GRAND Magazine - Spring 2020 - 8
family and food
In this, my grandma succeeded abundantly. She
could have given me a bowl of cereal to fill my belly.
But no. She wanted to cook for me at home and
create something that could be shared and feed me
a meal that came from her heart. I swear I could taste
the love that she put into everything she made for me.
Little did she suspect that the fried cauliflower would
turn out to change my life forever.
I turned my passion for food and cooking into a
full-time career. I worked as a private chef and caterer
in my hometown of New York City. Then I attended
culinary school in Florence and moved to Southern
Italy. Here I host a private dining club on the upper
floor of my house, complete with a terrace that offers
a commanding view of mountains in the distance.
And in the open kitchen where I cook my dinners
for guests, in a framed photo hung on the wall, is a
hand-written recipe that my Grandma Nettie passed
down from her own mother. It's for Pizza Rustica, a
ham, sausage and cheese pie that's particularly popular at Easter. Just as my favorite food memory from my
grandmother is fried cauliflower, this is my mother's.
A recipe that started in Brooklyn has returned to its
home in Italy.
Every time I cook at home now, I feel as if my
grandma is watching over me.
If my mother or I now make fried cauliflower, it's as
though I'm back in Brooklyn on one of those Saturday
afternoons. Sometimes my eyes well up with tears.
Our version of fried cauliflower never tastes exactly
like my grandma's, but that doesn't matter. It's the idea
of it, and how it embodied her love for me.
My grandma was my second mom. She passed
away when I was eleven years old. But she's never left
me because I still think of her every day of my life. I
still remember it all so clearly -- the aroma of her fresh
tomato sauce, the texture of her cotton house dress
on my fingers, the breeze wafting through her apartment, the sound of the cartoons on the television in
My grandma could have made me anything and I
probably would have loved it. But it just so happened
to be fried cauliflower I loved the most. It was delicious, but it was more than delicious. It nourished my
body, but to this day it also nourishes my soul. One
bite and I'm back with my grandma in the kitchen.
And it all led me to my livelihood as a chef.
Food at its best can take you into the past or the
future, or both.
This past September, I gave birth to my first child.
My daughter will carry my grandma's given name,
Antonia. I'll want our girl to feel as connected to my
grandma as I do, and to have special memories of her
own. I already know which food I'll someday be sure
to make for her.
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of flour
2 cups bread crumbs
Salt & pepper
of neutral frying oil
Cut your head of cauliflower into steaks. Fill a
bowl with the flour. Fill another bowl with 3 eggs,
whisked. In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs,
chopped garlic, parsley, parmesan, salt, pepper and
red pepper and mix. Add the oil to a deep-frying
pan and put on medium heat. Drench your cauliflower steaks one a time in the flour, then the
whisked eggs and finally, the bread crumb mix. Add
to the oil once it is hot and let fry for around 2 minutes on each side until golden and crispy. Take out
and serve fresh and hot!
Caroline Chirichella is a native
New Yorker now living and
working in Italy as a chef and
GRAND Magazine - Spring 2020
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