There are things in life we just cannot resist; it’s as simple as that.
I remember working in the gigantic kitchen of the Loews Hotel during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival a few years back, with multiple chefs preparing a menu for a 3,000-person tented event. It was a pleasurable mayhem of cooks, ingredients and loud jokes, and nobody yet was taking selfies. One of my chef friends was preparing chowder in a gigantic cooker; he climbed up on a short step stool and poured a bucket full of corn into the soup. He started laughing as a member of his crew passed him a second bucket, filled with what looked, at least from my station, like some sort of meat. My interest in the ongoing chowder preparation did not go unnoticed. My friend looked at me and said, “Everything tastes better with corn and bacon!”
In all honesty I really could not reply to that, as I did not agree at all. I did not grow up with a taste for either corn or bacon, simply because in Italy they are not popular ingredients. I like them both, but there’s no emotional attachment there. But the thought gave me pause, especially since my friend was sporting an ear-to-ear smile; he clearly was truly in love with his recipe, already longing for the first taste of what to him was going to be delicious.
Our family diet is extremely differentiated. We cook fresh every single day, and we use every ingredient we like, in moderation; and even though pasta is a big favorite of everybody in the house, we manage not to have it every day! We grill steaks, bake bread and cakes, and slow-cook soups, sauces and jams. There are obviously those few ingredients that might be hard to find (like lardo) or that are just out of the daily budget (like truffles), but in general we believe that even (or especially) when you like something very much, is always wise not to spoil the pleasure; have a little bit of everything, anytime you want.
However, if you asked me what my guilty pleasure is, what “does not taste like anything else,” I would admit that my biggest indulgence is a full bag of Italian cookies dipped in a glass of cold whole milk, late at night.
As for Debi, she occasionally comes back from the corner deli with a small bag of her favorite barbecue-flavored chips. And if I give her a strange look, she responds, “Hey, you’re the one that sent me to buy beer!”
Tune in to Extra Virgin tonight at 8pm ET to watch Debi and Gabriele meet with master lardo makers to see what goes into the 6-month to 2-year process to make one of the world’s most delicious luxuries.