About Cooking and Joy

"I'm just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression" - Maya Angelou

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My grandfather and I baking pizza

Thirty years in Italy have given me much to write about. In a country where endemic corruption, organized crime and bad governance have cast a shadow over the beauty of this peculiar boot ; highlighting the good has become vital in the quest for each of us to do our part in restoring moral integrity. To the eyes of the world hospitality, solidarity and spontaneity have always been the “Italian way”. It is what tourists and newcomers expect to find when they arrive in Italy, because, for a very long time, Italians were, in fact, warm spirited and kind hearted. These fading qualities once made me very proud of my heritage.

Lately, as a writer, I have been digging into memories, trying to find all the cultural assets which gave Italy the reputation of being one of the most beautiful countries in the world. When I close my eyes to gather images from the past, the first thing I see, is a ten year old me wearing an apron, baking pizza with my grandfather in a kitchen filled with a kneaded aroma of olive oil, rosemary, flour, yeast, plum tomatoes, fresh ground coffee beans and ragù sauce slowly bubbling on our gas stove top.

Some people are very jelous of their family recipes. I am too, a little. But if cooking is about joy, what joy can come if it is not shared? Therefore, when asked for a recipe, I feel happy. It means that whatever I happened to cook made for a special moment. Good food has the power to bond friends and family. A dish prepared with care and thought is a way of expressing love, and love is not a clichè, it is the most important ingredient, the building block of positive change within our communities.

So, how does a good recipe generate positive change? I often bake my Italian grandmother’s ciambellone as a gift for family and friends, and yes, the recipe is included. But why pose limits to doing good, to sharing and spreading a little cheerfulness around the globe? Afterall, isn’t this the best use we can make of the net?

Thus, I am reclaiming my true Italian heritage! Please bake, enjoy and share the recipe of my Nonna’s (grandmother in Italian) ciambellone!

Recipe for Nonna’s Ciambellone

Flour 400 grams

Sugar 150grams

Cocoa powder 80grams

Eggs 4

Extra virgin olive oil 3/4 a glass

Milk 3/4 a glass

Zest of 1 lemon

Baking powder 35 grams

  1. Mix eggs and sugar together; add milk, extra virgin olive oil and lemon zest. Add flour and baking powder in this order.
  2. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan, pour half of batter in pan
  3. Add cocoa powder to remaining batter and mix well.
  4. Pour the remaining batter into the pan as well.
  5. Sprinkle son sugar on top of the ciambellone, place in static oven at 180 degrees celcius for about 45 minutes.

The more you practice the better it will turn out!

Tip: kids love ciambellone with chocolate spread!

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