Pictured: Michele Scicolone, during a book promotion I was fortunate enough to assist with this past week. The award-winning author is holding her new creation, sort of a follow-up to her French Slow Cooker book. Don’t be fooled by the mouthwatering ribs on the cover- the Mediterranean Slow Cooker is all about using this traditionally single-minded device to its fullest potential. While I only got to make her truffle polenta recipe, a fairly simple, perfect home-cooked way of showcasing the rare ingredient, the book has recipes on how to use the slow cooker for pulled pork, beef stews, even flans and cakes!
Ms Scicolone also instructed me on how to best pursue my food writing career, leading to a very educational glimpse of how the industry has changed over the years. When she first started out, she earned her stripes in Journalism, and Home Economics. I was pleasantly surprised to find the subject used to be considered a Bachelor of Sciences- not so surprising, when one remembers chemistry, and its predecessor alchemy, was born in the kitchen. Ms Scicolone was very excited about speaking on Home Ec, which covers a wide variety of useful skills; I believe the term is “life hacks” in today’s vernacular, something a lot of us could use more of. Today, a food writer has to get his chops from maintaining a blog and pursuing any chance of publication, a method I feel lacks a certain… discipline? There goes the Chinese in me.
My personal bias, at least when it comes to cookbook authors and celebrity chefs, is sort of a dash of Alton Brown and a large pinch of Bobby Flay: Culinary educated, quite a lot of flair, and a definite sense of career. Not so Ms Sciolone, who was more interested in the actual recipes, and how they would fit in with her readers’ kitchens. Her books are all about savoring food, tradition, and Italy, with titles like “La dolce vita: Enjoy Life’s Sweetest Pleasures.” It’s definitely a quality that is lacking in America’s kitchens, so often about speed and consistency and not about the enjoyment of food.
I enjoyed my conversation with Ms Scicolone immensely, and I thank her for her advice. I hope this article has been informative, and will lead you, gentle reader, to try out some of her recipes. Truffles are quite dear on the market, and some might balk at cooking a delicate thing like flan, but with these slow-cooked recipes, even a casual cook can enjoy the taste of the Mediterranean, safe in the knowledge the food will never burn.