Marcella Hazan and My Marcelia

We were on a train from Milan to Venice, and I had just finished reading Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. I passed the book to my parents and my mom picked it up. She read Marcella Hazan’s story, Eating Alone, where she waxes poetic about dining solo. And anchovies. And sardine sandwiches.

We talked about Marcella Hazan for a little bit, me and my Marcelia. Marcelia is my mom’s name, and I’ve always thought of it as one of the loveliest names in the planet. And her the loveliest woman of all.

I don’t think it a coincidence that one of the brightest names in the food world, Mrs. Hazan, loves some of the same foods as her namesake (albeit their names are spelled with a one letter difference). And also that when eating alone – and with others, too – they choose some of the strongest, most memorable flavors that exist.

“The prospect of eating alone will sometimes make me lose interest in food, and when that happens I must turn to the one thing whose aroma and flavor can powerfully jog my appetite: anchovies…. Nothing matches the thrilling intensity of of an anchovy fillet laid over a slice of grilled bread slathered with sweet butter.”

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to eat was pizza (come to think of it, that is true to this day) and whenever my family and I would go out for pizza, my mom would always request anchovies. I used to think it was gross. I used to think it was too salty. I used to prefer pepperoni. Or meat-lovers.

But not anymore. My mom has taught me to love anchovies. Nowadays I, too, always request anchovies. In pizzas. In pastas. In salads. Always with garlic. And a pinch of red pepper flakes. Never too gross, never too salty.

Marcella Hazan also talks about sardines in her short story:

“a buttered English muffin toasted dark, is what I like to eat with sardines that still have their skin and bones. I do not buy feeble-tasting boneless, skinless sardines.”

My mom has taught me to love sardines, too (or sardinas, as we call them back home).

My mom would make these little sandwiches, made with spicy Spanish sardines (always from a jar, never from a tin), on a hot buttered pan de sal (Filipino bread roll). It is very similar to how Mrs. Hazan describes her favorite open faced sandwich, also made with sardines that are in no way feeble but in every way robust and memorable.

Today, I am eating an open faced sardine sandwich – with sardines that still have skin and bones, on whole wheat bread, toasted dark, slathered with creamy butter.

I am eating alone, but unlike Marcella Hazan, this does not make me lose interest in food. In fact it makes me appreciate food even more.

I am thinking of the intense saltiness of anchovies. I am savoring the dense, oily, familiar taste of sardines. I am thinking of my Marcelia, and everything my mother has taught me. And I’m filled with the warmest waves of love.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! I love you.


35 Responses to “Marcella Hazan and My Marcelia”

  1. #
    Kathy posted May 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Ah! This is so charming. You’re mom is amazing and truly lucky to have a lovely daughter like yourself. I always love reading your family posts. They make me so happy for you – and even though I grew up in Maine they remind me of my family. And I like that. A lot. lovelove

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Aww thank you so much Kathy for the kind words! Have a great weekend ahead!

  2. #
    Meghan posted May 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

    What a beautiful post. I loved meeting your lovely mom at the chocolate event!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks Meghan! I will tell her that :)

  3. #
    Sacha posted May 12, 2012 at 11:29 am

    This is such a lovely post and tribute to your mom! I really enjoyed reading it. As much as I love Marcella Hazan, I’m with you; there’s beauty in eating alone sometimes. In my family, I’m the anchovy eater, not my mother, but I do associate certain foods with my mom and think of her immediately when eating them.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you Sacha! I’ve learned to embrace eating alone and appreciate it as much as eating with others :)

  4. #
    Rhonda posted May 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    What a great post about your Mom. It was my Dad that loved these little fish, I should probably give them a try because when I was young I thought they were gross too.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you Rhonda! Yes you should! Try melting the anchovies in olive oil, then add chopped garlic, toss with pasta. The cooked anchovies take on a nutty, salty, non-fishy taste.

  5. #
    Michelle posted May 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    What a beautiful post! A beautiful mother, a beautiful daughter – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you Michelle for the nice compliment!

