When I wanted to say goodbye to a group of six students I had become fond of in Cortona, Italy this Spring, I immediately felt the urge to say it with food. There is a reason why people gather over food to celebrate or for that matter commiserate with each other.
Almost always when people want to connect they arrange a meal of some sort. It can be a lavish or intimate affair. There is something about food (and in my case, with a little wine) that allows strangers to become easier with each other, and old friends to become closer.
I remember when my mother died I found a piece of lamb she had been de-frosting to have for dinner possibly the next day. When the droves of people came to our house to pay their last respects all I wanted to do was hide away in the kitchen and cook. I wanted to feed people, while consoling myself, cutting with her knives, and stirring with her spoons. I used the lamb to make a rich, sumptuous stew, using fresh rosemary from her giant bush of it outside the kitchen door. The smell of the flavors wafted through the house, and as sad as people were, the smell gave them a modicum of happiness. As friends and relatives came into the kitchen to say goodbye, I told them about the lamb and everyone wanted a taste. The big pot of stew was never dished into bowls, but eaten spoonful by spoonful by everyone passing through.
When I wanted to say my farewells to six beautiful women who had studied at the school in Cortona for 3 months, I wanted to do it from my kitchen. I wanted to invite them to something special, a kind of meal that is usually a special occasion sort of moment, so I asked them to Brunch & Mimosas on our last Sunday.
We arranged for the ladies to provide the prosecco and blood oranges for the mimosa, and the food would be taken care of by me. It was the end of the semester, and our time in Cortona was coming to a close, so I was up to my eyes with all sorts of other things. When the Saturday before the brunch descended upon me, the last thing I wanted to do was trek around town with my grocery bags to shop for dozens of eggs and a multitude of fillings for frittatas!
Anything that is worthwhile requires an effort, demands work. There would be no such thing as appreciation if that were not the case. So the effort it took to pull myself together on Sunday in preparation for brunch was nothing compared to the genuine gratitude I received in return. When you say things like this out loud, it can sound trite and sentimental, but that doesn’t stop me from saying it. I am passed being stoic about my emotions when it comes to people I care about.
The girls arrived all dressed up and ready to squeeze oranges for their morning cocktails. They had been living for the past several months in a dormitory with a common kitchen, so it was a treat to be in a more homey place with someone like their mother in the kitchen cooking especially for them.
They sat around our big kitchen table with my two children (who had formed lovely friendships with them also), and, while I cooked and doled out triangular pieces of frittata, we all ate while enjoying our delicious prosecco-spiked orange juice. The chatter was warm and familiar, and I was very happy that over the past three months I had been giving the chance to meet new people and found friends among them.
I now am sitting here miles away from them, but wishing them well, and looking forward to keeping in touch. Thank you Thib, Arrington, Brittany, Natalie, Elizabeth and Ellen for the pleasure of your company at Sunday Brunch.
You will need: 24 large eggs, and some or all of the following toppings; 4 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped, 3 yellow onions, finely diced, 2 carrots, cut into thing match sticks, 6 cups sliced white or crimini mushrooms, 2 zucchini, diced, 2 peppers (red or green or combo of both), diced, 1 lb bacon (1/2 kg), cut into pieces. Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper flakes (optional), grated strong cheese (optional), extra virgin olive oil for frying veggies and cooking eggs.
* These are just suggestions. feel free to add your favorite ingredients to the list*
1 – Prep all topping ingredients as instructed above before you begin.
2 – Crack eggs into a big bowl, adding 1 tsp salt, several grinds of pepper and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes into the bowl and whisk briskly for a minute or two, until well incorporated.
3 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add about 2 tbs of oil and add the onions. Cook until soft (about 10 minutes). Remove to a bowl and continue to fry all of the rest of the ingredients until cooked, placing in different little bowls as you proceed, (including the bacon). You will need to add more oil as needed.
4 – When everything is cooked, put an oven rack close to the grill and turn it on. Put clean saute pan on medium to high heat and add 1 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot add about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of the egg mixture to the pan and immediately sprinkle on the toppings of your choice. Try to distribute evenly.
5 – After about 3 minutes of undisturbed cooking (in other words; no touching the eggs with a spatula or spoons), place pan under the grill. Check after 1 minute, and when the top is beginning to turn a golden brown, and the sides pull away and become fluffy, remove the pan and slide the frittata onto a plate or wooden board. After 1 minutes it is ready to be cut into wedges and served.
Serve alone, with a green salad or potato wedges. Make sure you have condiments on hand such as hot sauce, sweet chilli sauce, tabasco, and salsa.