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"Food History and the Responsibility to Preserve Recipes": This week Kate and Max sit down with Author and culinary educator Katie Parla to talk about preserving historical recipes and the role the media plays in shaping the many forces of the food world.

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Transcript

- Hi everyone, and welcome to Tastemade presents: Table Setting. I'm Kate Green. - And I'm Max Block. - And we are coming to you from our studio in sunny Santa Monica, California. - It's actually sunny today. - It's actually sunny today. - It's sunny - it burned off. - Yeah, it's sunny - As always, we'll be looking at ways in which kitchen and culture collide with some of the food world's most inspiring personalities. - And this week we're gonna be chatting about history and responsibility to preserve recipes, with Katy Parla, Food Journalist, Educator, and Author of - [Both] "Food of the Italian South". - We'll also be continuing our conversation on how media affects food in different ways. So welcome Katie. - Thank you guys so much for having me. - Yes. - And you just got into L.A. twenty hours ago. - That's right. - And you've been on, I know you've been on a whirlwind tour for this book. - Yes. - Uh, three weeks is what you were saying? - I've been on a three month tour. - [Max] Three month tour. - Yeah. - [Max] Okay. - [Kate] That's a long time. - It's a super long time, but it's one of the ways that you get the word out about a book, especially one about a part of Italy that not many people are super familiar with. - So obviously as the economy shifts, that affects you know the food culture of the world. How, how do you see that? What does that look like to you? - In Italy and elsewhere food is expensive. So, when people are looking to shop for ingredients or to consume things at restaurants or cafes often, it's a desire to save money rather than to support small producers that drives their choices. And although I live in Italy, I travel the world and I see this sort of same thing repeat again and again. Large chains, global chains are able to really take the lion share of the market by offering benefits, fidelity programs and discounts. Things that small producers who need to charge a fair wage can't afford. - Most people think of Italian food, they think spaghetti and meatballs, pepperoni pizza and while there is a huge adoration for that, you know that's not necessarily Italian food. So how do we further that conversation. How do you educate someone who, they think one way but need to understand the entire scope of what Italian food really is? - And the history of it. - Yeah. - Well, I think pepperoni pizza and spaghetti and meatballs while delicious, you're right, they're not Italian. They're Italian-American. - [Kate] American. - [Max] Yeah. - [Kate] Yeah. - And it's really specific to the Italian-American communities in certain parts of the States, whereas if you go to Italian-American, or rather, Italian places in Germany, or Australia, you'll find different translations of Italian cuisine. Which the concept of Italian cuisine, in it of itself, I think is flawed, because there is no Italian cuisine. There are thousands of regional cuisines. - [Max] Yeah. - And I'm based in Lazio. The food of Rome, the capital, is vastly different from the food of Frosinone, which is an hour drive away. And there are these, sort of, exponential food realities. Climate and topography and economy influence what people eat, how frequently and, I think it's thorough education and by promoting certain travel experiences that you can teach people about how food culture changes from place to place and although it's really expensive to go on a plane and travel to Italy and spend, you know, three weeks, or, in my case sixteen years-- - studying the food cultures. There are some really wonderful resources and, in the seats, in particular, a lot of chefs who are devoted to promoting Italian regional cuisine, rather than Italian cuisine. - What spurred, 16 years ago-- - I was literally just gonna ask what made you just pick up and decide-- - 'Cause 16 years ago-- - to move to Italy? - Food media was so different. I mean, to have that recognition within yourself to say, - [Kate & Max] "I'm gonna do this." - "This is where I'm going." What really was that? What was that a-ha moment? - Yeah, I did not know that food writing was a thing when I moved 16 years ago. It was something I would learn. But I was drawn to Italy by archeology and art and stuck around for the food and wine. And one of the major-- - [Kate] I love that. - driving forces-- - [Max] Not a bad thing to stick around for. - Yeah - Behind my career, was not perhaps to take, the simple route of writing guides to eating ten