(Ri) Hi Marta! How are you? We have recently seen each other at the cooking class where you entertained the participants of Manger #2 with cooking lessons that stand by four rules: watch, prepare, taste, and ask for seconds! Starting from the beginning: where did this path start from and made you develop a passion for food as a means of cultural encounter and exchange?
Hi guys! I am fine, thank you. I am happy to see the city coming back to life!
The day I spent with Mimi was very funny and interesting. She dances between people with grace, stimulating enthusiasm around her, and Oddur, her husband, is an incredible host. We did a cooking class completely centred on Venetian cicchetti, antique recipes you almost cannot find anymore, like the masanete.
And for the record, yes, these four rules work! When we talk about Italian and Venetian cuisine, as for all regional cuisines, we talk about family cooking which is imparted orally through the red string of knowledge shared between the women of the family.
As of today, we can get closer to all the cuisines of the world and try to understand their meaning, and that is what we try to do when we organise a workshop: we try to pass down the meaning of a certain dish and of Venetian cuisine, their historical collocation, rather than tell about ingredient dosages.
We try to help everyone learn and understand by themselves, decide if a dish is missing salt, if it would be interesting to add some contrast or even take out an ingredient.
Observation of what we do, preparation, tasting. Then we confront each other, we fix and we taste again. Most of the time it is so beautiful to see how people, even in front of ingredients that they maybe do not know that well, manage to understand what would be the taste and smell direction the dish should follow. I think learning is mostly this, or better, this is what interests and fascinates us.
This path does not have a beginning, because I have always loved food. It has always been something I have thought about a lot. Tastes, proportions, perfumes, even the bad smells at the market. When as a little girl my parents brought me travelling around the Mediterranean to visit archaeological sites, with our Fiat and Canadian tent, we passed these markets that to me, a child, smelled bad. Today even those smells and perfumes are a part of my baggage, of my memory.
Then, at a certain point, food became my job, a little less than ten years ago, but the cultural part of it has always been part of my life because of the education I received.
At that same occasion, other than seeing you work along with Beatrice Marca, your right hand, we were enraptured by the stories behind every recipe, ingredient and technique that you shared with us. It seemed to us that, in your work, you put as much effort in practical research as you do for the practical and historical ones, is that so?
Beatrice and I share this project of diffusion of knowledge on food. She is young, prepared and she studies a lot. Art and cuisine for her, architecture and cuisine for me: evidently, we did not meet by chance. Taste, good taste, and beauty are our common ground. We have twenty years worth of age difference and different life experience, but with dishes we talk the same language.
Every ingredient has an origin, grows in a specific place after travelling through history. Venetian cuisine is full of ingredients and beautiful stories to tell that come from far away. They are stories that keep moving us, and we try to share them with those who decide to cook with us.
Tell us a little about your cuisine: are there any timeless classics that you like preparing more often than other dishes? And which ones are those most preferred by foreign guests? For us, your masanete and the dessert with baicoli, mascarpone cheese and mustard were unforgettable.
Every season has its classics, and nature decides which ones they are, not us. We limit ourselves to finding them at the Rialto market where we replenish our kitchens every day. You can now find castraure (the first cut of the purple artichoke of Sant’Erasmo) and we have already used them in the most dishes possible! They often are an unknown ingredient to our guests, especially in their raw version, but they still earn a certain success.
And finally, what bond keeps you close to Venice? Tell us about your relationship with this city.
I was born here. I look at Venice and I sometimes ask myself if it is still worth it. Well, the answer is always yes.
For a lot of reasons: for its beauty, for the interesting people that live in it, for the laguna and the sea, which to me are vital elements I could not live without. Beatrice, however, actually chose it. She came here as a university student, or better, she chose to study in Venice in order to move and live here, ten years ago.
Some aspects of this city, especially in these last few years, can be frustrating at times. But seeing that so many young people try their best to have a shot at living here persuades me even more that this is still an extraordinary place to be living in.