By: Sabrina Cipriani – Montreal Times
Photos by: Sandra de Andrade
Fans were lined up in and around Les 5 Saisons on Greene Avenue in Westmount. You can find many of Lidia’s products at the store; some of her items include different variations of her pasta sauce and homemade pasta boxes. Her products say all natural and made with fresh ingredients. Bring a little of Lidia in your home.
I chit chatted with a few fans standing in line, mother and daughter team Teresa and Maria have been fans of Lidia for many years. Watching the reruns of her cooking show on the Italian network and catching new episodes on PBS. Teresa’s granddaughter Alessia wasn’t able to come that day, but she is by far the biggest fan of Lidia. Teresa loves that Lidia is family oriented. She has tried such recipes as Lidia’s chicken, ricotta cake, roast beef and her lemon cookies. Maria feels, “Lidia is an immigrant success story. She is a very good role model for women of all ages but especially of her generation because she dealt with the conditions of being an immigrant and has thrived as the face of an American Italian woman”.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lidia Matticchio Bastianich famous for her fresh Italian cooking and baking. We began our conversation with something we have in common, our moms have the same name; you don’t hear it very often, Erminia.
Me: How many cookbooks does this make now?
Lidia: 9 cookbooks and I wrote 3 for children, I have “Nonna tells me a story”
Me: What is the focus in this particular cookbook?
Lidia: Well, it’s Lidia’s Commonsense Italian cooking, simple format recipes. I tell you how to place your roast in the oven depending what kind you are cooking; there are different racks. I added kitchen commonsense tips to help you reach the best results.
Me: What inspires you to keep writing new cookbooks? Is it your travels, your love for food?
Lidia: Being in touch with my audience out there. Every two years, I come out with a new cookbook. What I have learned, I want to share with my audience.
Me: Is your new cookbook meant for people who cook on the run and those who are still learning to cook?
Lidia: Absolutely, they are approachable and durable recipes. They have the maximum flavor, simple ingredients, not to go and buy 20 ingredients.
Me: Is there something special you would like to tell me about this latest cookbook?
Lidia: I want the people to read it, relate to it and connect to it. I want them to empower and awaken themselves in their own kitchen.
Me: Have you ever cooked with wild game such as deer and moose, I have dabbled in it?
Lidia: My grandfather was a hunter; I have cooked with, pheasant, wild turkey, wild boar. They all have less fat and are very flavorful. This is what nature gives you.
Me: How did you become such a brilliant cook, did your Mom teach you? Was it in Italy before you came to the United States?
Lidia: Growing up on the farm in Italy, I picked figs from the trees, harvested the tomatoes, fed the chickens, we had the wine and olive oil. My grandmother taught me, I was very involved as a little girl. Then we came over to have a better life. My husband was in the restaurant business.
Me: What are your most favorite Italian dishes?
Lidia: Pasta with seasonal vegetables, olive oil and cheese.
Me: My families tradition for lasagna stems from Provvidenti Campobasso, they add boiled sliced eggs inside with little meatballs and mozzarella and Romano cheese…have you ever tried that or made that?
Lidia: I have, I know that tradition; they wanted the enrichment of proteins to come out in the lasagna; put all the proteins together.
Me: What are some staple ingredients in your kitchen?
Lidia: Garlic, onions, anchovies, good olive oil, pasta, tomato paste, all of these with meat and vegetables is great.
Me: What is a regular comfort meal you enjoy?
Lidia: Spaghetti with garlic and oil. Chicken soup with rice and cheese inside.
Me: Do you have a funny story of a kitchen disaster? Mine was years ago when I first adventured into cooking, I made a baked potato soup. I left the skins on the garlic, when we sat down to eat; my brother and father were pulling them out of their mouths, asking what this was. It took me a few minutes to figure it out.
Lidia: (She laughed at my story and said it was a great story. She didn’t have anything she could think of that has happened to her.) Salt falling sometimes all over the floor, when I make a mistake, I just start again or using salt instead of sugar.
Me: Who would you love to see dining in your restaurant?
Lidia: I have cooked for Pope Benedict, one day I hope to cook for Pope Francis. Sophia Loren, I saw her once, but I would like to cook for her. Italian Composers Verdi and Rossini, , they loved food and music.
Me: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Lidia: Pediatrician, but instead of treating children, I nurture them.
Me: Would you consider coming back to Montreal to give some cooking classes?
Lidia: Canada, Montreal, Toronto I love them and love coming. They are like European cities.
I encountered more fans in line, the excitement on their face was contagious; they were bursting with excitement! Mother and daughter team Ida and Giuliana. Ida says that they love Lidia and love her mom Erminia too. Ida has tried her meatloaf recipe and peppers with chicken. Daughter Giuliana loves to watch her show to get ideas. “I have made her ricotta cakes, stuffed meat, and her homemade pasta, the Italian meatloaf with the eggs too.”
Sarah, who was near the top of the line, says that she is looking forward to making Lidia’s homemade pasta this spring. Anna, who was right behind her, says that she has been watching Lidia on television for 4 or 5 years now.
Lidia seems to be in many Quebec kitchens and on their dinner plates. What’s in your kitchen?
For more on Lidia, her restaurants in New York City and her delicious recipes; please go to lidiasitaly.com