Cecilia Mattioli: more of an apprentice than a sorcerer in the kitchen

2017-12-05 Instead of a kitchen like Gordon Ramsay’s, she dreams of having a library like the one in “The Name of the Rose”. Ferrara-born Cecilia Mattioli is passionate about classical culture, and she hasn’t stopped studying it since she graduated in Classics from Bologna university.
Cecilia worked for a chain of bookstores for seven years, overseeing the launch of new retail outlets and staff training. Her job took her all over Italy, allowing her to dedicate her time to something she really loves: books. Since 2004 she’s worked for the Social Policy Department at Coop Alleanza 3.0, helping set up the consumer awareness projects that the co-operative runs in schools.
She’s been writing her own blog for around a year, reviewing books and occasionally films or cultural events.
What do you think, Cecilia, when entering your kitchen?
My first thought is that luckily, my kitchen and dining room are joined together so I don’t feel so overawed. I’ve always seen the kitchen as a magical place where miracles happen, where ingredients are brought together and turned into dishes both simple and complex. What I lack is the natural ability to work the magic spells which make the miracles happen, so I feel more like an apprentice than a sorcerer in the kitchen.
What dish best represents your life, and why?.
The dish I’ve always eaten on special occasions is the rice cake my father makes. I’ll tell you a story. When I was little, my parents would invite all our relatives – grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins – to lunch to celebrate my birthday. My birthday cake with the obligatory candles would be a millefeuille from one of the best patisseries in Ferrara, Caffè Europa. My mother still says that I’d never give her the satisfaction of eating the cake from the patisserie, but I’d tuck straight in to the home-made rice cake. I can tell you that I’ve been eating it forever, and it’s still the cake I choose when I feel like celebrating, even when there’s no reason to.
What wine gets your heart beating?
”Do you mind if I choose a beer instead? I don’t drink wine, but I love beer. My favourite is Hoegaarden, the queen of wheat beers. It’s the first alcoholic drink I ever tasted, so it “gets my heart beating” in the sense that it reminds me of happy times from my far-off youth.
What is the ingredient you can’t do without?
Even though I very rarely cook, I always make sure there are vegetables around. They’re so colourful, they put me in a great mood. And just as importantly, they’re particularly gratifying because you don’t need special cooking methods to make them taste good. What could be better than a plate of roasted veg, a minestrone in Winter or crudités and olive oil in Summer?».
What is the funniest item in your kitchen?
A cuddly toy chicken who raises her eyes while she watches me cook. But seriously, I don’t really have any fun objects. What I do have is a set of basic cooking equipment. I can tell you that my biggest ally is my pressure cooker. Because I’m out at work all day, I don’t have much time to cook in the evenings, and using a pressure cooker means I can get dinner ready much more quickly.
Mariagrazia Villa