Marcella Hazan

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My heart is so heavy today, losing Marcella is like losing a beloved aunt, she taught me so much. She taught so many others too, through her books and classes. She was a beloved member of our ICC faculty, for over ten years, and we all mourn her passing deeply, she will always have a special place in our ICC family.  Our sympathies to her family- husband Victor, always by her side, a fixture during her classes, their son Giuliano, their daughter -in- law Lael and the grandchildren.

What she did best: teach

Prepping for class, on the left, one of her favorites Chef Susan Lifrieri-Lowry

I have two stories to share and both illustrate the kind of person she really was. Marcella gave me a recipe one Saturday over the phone, her version of fast food. I was in a rush to cook a light dinner, I’d just sent her some Swiss chard from my garden. She told me to get some chard, put some olive oil in a pan, saute a little garlic to a fragrant, golden hue and then add the softened chard (boiled for a few minutes in salt water) and salt and pepper. Here’s the brilliance: she also told me to open a can of Goya garbanzo beans, drain and add to the pan. Let warm and even crisp a little with the chard. It was delicious!

Marcella's lunch at L'Ecole, all of us in Marcella masks!

Many years ago: Dorothy, Victor Hazan, Marcella, Jacques Pepin

She also wrote me a poignant note when my mother passed away. She shared that her own mother had died at a very, very old age but still Marcella was stunned and bereft. She said, “Dorothy, even though I was in my seventies, I felt like an orphan.”

I think we are all culinary orphans today. Thank you so much for everything Marcella.

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Marcella…named by Craig Claiborne as the Queen of Italian Cuisine and the inspiration behind The International Culinary Center’s Italian Culinary Academy. Through their poetic and precise books, Marcella and Victor Hazan are the dynamic duo responsible for educating, mentoring and inspiring Americans (and many others in their 20 plus translations) to the deliciousness of authentic Italian cooking.

Now living quietly near Sarasota, Florida, Marcella is 87, and Victor is 84. I was thrilled to visit with them last week.  They look amazing. Their vibrancy and love of good food is palpable. Marcella is even embarking on a new book and they are planning to visit New York in June. We will enthusiastically welcome them home and roll out the red, white and green carpet!

For those of you not familiar with Marcella’s writings, I would encourage you to immediately purchase a copy of her Essentials of Italian Cuisine. For me it is the bible, period. I return to it again and again. For example, how do you properly store parmesan cheese?  Do not put it in plastic wrap. First put it in wax paper, so it can breathe, then in heavy foil and store it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator.

Marcella teaching her class at The FCI

Book signing

Her writing is eloquent. Her ideas have a unique perspective. For example, people often ask me, “what is the fundamental difference between French and Italian cuisine?”  I respond: “the French defined technique, the Italians celebrate the taste of the product, and both exquisitely.” Listen to how Marcella interprets her insight of the essential Italian “taste” from her book, Marcella Cucina, ” Cooking must express taste, not technique, because technique alone does not communicate anything. To study it otherwise than as a function of taste is an arid academic exercise; it is like mastering the grammar of a language in which you have nothing to say.  It happens too often when I eat the food of highly trained chefs, food that is ingeniously contrived, elaborately described in the menu, and eye-catchingly presented, that virtually nothing registers on my palate.  Such occasions remind me of a plea that the composer Richard Strauss once made to an orchestra he was rehearsing: ‘Gentlemen, you are playing all the notes perfectly, but please, now let me hear some music.’”

Bravo, Marcella. Encore!

Dorothy Hamilton, Victor & Marcella Hazan March 2011

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