In 1989, Julia Child became a contributor to F&W. I hadn’t been on staff long, but I understood the considerable excitement this created. Julia was in her late seventies at that point, but one could argue she was only mid-career; she had published seven books and would go on to author or co-author 11 more. And so Julia became a member of the F&W family. She invited us into her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for a Christmas feature in 1993. For a Valentine’s Day column in 1998, she shared the illustrated cards she and her husband, Paul, would send to friends.
While people usually associate Julia with complex French dishes, many of her recipes for F&W, such as her roast chicken, weren’t complicated at all. Julia always said that one can judge the quality of a cook by roast chicken, and that while it doesn’t require years of training, it does entail “a greed for perfection”. Her recipe for quiche Lorraine is also simple, extolling the “forbidden delights of eggs and butter and fat and calories.” Julia warned against “fear of food,” as she referred to it, insisting that some amount of fat was essential for good cooking, healthy brains and bodies and joyful eating.
Bottom line, Julia felt that we’d all be happier if we ate well, treasured our meals and cooked together. Countless times in the many years I worked with Julia, both before and after F&W, she’d turn to those of us around her in the kitchen and exclaim, “Isn’t it so wonderful to cook with friends?”—Susy Davidson
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Marcella Hazan is an amazing home cook. This might sound like an overly simplistic description of the woman who introduced a generation of Americans to the Italian table more than 40 years ago with The Classic Italian Cookbook. But I know this because I’ve had the good fortune to work with Marcella a lot over the years. We’ve done stories together in Italy—at home with her husband, Victor, in Venice and in Venetian wine bars called bacari—and in the States, in New York City and on Long Island, New York, where they used to summer, as well as in Florida, where they live now. I’ve been lucky to spend time in the kitchen with Marcella and to eat at her table and I know that cooking at home every day, preparing lunch and dinner for herself and for Victor and their family and friends, is what makes her recipes so successful.
If you haven’t read Amarcord, her memoir, here’s the romantic backstory: In the mid-’50s, Marcella fell in love with Victor, a man who “could deal cheerily with most of life’s ups and down but [never] with an indifferent meal.” Victor was food-obsessed before that passion became a national sport, and it was Victor’s appetite that first encouraged Marcella to cook. Together, at the table, they discovered that despite Marcella’s inexperience in the kitchen, she had an innate and magical knack for cooking. And together, they have made her cooking their life’s work: Every recipe, every cooking class, every book, has been a 50-50 Marcella and Victor collaboration.
Flavor has always come first for the Hazans. It’s not that Marcella doesn’t care about technique, she does, and she’s quick to tell you why you should try pot-roasting meat in a tightly closed casserole on the stovetop or to explain the many merits of deep-frying just about anything. But taste trumps all. I remember trying to talk the Hazans out of many dishes that I knew would be a challenge to photograph—brown bean soups and pastas, and whole roasted veal shanks that resembled nuclear reactor towers—but they always won. I often questioned the simplicity of a dish, but three of my favorite Marcella dishes—her legendary roast chicken with two lemons, the tomato sauce with butter, and grilled swordfish salmoriglio, with a sauce of olive oil, lemon and thyme—have fewer than five ingredients.
In revisiting Marcella’s recipes for this story, I am reminded of the distinctive voice you’ll find in all of her cookbooks, in both the headnotes and the recipes. It’s the voice of Marcella and Victor’s collaboration, erudite and elegant, often with a formality to it. I learned about their teamwork when we were shooting a story on Long Island in the ’90s. I peeked into Marcella’s neat ruled recipe notebooks, penned in longhand in perfect script, every word and every measurement in Italian. Every recipe of Marcella’s has been interpreted for us by Victor, and they complement each other seamlessly.
The recipes here come from one of Victor’s favorite books (and one of mine), the multi-award-winning Marcella Cucina, from 1997. In the endpapers, you too can peek into Marcella’s notebook to find her original “manuscript,” the hand-written recipes, in Italian, where the magic begins.—Tina Ujlaki