Kathleen Kennedy is very matter-of-fact when she talks about Tuscan
“This is Italian food,” she said as she wielded a knife Thursday evening. “You don’t need to cut vegetables any which way. French food needs to be cut in precise pieces. Italian food, you just eat. You don’t waste anything.”
Kennedy was teaching a cooking class at A Cook’s Place in Tupelo titled “Culinary Journey: Florence.”
Seven women lined the counter in the kitchen specialty shop on Industrial Road, watching Kennedy, taking notes and conferring with one another.
By the time the evening was over, Kennedy would prepare – and the women would enjoy – bruschetta with various toppings, such as chicken pate, white beans, tuna, and the familiar tomato-basil-mozzarella combo; a risotto with sweet potatoes; pan-sauteed beef and chicken; roasted vegetables; and a trifle for dessert.
“If there can be one place with the best food in the world, it may well be Florence, the largest city in Tuscany,” said Kennedy, who has been cooking since she was 3. “Florentine food is based on the freshest local ingredients and thousands of years of history.”
Florence has a rich Greek heritage, Kennedy said.
“The Greeks brought olives, olive oil, wine. They were famous for having huge feasts and getting drunk – a lot,” Kennedy said to laughter. “But the main thing is the food was very simple and straightforward.”
When the French took over Florence, she said, Tuscan food all but vanished. Traditional Italian foods – olives, artichokes, asparagus, beans, wild mushrooms and very little butter – were looked upon as peasant food.
But while French cooking dominated in Italy, the taste for genuine Tuscan cooking was kept alive in more modest environments, Kennedy said, and soon it made a strong comeback.
“What you find in Florence restaurants and what you find in real people’s homes are two different things,” she said. “But in both, chefs and home cooks use local ingredients whenever possible.”
For more information about upcoming cooking classes, visit acooksplace.com or call (662) 844-2400.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal