373Peppa, however is less open to learning the machinations of Facebook and how a 4G tablet might enhance her knowledge of what’s happening in the world with a tool to reconnect to relatives beyond the pier.“Quisti cosi non sono pa me ora, sunnu troppa vecchia”- (Calabrese for – I’m too old for this shit!). #[1]

IMG_1439We have this affinity of exchange from what was, to what is, to what could be. An exploration across the generational divide, I’m surprised to find myself there. It simply happens; an evolution of sorts, seeking to understand from where I have come. I like to think that I’m not over analyzing this exchange, it’s really as if everything that we already need is present, and from that point we create.

IMG_1387Alert to the lesson, capturing the action in images with my IPHONE 7, the intention of preserving in images the steps towards pickling a jar of olives; preservation duplicity. Whatever the relationship with my Italian heritage has become, is then in and of itself an extension and an act of something that can be shared. Mum’s recipes are uniquely multicultural in their appeal, for while they connect to our Italian/Calabrese heritage, the recipes and practice transcend the palate of cultures and generations.

Three cuts to the olive

I know that culture is much deeper than what we eat, or the way food is prepared, it’s also very personal, for me it’s a point of reference and a place to start. The terminology of bring a plate is profound when it becomes the point of connection. The cultural dish we consume then is ingested, digested and literally embodied by our physical being.

Olives dry in the sun

What I want to highlight about Giuseppa’s practice is intuition in the making. There’s no recipe that is written down, instead she follows a process, contingent on the environmental factors at play, therefore a science, and an art. Cut, salt, sun, heat, oil and spice and finally the taste test will reveal the next steps.

Dried olives, further dried in the wood-fired oven

The methodology is an innate part of Peppa’s (pun on pepper) psyche, integral to her personality, what she can create and what she has to share with others.

When selling these jars of joy, I’ve seen the judging eye of the passing food critic, who is eager to taste, without fully appreciating the process, nor the meaning that is embodied in that jar.  The act of fatto a mano(made by hand) is more than a simple jar of chili paste.

IMG_1547.JPGBehind the scenes it’s the creativity that makes the food different each time. Sometimes it works better than other times, the elements at play, think earth, wind and fire. It’s the contributing elements that determine the outcome: time, sun, salt, water, oil, vinegar, lemon and spice.

IMG_1546.JPGPeppa’s creative flare extends from unique, humble, humanistic methodologies. It is what it is at the time that it’s made, unpretentious and delicious. Could be classified il mangiare di poveri, peasant food, food for ordinary people, holistic basic and robust.

The recipe is engraved in the sparked generational neurons.

IMG_1541Peppa is inspired by ‘tradition’, a way of doing, being and making. There’s always plenty and a feast can be garnered from few ingredients, where the table is set for whoever happens to be there quando e ura pa mangiare(when it’s time to eat).

As a result we have learnt from this practice, in our chosen professions we are artists and artisans in our kitchen. This creative process then manifests as the ability to innovate.

IMG_1515“Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the fire”–Gustav Marlow


[1]While we learnt to speak Calabrese it was with an oral tongue and ear and so we never actually saw it written, even though it is a written language. The language we learnt is also somewhat stunted for it is the Calabrese of the 1950s, that we spoke as children, English has taken it’s place, not to mention the confused discourse of the pure Italian tongue versus the dialect, and so I am keen t express the Calabrese tongue in and of it’s own right.


3 thoughts on “Celebrating Peppa, the main ingredient

  1. That is great Maria, I really loved reading step by step your mom’s story. It is fascinating her knowledge and practice to pass on to future generations. Well done it!!

    Liked by 1 person

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