About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

Main | Crostini Bianchi-Ricotta and Anchovy Canapes »

How Did This Madness Come to Be?

It all began with the decision of the Foodies Reading Group at a Barnes & Noble store in the St. Louis area to read Marcella Hazan's autobiography, "Amarcord".


One of the group, Deborah, thought it would be a lovely surprise if Marcella would be willing to sign new copies of the book for everyone in the group. She wrote a note to Marcella. To her great delight, received a phone call from Marcella saying she would be pleased to accommodate. Deborah intended to keep this news a secret, but she isn't good at keeping secrets. As you would expect, everyone was thrilled.

Fast forward a few days to Facebook conversations about how many of us learned to cook Italian food the "right" way from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". A comment was made that the one cuisine most of North America loves and cooks is Italian. And the person most responsible for teaching us the right way to cook Italian wasn't, in our opinion, being accorded the appropriate recognition today.

Not taking away from the well deserved admiration for Julia Child, but come on ... If you took a poll of North American home cooks, what do you think the results would be? Fussy French food or honest Italian food?

We rest our case.

Somewhere along the way, someone makes an offhanded and ill-advised suggestion that we do a Julie Powell thing and cook our way through Essentials.


One thing leads to another; cooler heads prevail; and the decision is made to share the cooking responsibilities by splitting up the week among seven people. That meant that the three in the St. Louis area, (Deborah, Irene, & Beth), would still need some reinforcements.

Deborah, who is a member of the SlowTrav community, and has participated in a weekly food challenge with other Foodies in that community for several years, put the call out. And they responded.

First it was Cindy, from Alaska. She jumped right in, without hesitation. Doug, from Eastern Ontario also didn't hesitate to accept the call. Sandi from Alabama wanted to join the group, but was not sure she could commit to every week, so Jan from Florida partnered with her to alternate weeks. Once the separated-at-birth-twins Jerry from Ontario, and Palma from California learned they could share a day they threw their mutual hat in the ring as well.

Sixty-two weeks of posting every single day is daunting. So, as a safety measure, we strong-armed Kim , from New Jersey, into agreeing to be our pinch-hitter.

Our group was complete.

Next we needed to lay the ground rules. Not many, we aren't good at following rules - or recipes.

So the first rule needed to be:
FOLLOW the recipe - faithfully. No tinkering without Marcella's written permission.
Rule two.
We would take the recipes as they came in the book. No trading. Too bad that Cindy doesn't like chicken livers and Deborah has an aversion to Squid.
Rule three.
Since seasonal & fresh is the bedrock for all good Italian cooking, it's OK to cook ahead and save your documentation for the appropriate posting date.

That was it for the rules. Now the process.
Originally we were going to document this entire thing only on Facebook. We didn't think we needed a blog. This is all about reminding all of our foodie friends what a treasure we still have among us in Marcella Hazan. We weren't looking for a book or movie deal. We just wanted to keep it casual and allow our individual styles to dictate how we wrote our respective daily reports. So we set up a collective identity: Pomodori e Vino.

For several weeks now we've been chatting on this Facebook page and adding friends. We were so honored when Marcella, herself, decided to 'friend' us and keep an eye on our progress.

It soon became apparent to us that one glaring limitation to Facebook needed to be addressed. There is no compatibility to schedule future posts. So, we decided to create this blog.

We'll schedule our posts here and program them to appear automatically on Facebook every day. Our friends will be able to make comments directly to Facebook, or leave them on the blog if they prefer.

And, it begins -- soon.

Comments (14)

Deborah-I love reading about how you all came up with the idea to do this challenge, since I jumped in later in the game. I can't wait to get started. In fact, I've already made 2 recipes from the book, and they were both great. By the way, I do like tripe, at least when eaten in Italy when I don't have to cook it! But tripe isn't one of the recipes I'll cook-Michelle got that selection. I got chicken livers (which I hate) and beef tongue which is awful to look at but tastes good).

