Some of you already know this, but for those who don’t, I’m happy to share with you a new website I co-founded with three other food journalists: American Food Roots. Our mission is to tell America’s food stories, celebrate the many diverse cultures that have contributed—and continue to contribute—to the American food scene, and to explore why we eat what we eat.
Our venture has been some two years in the making, and we finally went “live” in December. Among the (many) wonderful components of AFR is a section called My American Roots: 2-minute videos of people telling their own food stories—sharing a recipe or talking with a family member or friend about a favorite food or food memory.
Another feature I love—and which we will continue to add to—is 50 States. We have written culinary bios for every state, but our goal is to populate these pages with reported stories, as well as recipes and stories from people who are from and live in those states. Hopefully that means you!
Me + my apron-clad partners Michele Kayal, Bonny Wolf & Carol Guensburg. Photo by Foster Wiley
Since our launch we’ve covered stories from Minnesota wild rice to the past and future of hard cider. Our Christmas cookie contest included a winning submission by Adri Barr Crocetti. Our American Made section highlights U.S. foods and food products, such as Virginia-made KimKim Sauce. (You can read some background on the site and the four of us here.)
As the only Italiana among the four I’ve been enjoying writing about the food of our wonderfully diverse Italian-American community, including a piece on the Feast of the Seven Fishes for the holidays—and here I would like to give a shout-out to Frank of Memorie di Angelina, who shared his own experience and perspective on this tradition. Be sure to read the comments that follow the story for a lively debate. We Italians are an opinionated bunch. Who knew?! (We all knew, of course.)
Le Virtu’s executive chef, Joe Cicala, stretches maccheroni alla mugnaia, a specialty of Abruzzo
My most recent piece is about Joe Cicala, excecutive chef at Le Virtu’, in Philadelphia, a restaurant that focuses almost exclusively on la cucina Abruzzese (again, shouts out to friends Helen Free and Linda Prospero of Ciao Chow Linda for introducing me to this gem). In addition to meticulously reproducing some of Abruzzo’s most unique dishes, Joe makes his own salumi at Le Virtu’—some 30 different kinds—as well as in-house liqueurs. For the American Food Roots feature, he shared a favorite recipe from childhood, his mother’s Sicilian pasta e fagioli. This is not an Abruzzese dish, nor is it like any other pasta e fagioli you’ve had. It’s a gentle, nourishing soup of green beans, potatoes and capellini. It has quickly become one of my favorites.
Here’s a picture of Joe Cicala’s mother’s pasta e fagioli to whet your appetite.
If you haven’t yet stopped by American Food Roots, please do. There is plenty to savor. In addition to stories and videos, we have a growing bank of recipes. And we’re going to be adding new features, including podcasts and a column featuring recipes from our community members. In fact, I’d love for you to join (it’s free!) and contribute to the conversation about why we eat what we eat. We all come from somewhere, and we all have food stories to share. I hope you’ll share yours with us.
But wait…lest you think I’m abandoning my Italian roots, let me just say mai e poi mai (never and, again, never). I’m chugging away on my biscotti book and also gearing up for the release this fall of The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. I’ll keep you posted on book-related events as they are scheduled. In the mean time, if you are local, next Sunday (Feb. 17) I’ll be teaching two advanced pasta making classes at Hill’s Kitchen, in D.C.
OK, I’m pretty sure I’ve used up my allotted link allowance in this post. Thanks for stopping by and, as always, buon appetito.