At Castello Serragiumenta all members of Rita and Paolo’s family love Nonna Olga's food. Except for one – her grandson Daniele. – he doesn't just love it; he is completely crazy about it! Especially when Nonna prepares ‘Patate 'Mpacchiuse’, which means sticky potatoes.
Olga has promised to cook Daniele’s favourite dish with him. There is a reason to celebrate; the evening meal will be attended by family and friends and will welcome a special guest. This side dish goes well with the other dishes they have planned. Little Daniele loves to disappear into the prep kitchen with his grandmother, where he learns how to slice fresh vegetables. He is glued to Nonna's lips when she talks about her recipes or about her life, which is how the boy learned why the kitchen in the Castello consists of two adjoining rooms.
‘In the old days, the oven and hob were still fuelled by wood, which polluted the air and meant a lot of smoke. That's why the actual cooking was done in a separate, small adjoining room.’
Nonna Olga always has an explanation for things. Especially when it comes to food – she is the undisputed culinary authority in the family. She has lived and cooked at the Castello for over 60 years and knows not only how to fill empty stomachs in her family, but also how to use food to make everybody happy.
Olga has got everything ready: knives and chopping boards, as well as the potatoes and onions that she bought that morning at Giuliano's, the greengrocer – now they can start. She picks up a large WÜSTHOF Amici Chef's Knife and Daniele a short Amici Paring Knife. Grandma starts slicing the onions and later her grandson does the same. The preparation is effortless and both have fun, although the onions do cause a few tears.
‘Every time I pick up a Chef's Knife, I think of my Nonna,’ she tells her grandson. ‘I still remember how she taught me how to chop and cook, just as I'm teaching you today.’
A tradition all over Italy, very much alive in this family as Olga and Daniele form a culinary bridge between the generations. Here the knife is more than just a kitchen tool, it is a source of discovery. The wide-ranging conversation while preparing ingredients does not just focus on vegetables, knife skills and the next dish, but extends to memories, wisdom and life itself – everything that strengthens strong bonds within the family.
The onions are ready. While the two chat and laugh, they continue chopping purposefully: fennel for the ‘Zuppa di Fonocchi’ (fennel soup) and tomatoes for the spicy ‘Salsa della Nonna’ which, as the name suggests, is Olga’s secret recipe.
But is the recipe really still a secret? Perhaps we should ask Daniele…