Did I really agree to follow all of those rules??
I ended up with a lot of things to fry... which should work out just fine and dandy for me.
This will be fun.

wish you would blog it also.....I don't do facebook.......would love to follow along!


I'm nervous, excited, thrilled to be included and honored to have my world intersect with Marcella's. What a wonderful world.



Woohoo! Sorry I couldn't participate, but I'll enjoy the hell out of reading of your adventure!

Whoo Hoo! I can get to the posting page. Thank goodness my cooking skills are better than my technology abilities! I'm excited and anxious as well!

Great first post! I am looking forward to following you in this amazing challenge.


I really admire all of you who accepted this challenge. Will be following and cheering you along!

Scott Ruth :

I'm looking forward to following along as all of you prepare this wonderful food. I am also looking forward to eating it! Scott (husband of Cindy)

I just discovered this blog! Where have I been? I knew you were cooking this up but did not know about the blog. I am so excited to cheer everyone on. I loved reading how this all came about. What fun!

Emily Hamblen:

Let me know if you have a 'runner's up' list for the cooks! I would love to be on it! ;) I cook from the Essentials almost every day. You guys are so fun to follow on this blog! Thanks for doing this!

I am just catching up with my blog reading, and I see I have a LOT to catch up on!

This is an exciting challenge - I am looking forward to following along!

George Lueders:

I met Deborah ( 1 of the 9 ) today at Viviano's and heard about this Blog. I was getting more Olive Oil and a tiny bottle of Anchovies. I always ask Mike for advice when he is at the counter and told him of a recipe for Buogna Cuoda (spelling? Pronunciation ?? ) I saw in this great cookbook by Marcella Hazan. He laughed at my translation and knew exactly what I was talking about. I said I would love to hear about someone making the dish with spinach pasta ( feettuccini noodles in a crock with a bechamel, and then neatly wrapped in pasta and baked..... Deborah knew exactly what I was talking about. I'm gonna keep an eye on this blog.

Deborah responds:
Hi George! It really was fun to find out you were planning to use Marcella's book and there were Michael and I talking about the project!
I hope you will follow our progress.
Be sure to read the comments on all of our entries. You'll find that Marcella, herself, pops in on a regular basis and posts her thoughts.


I am posting this as the project is coming to a close. Your work has been of incredible interest to me, as I have been trying to teach myself how to cook Italian by cooking my way through Marcella's works for a couple of years myself. However, my modest efforts could not begin to approach the sheer volume of work you have all produced since you began: one a day! It is remarkable.

I have enjoyed getting to know each of you during the process. While Marcella says in her first book that anyone who is slightly alert will have no problem cooking every dish, she also admits that simple does not always mean easy. It isn't easy making the perfect pasta with only spaghetti, garlic and oil, for example. When ingredients are not masked, and have to speak for themselves, in simple combinations and manipulated by simple procedures, then you really do have to do everything right.

And you know what, I think that more often than not you did.

I've been inspired by some of your dishes. You might see that in things I have cooked after you did. Some of the photography is beautiful, and the writing lyrical. You should be proud, each of you, of your efforts.

But of course the real hero in this project has been Marcella herself (and you too Victor, I know you're never far away). It is not too strong a statement to say Marcella's generous interaction with her fans over facebook, in her advanced years, have been one of the highlights of mine in recent times. We all knew she was an extraordinary gifted cook and communicator, with a clear vision of how things should be, but the way in which she has offered her increasingly valuable time to so many people she has not even met is just a sign of what a giving and passionate woman she is.

I have always said it was the intelligence in Marcella's writings that first drew me to her, and it was my success with her recipes and her virtual presence and encouragement on forums such as this project that has kept me cooking through her books.

It really has been like a director's cut, this project, with priceless commentary coming 20 years after the film was made. Although in this case it has been 30 years.

Lucky for us good cooking is timeless.

But enough from me. Thank you to each of you, and the biggest thank you and grandmotherly hug and firm handshake to Marcella and Victor. You are all food heros in my book, and the bringers of much happiness to many families, over many decades.

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