Cucina povera, which can literally be translated as “poor kitchen”, is rich in tradition. With origins primarily in, but certainly not restricted to, southern Italy, cucina povera has humble beginnings rooted in a very simple way of life.
Before and after war time, in particular, families learned to utilize simple, available, and high quality ingredients. Recipes and techniques evolved from necessity; from having to shop, cook and prepare healthy and nutritious meals daily from what was available and convenient. With little or no refrigeration, they learned to make use of everything, i.e., nothing was wasted! Hence, creativity grew from finding ways to prepare different dishes with limited budgets and the same ingredients.
Cucina povera has never been about elaborate preparation or using fancy stoves, pots and pans or utensils. And it’s not about some ecological concern or conscience or about being trendy or a foodie. Eating what was fresh, local, and seasonal wasn’t a conscious decision, it was the result of what was brought home that day, literally farm to table.
The farm to table tradition is undoubtedly alive and well today in Italy. This daily ritual is a lifestyle that not only supports local farmers and food artisans but ensures but the quality of the goods they bring to market. The relationship is intimate and ingrained.
It was and is a way of life, a very simple and healthy one that is usually learned but not at some fancy cooking school or class or from a celebrity chef or pricey cookbook. It’s learned in the kitchen watching, helping and learning from mamma or nonna as she prepared, with loving hands and heart, her family’s meal. Today’s menu is prepared from what was available this morning. And it is prepared with love…
Si, that’s the secret ingredient… love!