Secret Recipes

Okay, this might surprise you, dear readers, but I do have secret recipes. Sure, sure, we’re in the two thousands, women are no longer evaluated by their pictureskills in the kitchen, their charm in the parlor (and the other one), but not all secrets should be revealed.  Older than time, than glossy cookbooks and The Food Network, spoken instructions for delectable dishes have always been passed from grandmother to mother to daughter, this last to whisper them to her own daughters (sons’ wives? Not so much), who would be the proud carriers of the secret.  I’m not kidding.  Certain family recipes are not to be shared, period.  In this age of instant information about anything and everything, we must hold on to some things that are so much part of what we are.  Really, my friends, not all should be communal.  And I encourage all of you to do the same.  You pictureown this amazing recipe for a divine apple pie unlike any other, passed to you by your great-aunt Daphne, who can trace her roots to the Mayflower? Lucky you! Hang on to the wonder, the joy, that little piece of family history that is part of your genetic makeup, where you came from.  I grew up in the shadow and mystery of culinary secrets, like any true Italian girl would.  My aunt’s heavenly cinnamon apple cake, for instance.  Slightly warm, perfumed with a particular type of cinnamon, fragile and moist, this simple jewel remained a much coveted dessert, whose recipe was never divulged.  My mother spent hours dissecting and analyzing  the fresh-from-the oven picturesection of cake that my cousin would bring us once in a while, attempting to figure out the secret of this masterpiece of home culinary arts. Alas, in vain.  No matter what she experimented with – a certain kind of apple, the amount and consistency of the butter, baking temperature – she moved on to the other side without that knowledge.  Needless to say, she shared with us girls her cooking secrets, swearing us to never ever reveal them to a soul, except for our potential daughters.  Like the particular way of shaping tortellini, which she made by the hundreds for every special holiday, with much complaining about the work and the nuisance of it (but don’t we all? Elaborate dishes are only praised after the tedious labor has been completed).  We practiced with the supple egg dough she made, our clumsy first attempts criticized, but not unkindly, till we mastered her Modenese picturetechnique (the only proper way of making them of course…); sometimes we even got hold of a cloth napkin and turned it into a perfect oversize tortellino, just to keep our skills sharp!  Well, I don’t often make my mother’s exquisite tortellini in brodo, for lack of time (and patience), but I cling to her secret technique, as I promised her decades ago, to reveal it only to my daughters when the time is right and I can be assured of their willingness to maintain the tradition. Same thing with her Ragù.  Similar to many other meat sauces from that area, of course, but with her particular touch.  Which is now mine, and shall stay that way, I’m afraid.  Moral of the story? Go ahead and offer everyone that recipe for chocolate Tiramisù you found on the web, but hang on to your mom’s special pasta al forno con la besciamella for dear life.  A thing of your own. (Here’s a recipe I will share with you: a tender, moist, intensely chocolaty Devil’s Food Cake made with olive oil.)


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