great pasta dishes in down town Rome. To be fair I do write those. - I was going to call it out - We are all thankful for those. - We do need those - Yeah - Those are important, but that's not my passion My passion is to find vanishing traditions or to track down recipes that have disappeared from common use and then document those and talk about the reasons why they have either declined or vanished. - So then...speaking of reasons why that happens maybe people aren't really that familiar with like political laws and things like that obviously shape the way that people eat. Are there any, like, recent laws that come to mind, that have, that you have seen as a global trend? That abject food and understand that? - Yeah, for sure, I mean I think hygiene laws are really common and, you know, in Europe now, we have the European Union that passes a lot of laws in addition to the ones of Nations that dictate how certain food products can be made. So, lets say you in Rural Compania, and you have been making cheese in the same way that your parents and grandparents and great grandparents have and then going back even further generations. And then a law is passed that in order to produce cheese for commercial consumption, the cheese has to be made in a room that is tiled, and has certain ventilation and has a certain set of dimensions and that in a way sterile, which is not an ideal location for cheese production. So, Dominic Dortello, is this really wonderful man who features in the book, still makes cheese, totally illegally, sells it to people who are willing to risk, um, basically fines for re-selling it in their own establishments. - They don't shut it down? - [Katie] So to get to his production hut you literally have to drive in a four wheel drive vehicle through a dried up lake bed. There is no road, it's not a road, people who know he is there find him and he is only there during certain times of the year, because, in the traditional way he makes cheese only in the summertime. When the animals can hang out in these plains that are at high altitude and they wouldn't be able to find food or graze in the winter when there is snow. So he walks them down to the coast where his other farm is. - So, would you say there is a real regional approach preserving recipes, I mean, when you think about Italy as a whole and all the micro climates and all the little communities there or something as large as the way that Africa preserves recipes versus Ireland. I mean, what, how do those things kind of take shape from your.. what you have learned? - So, I don't know if there is necessarily a national identity when it comes to preserving food ways, you might sight, the sort of more main stream, like Danish approach, in the Rundyedzuppy, which is certainly not just preserving traditions but also finding lost ingredients and things like that. - [Max] Yeah - So to say that there is an Irish approach, or a Moroccan approach, or an Italian approach, I think would be flawed because we are talking about tiny realities. There are ways in which, you know, in the depths of the Cielo National Park or the Pollino National Park, in Barcila na..... People are preserving their traditions, and the next national park doesn't have as many people that are able to preserve traditions because infrastructure decisions from the turn of the twentieth century prevent people from being able to get things to any type of market. And I think, Italy and many other nations are becoming increasingly urban, people are living less in villages and rural zones and more in cities. And so, places or rather producers who are able to move their products from the production zone to the consumption capitals are the ones that are able to thrive and sometimes that's a matter of someone investing in a region. Like, I am thinking of Franco Pepe. He is amazing, you guys know him, he comes to L.A. all the time and he is this wonderful pizzaollo who has turned, what you know, even locals who are very proud of their pizza, would say is just pizza into a cultural phenomenon. And, has really inspired people to visit his small town, and by serving them pizza, which is a super simple former street food. He is providing them with the opportunity to connect to farmers through the grain and - [Kate] All those producers - The tomatoes, and all those producers and to the Buffalo Mozarella. - Its all made in that whole area - Exactly. Its all made super locally, sometimes he gets things 40 minutes away at the Amalfi coast but that's considered foreign produce. Its kind of - [Kate] That's crazy. - It's amazing. Yeah. - So, whose responsibility do you think that it is to preserve those recipes? Is it up to the younger generation to kind of seek that out? Or the older generation to pass that along? I mean, obviously, again, it