Ten years ago Sjaak and Carla Sies started the ‘Voedselbank’, the Dutch version of the food bank, in their backyard in Rotterdam. Today, there are 136 branches in the Netherlands.
Now there’s a book to remember these past years and most of all, remember that food banks are needed more than ever. Every week, hundreds of volunteers help give out crates full of food to families and individuals who can’t afford the most basic foods. Their up-close interviews and portraits make the problem of poverty and hunger in rich countries painfully tangible.
The section I was involved in is called ‘Cooking with crates’. We received two crates of donated food and made several dishes with the ingredients, with as little added ingredients as possible. A bit like in the TV program“Ready, Steady, Cook”, but with really random stuff. Pink-glazed cakes (the famous Dutch ‘roze koeken’), organic (!) hamburgers, cassava chips, avocados and gluten-free pancake mix. We knocked ourselves out. Really, with the help of two wonderful food bank volunteers we managed to get some pretty tasty results. A fennel-potato soup, a tropical salad with mango and avocado, ‘rustic’ hamburgers and Provençal pancakes.
10 jaar Voedselbank – Iedereen aan tafel (in Dutch) – Niels de Jong
Stories, messy styling and recipe development by yours truly, cool detailed food photography by Maarten Laupman.
Any food that is not Italian is hard to come by in acceptable renditions in Rome, but this especially holds true for Mexican food. Why Mexican in particular? That’s hard to tell, I just know that the people who’ve stubbornly ventured out to try yet another Mexican restaurant always came back disappointed. For American expats a good burrito is almost as dear to them as their beloved hamburger, so you can guess their enthusiastic responses when my friend Luis and I suggested to organize a burrito pop up on our rooftop terrace. Friends were invited, who could then invite other friends, as long as they rsvp-ed. This concept appeared to be a wee bit difficult in Italy, since committing to anything on a Saturday night before Saturday afternoon is basically not done. We were expecting anywhere between 15 and 45 people.
Choices for the night were:
- Guacamole with nachos (to start off with)
- Burrito with tinga de pollo (pulled chicken in a chipotle-tomato sauce)
- Burrito with asado (braised pork in a chili-orange sauce)
- Burrito with grilled vegetables and chilies
We decorated the rooftop terrace with improvised furniture, Luis made the most gorgeous colorful papel picado flags and we compiled a Mexican playlist. Friends helped out when it got busy – and a rush it was! In the end, we served about 50 friends and friends of friends. Luis and I were exhausted but happy as we looked around seeing friends chatting, laughing and chilling out on a magical rooftop on a warm September night in Rome.
Pictures by Sophie Lemaitre & Katie Parla
If you want to know real Roman cuisine, start with pasta. I recently put together an iPhone app that will give you a nice primer on classics as Carbonara or Amatriciana and other classics. It tells you in what trattorie to eat them and where to buy fresh pasta. Plus you’ll learn about ‘al dente’, (forbidden) ingredients and pasta shapes.
In the Eternal City, hundreds of trattorias have been serving the same dishes since time immemorial and nobody ever seems to grow tired of them. But who would? Picture a steaming bowl of perfect al dente pasta glistening with a velvety tomato sauce, containing tiny bits of crispy pork and grated pecorino cheese. Hungry yet? And that’s only the Amatriciana! Wait until you hear about the others, like Carbonara, Gricia and Cacio e pepe.
With only a few ingredients, these pasta dishes are prodigies of the cucina povera (roughly translated as ‘poor’ or peasant cuisine). Unless they were part of the papal court or an aristocrat, Romans’ go-to fare was rustic and filling, characterized by quick and easy to make dishes, with seasonal and local ingredients. Romans still consume them at home or at one of the city’s many family-run trattorias, (generally) no-frills eateries with harsh lighting and simple tablecloths.
However, modest looks can be deceiving. It takes an experienced chef to get the pasta just right (which is al dente, with a bite), use the right ingredients for the sauce (no cream in the Carbonara!) and mix it all together to create a dish that is far greater than the sum of its ingredients.
This tour takes you to the trattorias where you’ll eat fine renditions of the classics. At each stop I’ll tell you something about the restaurant, but focus mainly on one single dish that they do really well. It tells you about the origins of that dish and the unbending rules of preparation. Plus tips on what to drink with them.
Get the pasta app here: http://rama.is/tours/Pasta_alla_Romana
Ecco: the new 100% Rome. Updating this guidebook was the reason I came back to the Eternal City last Summer. I pounded the pavement, sometimes with 30+°C temperatures, to find exciting sights, shops and restaurants and re-checked previous entries (disclaimer: not all entries are personal favorites, but I had to make some compromises). I’m glad I accepted this gig, because other chance meetings followed which made it possible for me to be here. Now I’m working as a sommelier, market tour guide, and I’m still writing about food and wine. It’s all pretty damn good.
So, for all of you Dutch-speaking people out there who are planning a Rome trip, here’s the link.
Basta with the personal horn-tooting. I have more to share. Last month, a couple of my friends were featured in a CNN documentary on Rome, sharing their favorite Rome locations and things to do. It’s so much fun seeing Hande drink water from a nasone (and wine!) like a pro, Jess hit the Pigneto nightlife, and so on. I was supposed to be in it, too, but except for a one second shot in which I shove some goat cheese in my mouth (I don’t even LIKE goat cheese!), my part got completely cut out. Hey, it happens to the best of us. Nonetheless, I encourage you to watch it here!
For English-speaking Rome visitors, my friend Katie Parla has a book out with walking tours in Rome. Fifteen itineraries that will let you discover the best neighborhoods.
Lastly, some REAL horns. My roommate ‘Miss Tess from New York’ will be performing with her big band Bixilander Swing Orchestra all over Rome this and the coming month. If you’re a fan of thirties and forties jazz, American jazz evergreens and the like, go check them out!