Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why Puttanesca? My manifesto.

Who the heck is Puttanesca?

Strictly speaking, Puttanesca isn't a person. It's an adjective describing my entire mindset for cooking... but more on that later. I'm Trisha, a 34-year-old mother of two who is also a public school teacher. I have a 3-year-old son Josh and a 3-month-old daughter Julia, and I also take care of my husband Jim. As I begin this blog journey, I am about 6 weeks from the end of my blessedly long maternity leave.

As I was cooking tonight's dinner, I mentally flipped through the ingredients in my rather massive pantry and realized that other than milk, eggs, cheese, and fresh produce, I probably don't need to buy ANY food for the next 6 weeks... That's a good thing, because the money we so painstakingly saved for my leave is nearly gone! My goal for this blog is to track our meals and food expenditures on a daily basis, for as long as I can keep it going.

So, why Puttanesca? My Grandma, Anita, loves to tell a story about cooking for some friends. Grandma makes this AMAZING puttanesca sauce... a tomato base chock full of olives, artichokes, anchovies, chi chi beans, and whatever else she feels like throwing in there. One day her friend's husband asked her why it was called puttanesca sauce. My grandma answered, "Putta is Italian slang for a prostitute. This sauce is like a prostitute because anything and everything can go in it!" She laughed, he blushed, and the rest is history...

... or inspiration. See, I'm a really good cook. I learned from my mom and grandma, and I've taught myself new tricks along the 2o plus years I've spent enjoying the kitchen. I'm also a gourmand. I just love food, from the haute cuisine to McDonald's new spicy chicken sandwich. When it comes to cooking, I'm kind of like that prostitute from grandma's story: I like things that are cheap and easy, and I'll try anything once!

So welcome to Puttanesca's kitchen, where the food is cheap and easy and fun!

What is "poverty food"?

My mom talked a lot about poverty food. Coming from a working class background where Grandpa held 3 jobs just to make ends meet, Grandma became a master at food that was cheap but still healthy, filling, and delicious, that made masterpieces out of leftovers, and stretching a food dollar as far as possible. Italian cuisine in America is almost ALL poverty food... I can't go into an Italian restaurant and pay $5 for a bowl of pasta fagioli when I know I can go home and cook a giant pot of it for the same price! I'm not ashamed to cook poverty food, as long as it's delicious and fills the bellies around my table.

Some Things to Remember:

When I list the costs of a recipe, I'm assuming that the pantry is fairly well stocked with spices, condiments, and basics like flour, oil, sugar, etcetera. If I need to go out and buy a basic, I will list the full cost as part of the meal's cost.

I'll focus on dinner, though I will list breakfasts and lunches on the weekends as well. Since I will soon be a working mom again, I will start as I mean to continue.

Most importantly, remember that recipes are really only a guideline. You can substitute almost any flavor item... change up the spices, use a different meat, a different cheese. I say vegetable broth and you only have beef in the cupboard? Go for it. This ain't french cuisine, this is FUN.

And don't forget to laugh at your disasters. Trust me, I have them too, and you'll read about them as they happen. So sit back, relax, and grab a cup of coffee. Welcome to Puttanesca's kitchen, where the food is just the beginning of the fun.

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