varies per village. - [Katie] Yeah - But is there one that is a little bit more important than the other? That you see more of? - [Katie] I mean, I see plenty of people of an advance age, ready to share their stories. I mean, this book wouldn't exist if literally dozens of people didn't pour their hearts out and talk about the need to preserve cultural traditions. But it is not appealing in some economies to dedicate your life to promoting cheese makers in your village. There is not necessarily economic reward. Where there is you will a greater sort of movement towards doing that. I think what it takes is perhaps for the older generation to continue saying what I hear them say all the time. Our traditions are vanishing, if someone doesn't do something, they're gone and you going to be stuck eating food with no flavor. - Yes - And that is bad for everyone. - Thank goodness for that. - How are you identifying these people? Are you like, that's what I want for the book? This is the cheese maker, this is the, you know, the pasta maker, these are the people. Are they? Like, now you have been there for sixteen years, do you just have these relationships and you are like this is what the book should look like? I know you were saying the creation process for the book has taken this much time and then you just write it really quickly. But, how are you finding the individuals that you are kind of leveraging the book from? - [Katie] That's a great question and I have a very long answer but I will keep it brief. So you guys can go out and do the same things. It doesn't take long to become a regular whether it is a bakery, or a tratzeria or a agritrizmo So, even after visiting a place in South Italy once or twice, the owners of these places are ready to share their intel with you. And, really, I travel only for food and drinks. So, when I go to rural Talento and I talk to the owner of, you know, my B and B, and say I would love to know more about the cheese you have Like, people are so interested in taking you to that place, showing you where the food is made Because not everyone is so interested and people are so enthusiastic about their local traditions. - [Kate] They probably happy. - They so thrilled to take you in their like little 4x4 Panda and through the lake bed to find the cheese makers. - Right - But, you know, the sources for these lost and disappearing dishes are a combination of people I have met through travel and then people who I have contacted because I know that they have a shop in the middle of the Sannio that only sells pasta and flour and products from that small region. When you tell them, like I would love to tell the story or your region. Of course, you can imagine, people are super generous with their time and their connections. - They probably really happy to have you there and - Yeah - And preserve all that. - Those are the names you will find in the book. - I have two things really quickly. First thing is that I have realized that we are all kind of dressed like call me by your name. "Summer Vacation", so we ready to go like whenever. [Laughter] - You have also been in L.A., you are spending more time in L.A. And L.A. has like a great culinary history a rich culinary history as well. - Oh Yeah - Are you finding yourself really inspired and exploring this community? Like how does our cullinary history differ from beyond obviously the amount of time, but through like what you have done in Italy? - I mean, in Italy you find a really, sort of, Humarginous food culture compared to other European capitals or culture capitals. In Rome if you are being exotic you are going out for a Neopolitan Pizza. You are still eating something from a land that is not too far away, and Los Angeles, is rich culinary tradition is the product of this like wonderful mix of people coming from all over the world And Earning livings through food and in Italy it is not like that, and I am so inspired by the journalism that is coming out of this city right now. - Yeah, it's really great. - I am so thrilled to read what Tazel Rouw writes about California and Los Angeles. You know, the L.A. Times, of course, is doing wonderful work and will continue to do so. I could not be more happy to be eating here at a time also that Chefs that are not necessarily like, white dudes, are getting some attention. - [Kate] Yeah - And, it's about time. - [Max And Kate] Yeah - So we are, we in a really good moment and I am excited to... - [Kate] Agreed - To sort of graze through the city and see what's up. - Do you have any like favorites in the book? I mean its kind of like hard to choose one - [Katie] Yes - but does anything stand out or a couple of them stand out to you that you really just.." Your hearts in there. - That you stumbled upon and was like "Oh