La cucina povera is an Italian phrase that means “peasant cooking”.
It reflects a philosophy that is common in all cultures: to make do with what you’ve got. But it also goes beyond just “making do”. La cucina povera challenges the cook to transform humble ingredients into dishes that are more than the sum of their parts. To take humble, inexpensive ingredients and make them sing together in harmony to create healthy, hearty dishes that taste so much better than one would expect.
Using ingredients that are in season is very much part of it. They taste better, are cheaper and are better for you, containing more vitamins and minerals than those grown, picked early and stored/frozen to be sold out of season.
What better way to have access to in season ingredients than to grow them yourself. And in all honesty, the easiest and quickest way to get it happening at your place is to grow your own herbs.
I dare you!
Hint – start with mint, you just cant kill it. My mint is in a pot on my back deck (it can take over if it is in the ground), in a small amout of dirt growing under another plant. I hardly have to water it and it has died out several times but it just keeps coming back – brilliant!
But to me, la cucina povera really is a state of mind.
The spirit of la cucina povera is about embracing constraints and discovering the delicious creativity that can spring from making do with what you’ve got – which is why I love it so much.
Our culture pushes us hard the other way and tries to teach us more expensive ingredients equals more or better flavour. But I’m not one for conforming to societies rules. Just ask my father lol! He was born before the war in Calabria, Italy. He grew up poor when there was no such thing as la cucina povera. He lived it!
His whole village was poor, and peasant cooking was a normal way of life for them. Men were in charge of gathering the food while women were in charge of cooking it. And because ingredients were basic and seasonal, women had to be creative, to get the best out of their produce.
I admit with a kooky sense of pride, even now my Dad grows the best tomatoes I have ever tasted right in his back yard.
So where did I turn when I had to cut back our budget? Yes, you guessed it.
And what a great celebration of food I have discovered on my travels with la cucina povera that I hope you will embrace and love as much as we do at the Cottage.
Do you use your back yard to grow food?