Italian Cuisine and Culture: In Conversation with Memoir Author Maria Pasquale

Italian Cuisine and Culture: In Conversation with Memoir Author Maria Pasquale
From her multicultural background to her travel experiences, Maria Pasquale has come to a deep understanding of the interconnections between food, people, and places. Maria writes about this is in her book, I Heart Rome: Recipes and Stories from the Eternal City. We had the pleasure of speaking with Maria about her travel and food memoir, and her love of Italy and Italian cuisine.

Tell us about your experience as a multicultural woman in the 21st century. How have Australian and Italian culture affected you differently?

They have had a positive and enriching effect on me. I’m proudly Australian and equally proud of my Italian heritage. These ties I have to Italy have been ingrained in me since I was a child, nurtured as a teen and have ultimately defined me as an adult. I have two cultures and traditions and they gave me a cheat’s way to becoming bilingual!

Growing up in Australia, Italian language was always heard at home, as was Italian music and TV. Italian customs weren’t seen as chores or obligations but just a way of life. As kids, we were encouraged to learn Italian at school and to attend Italian Saturday school. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but looking back now, I thank my parents for this decision. Because only as an adult can I appreciate that it is a gift to be encouraged to embrace your heritage. Living in Italy and being able to speak the language itself has taught me what it means to be Italian.

We read your book I Heart Rome: Recipes & Stories from the Eternal City, and loved it! Tell us what it is about and what inspired you to write it.

Through photos, recipes, stories and personal anecdotes it captures the very essence of Rome, its people and its rich culinary history. It’s my love letter to the city I’ve loved forever and called home for almost seven years. It has 70 recipes, stories and tips on how to navigate the food landscape of the eternal city. It features interviews with some key personalities in the Roman food sector and in particular, the locals who I’ve met along the way on my Rome adventures – I like to call them the unsung heroes of the food world here… the ones that aren’t famous but work tirelessly to maintain and promote local traditions.

Rome and the people of Rome were my inspiration. I felt strongly that the story of life in Rome and the modern-day Romans deserved to be told. These stories are important because so many of Rome’s cultural and historic traditions are tied to food. I’ve felt for years that stories like the positive ones I’ve chosen to share could do much to engender a sense of pride amongst Romans and boost morale.

How did you balance the culinary and story aspects of the book?

I didn’t find it difficult at all because food, life, history and culture are intrinsically tied in Italy. Food really is a way of life and so many recipes are connected to stories, people and events. The book has been split into chapters based on where you eat particular dishes – for instance the trattoria, the forno (bakery) and the pizzeria. So it was only natural to tell the venue and people stories too.

Did you face any mental blocks while writing your book?

I wasn’t given much time to write the book so I didn’t have much time for writer’s block! But there were a few moments where I just had to break from the writing. I live in the centre of the city and so usually a walk around town was enough to give me the recharge and inspiration I needed to hit the computer again.

More generally, what drives you to write about food while traveling?

I think food and place and people are common threads. Getting to know a city through its food isn’t just about eating but encourages learning about the characters behind the dishes, the history that has helped cuisines to change and evolve and the dynamic of the land and location. I love the human interest component to travel – it interrelates so well with food that I always feel compelled to share and tell the world through words. My blog HeartRome.com is a great outlet for me and it’s the place where I write about what I want, when I want.

Tell us about the most memorable meal you ate in Rome. Did you write about it in your book?

I first ate a carbonara at Da Enzo in the Trastevere neighbourhood (where I live) in 2012. To be honest, the rest is history! The three dishes I had that first night are the same three I have to this day: creamy burrata to start, silky smooth and salty carbonara in the middle, and a decadent mascarpone mousse with fragoline (wild or alpine strawberries) to finish. This family-run trattoria is where passion and Roman traditions combine, and it’s a guaranteed fantastic meal every, single time! I profiled one of the owners, the lovely Maria Chiara, in a break-out chapter in the book. She talks of her family’s role in being the custodians of cucina romana (Roman cuisine) and their consistent dedication to sourcing quality products to please each and every customer. They were also generous enough to contribute four recipes to the book – including that carbonara and divine mousse!

Any last bits of advice for women looking to write, travel and dive into culinary adventures?

If you speak your truth, be yourself and authentically express your personality and identity, you have the power to really strike a chord with people, with readers. I do that with my blog and with the content I curate for press and my social media channels. I’ve found that when a voice is authentic, people are drawn to it and want to find out more. So many followers and readers have become friends and so many around the world are so full of admiration and encouragement for my journey – I’m forever grateful for this.

I’d also encourage aspiring writers to read constantly and learn all you can from anyone who is willing to share their story, especially when travelling.

About Sharon Zelnick

Sharon ZelnickSharon Zelnick is Pink Pangea’s Outreach Coordinator. Sharon holds an MA in comparative literature (summa cum laude) from Leiden University and a BA in liberal arts (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. Originally from the US, Sharon has lived in the Netherlands and Israel and has traveled extensively through Europe, the Middle East, and Central America.

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