I enjoy cooking throughout the year. But when the weather begins to feel cooler, and the sycamore leaves turn that light golden hue, I find myself looking forward to the evening hours and preparing dinner. The first rainy day—with a cool breeze blowing down from the mountains—has come and gone, and with came the first supper of pasta fagioli (pasta with beans). This is a dish I crave in the autumn and winter, but often find too heavy for the summer months. I love how cooking has become a part of my daily life, and one that I look forward to and do with passion. Without a doubt, Italy has done that to me. Over the past three years I’ve gone from being a person who followed recipes religiously and cooked because it had to be done to a person who reads cookbooks for fun, enjoys being in the kitchen and invents new recipes. Every part of the cooking process, from picking out the freshest ingredients to chopping to serving, has become a pleasurable part of my daily life in Italy. Yes, Italy will just do that to a person!
This summer it was a pleasure to meet Sharon Sanders, food writer, editor and author, while she was visiting the Amalfi Coast. Talk about someone who has experienced the transformational power of the Italian lifestyle and cuisine! Sharon fell in love with Italy at a young age while she was living and working in Florence. (Where she just happened to meet and fall in love with her husband Walter Sanders from Chicago as well!) What started in Florence turned into a lifelong love affair with Italian cuisine and lead her to write Cooking Up an Italian Life: Simple Pleasures of Italy in Recipes and Stories. This cookbook is a labor of love for Sharon, driven by her desire to share the beauty and simplicity of Italian cooking with others who have been equally transformed by the Italian approach to appreciating the value of good food enjoyed with family and friends.
Sharon’s sweet and positive outlook on living Italian in your daily life comes across on every page of Cooking Up an Italian Life. One of the themes of her cookbook is living like an Italian no matter where you happen to live in the world, especially when it comes to how you eat on a daily basis. You don’t have to live in Italy to bring the fundamental aspects of Italian cooking and the country’s unique food culture into your life. Throughout the cookbook, Sharon shares her insights on how to live an Italian lifestyle … starting right in your own kitchen!
Each recipe in the cookbook is cleverly designed as a complete meal, with suggestions and recipes for complementary salads, wines and desserts included on the same page. This makes it easy to plan a nice meal and prepare your shopping list in advance. Sharon’s recipes center around the key elements of Italian cooking, while also allowing for creativity and flexibility of ingredients depending on your location. It’s this mixture that makes Sharon’s cooking a refreshing and inspiring read. Her essays about traveling, living and learning about Italian cuisine are interspersed with the recipes and add a wonderfully personal feel to the cookbook.
Over a leisurely lunch in Amalfi earlier this summer, we shared our stories of loving Italy and how we each discovered our “Inner Italian,” as Sharon describes people like us who connect deeply with Italy but who, unfortunately, lack the genetic requirements to be Italian. But that’s just a technicality, after all. Sharon hasn’t let this get in the way of living her life Italian, and she certainly follows her motto “Cook Italian, Be Happy” each and every day.
You can learn more about Sharon, her cookbook and travels in Italy at her lovely website and blog Simple Italy – Feeding Your Inner Italian … Body and Soul.