  6. #
    Claudia posted May 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    What a lovely posting – perfect for the day. And the full-flavored foods just sing.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 13, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Thank you Claudia. They do “sing” – that’s the perfect word!

  7. #
    Lael Hazan posted May 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Lovely post and lovely sentiment. An uplifting meal, whether eaten alone or with family, always buoys the spirit. Thank you for the tribute to my mother-in-law, she is an amazing woman, like your mother I’m sure.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Hi Lael, thank you so much for dropping by my blog and for the nice comment. My mom has been a long-time fan of your mother-in-law, in fact I just talked to her and found out that she still keeps clippings of Mrs. Hazan’s articles and recipes from the 90s!

  8. #
    A Plum By Any Other Name posted May 13, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Bianca, what a lovely post! I’m such a fan of those little fishes. And enjoy eating them alone. Way to go, mom!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Thank you so much Emily! My mom knows how to eat, and to eat well, so I’m glad she passed it on to me :)

  9. #
    Barbara Giacometti posted May 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Lovely post. You are so right. Sardines are delicious coming out of that glass jar, under olive oil. I love to saute some with garlic in a pan and toss some blanched broccoli Rabe with a pinch of hot pepper flakes. I love reminders of home. I am in Tupelo, MS. Everytime I smell an Anchovy cooking, it reminds me of my mother’s delicious kitchen! Auguri! I am glad I am not the only one~

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Barbara, thank you so much for checking out my blog and for the sweet comment. I am glad to “meet” another anchovy-lover! I look forward to reading your blog as well.

  10. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted May 14, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Aw, you are a sweet daughter! Sardines aren’t my thing but I love the story here!

  11. #
    Elizabeth posted May 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Really enjoyed reading this. Lovely post. And thanks for coming on Friday!

  12. #
    Daisy posted May 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

    i feel honored that I have met your sweet, sweet Mom! Happy Mothers Day to her. Also, the sandwich looks awesome.

  13. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted May 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

    What a sweet post! My mom loves sardines too, but I haven’t been completely converted yet :)

  14. #
    Megan posted May 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Such a beautiful post, Bianca. So happy I had the opportunity to meet your mom!

  15. #
    Adri @FoodieBeFit posted May 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Funny, how I was having a little cookout with a friend Friday and she brought over sardines, which I don’t really like and she was like “I am going to make you like them”. I tried them, but I still don’t. Funny, how like in your post, I tend to go back on time and relate memories to food. Very nice post.

  16. #
    Andrs posted May 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Yum! Those toasts look delicious : P

    I’ve always loved anchovies, and have been lucky enough to grow up eating Spanish ones ; ).

    I like them on toast with a bit of olive oil and tiny tomatoes

  17. #
    Simply Life posted May 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    what a fun post and I love seeing these pictures!

  18. #
    OliePants posted May 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    You and your mom are beautiful. How fun!! I’m glad you’re having a great time! :)

  19. #
    Clair Truong posted May 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Bianca, Very nice tribute to your Marcelia! We had dinner last night with other friends. She’s very proud of you! Take care, God bless! Tita Clair

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 16, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Hi Tita Clair, thank you so much for reading my blog and the very nice comment. I hope all is well! Take care.

  20. #
    Bonnie posted May 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Your mom sounds like such an awesome person! I am so glad that you shared.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  21. #
    Honey What's Cooking posted May 15, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    ahhhh.. I love Italy. Sucha beautiful country. I give you credit to be able to read on a train.. I am in awe with the beauty.
    I cried too about Desp Housewives, so sad.

  22. #
    Aylin @ Glow Kitchen posted May 16, 2012 at 8:42 am

    This is such a cute post. I adore sardines :)

    Also, when I first saw the first picture you posted, I swear I thought you were Jessica Alba. A mix between her and Kim Kardashian haha. Very beautiful!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted May 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Dear Aylin, that might be the best compliment I have ever received. Thank you :)

  23. #
    Kim K posted May 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    too sweet bianca. and i am loving your white dress…

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