my God!" - This is incredible - "This is the story"? - Yeah, there are two things that really stand out, one is Lemon Salad. You guys in L.A. are so lucky, you have this, like, beautiful citrus. And if you slice up a lemon and just slice it really thin, put some salt and olive oil on it, little mint, you've got a salad. Skin and all, pip and all, it's delicious. - [Kate] Who knew? - And that's a classic from Procida, an island off the coast of Naples. And then Uponcuote which is basically a stale bread and cheese casserole. It's like three ingredients, there's tomatoes in it too, you bake it, it's a cheesy delicious bready mess and I love, I love that in the South, people don't waste anything so if you have stale bread you are going to find ways to - [Kate}] Ways to use it - Ways to use it - [Kate] Yip I love that - So you would say that you truly can solve a culture through its food? - [Katie] Yeah, I mean it's one of the most important vehicles for doing so, because there is a necessity for everyone to eat. So, you kind of don't have to do so much work to convince people that there is a need to preserve these things, when - [Kate] They have to eat - They have to eat - [Max] Yeah - They have to eat - [Max] Yeah - [Max] I mean it was the - Common denominator - everyone has to eat - I, yeah, I mean I have noticed this about myself that I [Laughter] - That I do, do as well. When you were growing up, like how did you kind of [Mumbles], a family that cooked together, was food something that connected you guys. You know, what are those, you know those connective tissues that have kind of moved you along your trajectory? - Ahh, well my mom is a wonderful cook, she, you know, raised me when she was in the restaurant business, my dad has a restaurant in New Jersey. I always have been very fascinated and obsessed with hospitality. I have always worked front of house, and, yeah that idea of like providing people with not just with calories but also with hospitality is something that I sort of grew up with. Which I think translates through my writing, and sort of the idea of curating not just recipes but providing the opportunity for people to follow those recipes, to create an experience. So I, like, I'm dedicated to food from like the time I'm in Utero, practically. [Laughter] - Do you have a favorite region? I know I am asking you what's your favorite - [Katie] Oh My God! It's so hard - But do you have one? Cause I feel like that's a really, really tough one. Cause like you said that they all so different - Okay, yeah, Compania. I love Compania so intensely - [Kate] Mumbles - Buffalo Mozzarella, fino de la vino, wonderful tomatoes and a really amazing interior. People know Compania for Naples, the Amalfi coast, Pompei and they all great, however, head to the Sannio or Epenia, they are grazing goats and sheep everywhere, the food is incredible, the roasted lamb is the best you will every eat, the soups are incredible. And there, you know, is a lot of pork fat in everything which I am very into. [Laughter] - [Kate] I am into that as well [Laughter] - [Katie] There is a lot of frying - Yeah - I love it - Fried food, pizza - Pizza, yeah, its got all the things that I love. - Have you traversed the entirety of Italy? Is there any region, that you are still like, that's the next one that you have on your target? - [Katie] I mean I really, really love - I mean its been sixteen years so like yeah - So like I would assume so right [Laughter] - I have traveled all over Italy. But I don't know Sudenia as well as I want to and there is a reason for that. The cultures very opaque. It's an island and in Italy, you know, our famous islands Procida, De Ponzia, Sicily. They all like very warm and welcoming and Sardinia's a little bit, like, more bristle. Like people are tougher and won't necessarily welcome you in the same way. - [Kate] Right So I really want to crack the code. - [Kate] Crack, Crack it, yeah - Plus there is a lot of pork fat, so... - Yeah, which is always gonna be - I mean [Laughter] - There's a theme, I see a theme here. - Have pork fat will travel. [Laughter] - The next portion of our podcast is our quick fire round. So, I know Kate has one that she queues up every time that she loves to go first with, just give us your first kind of answers, off the - Pork chop - You know, off we go. - Or, better, better, it could work. We will see how you do. - Okay, if Kanye West was a food what would he be? - Pork Chop [Laughter] - Fine, fine, okay - I will take that one. - What is your go to burger order? - Cheese Burger with Bacon - Okay, just no - That's it? - That's it, cool. - I mean, yeah, just a lot of the places I go don't offer... they like fast foods spots. They don't offer like cooking temperature. - I mean like have you ever been out? - Yeah,its fine - But what if, what's, Okay, I am going to re-phase What is your go to order for making it yourself, or at a home, if you could have anything you wanted on it, what would it be? - Oh, ahh - [Kate] Forget fast food - Yeah - [Kate] No offense - [Max] Pork fat? - Pork fat. No, um, tomato, ketchup, melted, cheese, meat? - [Max] Sure [Laughter] - Why not. I know we have now kind of like, deviated from quick fire. But so Italy, do you get like obviously, do you get homesick for a burger, for certain things, that kind are of quaint essentially, American? And do you? - I, yeah - And do you feel like those things, because social media has played such a pivotal role, like, its avocado toast now, like a crazy thing, that people in Italy are like, this is what's on our breakfast menu, everywhere. - Yeah, there are a couple of places that serve it. - People probably aren't like shown where their instagram of avocado toast. [Laughter] - There is a great place that just opened in Rome called Marygold that now has avocado toast. It's 8 bucks. Only ex-pats will eat it. - [Max] Yeah - Romans are like, I don't understand any of this. - [Katie] What is this? - [Kate] Yeah - But I mean, I assume the Marygold still must be like, for young millennial Americans, they are like seeking that out, so they probably could be crazy - Or Tourists - That's a restaurant that could be even busier than some of the restaurants that have this amazing historical tradition that they're in touch with and people just see avocado toast on a menu and they are like, I am going to go with that, because that's. - Yeah, because I know what it is - Because its what I know. - [Katie] Marygold actually breaks a lot moulds, because its sort of an old day cafe which is not the sort of classic Roman eatery. It doesn't do Trattoria Food, so you don't walk in and get like Anamatrisa or Carbonara. They doing seasonal stuff and like beautiful salads, so it should be a lot more crowded. - [Kate] So its like a Los, like a Los Angeles restaurant which is on every corner here. - [Katie] It feels a lot like that, yeah, but you know, the homesickness question. I am homesick for diversity and variety, and while Italy is like wonderful in a lot of ways, there isn't a lot of respect for non-Italian food culture. - Sure - That makes sense - Sure I miss burgers but not as much as the fact that I can get dumplings and taco's on the same day. [Laughter] - Yeah - And they are really good. - Okay, so go to cocktail, you have one cocktail for the rest of your life, what is it? - [Katie] Sasrec - She's like, before, you didn't even finish it, she's like cocktail, I know my answer to this. - I love a Sasarec, it gets me super buzzed and reminds me of New Orleans, its the best. - I love that. - Yeah - Okay, so we already, kind of discussed burgers but it you had a sandwich named after you what would be in that? - Um, Pork udder - [Max] Pork fat [Laughter] - Pork udder, literally, Coxnic paper, in China Town, did have the Parla sandwich, - Oh really - Yeah - That's great - It was very Parla vibes, it was roasted pork, and cooked ham and portinioli. - [Max] Okay, did you - [Katie] On a Ciabatta - They came up with this and they like, - They came up with it? - And here's what we thinking, this is the Parla Pork udder sandwich? - So a lot of the collaborations that I do, I send, you know, whoever is producing the food a copy of the book, we talk about some dishes that might inspire a sandwich or a dumpling filling or whatever. And I let people freestyle because, you know, this book of course has recipes in it but I want people to also take inspiration from the flavor combinations and the ingredients. Which is exactly what Wax paper does so the Katie Parla is a porky.. [Laughter] - I love it - A porky mayo sandwich on a Ciabatta. - Shout out to Wax Paper they are the best sandwiches in Los Angeles - Agreed - Yeah, that's true - That's amazing. - I love it - Thank you for taking some time out of your tour to sit down with us. - Gracious - It made me super happy - For anyone who is listening or watching where can they find you? Where can they purchase the book? - The book is available wherever books are sold [Laughter] - And Now Serving in China Town has many signed copies - [Kate] Wow! - And wherever I have been on my book tour - [Kate] You have left some behind? - The details are at Katie Parla .com, I have gone into independent book shops and signed copies. So support your local indies, even though you can get this thing on Amazon. - Amazing - Love it Okay, well thanks to our producer and director Darren Fresnet, our EPJ Holser our on line producer Ryan Diddy - Our Director of Production Michael Gore, and our associate producer [Kate And Max] Michael Walker. - Okay we will see you next time - Bye everybody.