This is another of The Food Channel’s featured blogger spotlights.
by Amy Rogers Nazarov
In 2002, food blogger Michelle Fabio visited Badolato, the southern Italian town from which her great-great-grandfather had emigrated to the United States a century before. After learning she was eligible for Italian citizenship, she returned, figuring she’d stay a year.
Fate, however, had other plans: she fell in love with a local named Paolo, whose roots extend just as deeply as Michelle’s into the rich Italian soil. And, in the decade since she left Pennsylvania for Calabria (you’ll find it in the “toe” of the “boot” on a map of Italy) she says she’s learned too much about savoring the rhythms of nature to ever live anywhere else.
Whether she’s making homemade sausage, milking her goats or picking olives off the trees outside—under whose gnarled trunks her ancestors may well have eaten and laughed and loved—she’s capturing much of it in writing at Bleeding Espresso. “I love writing about the food here and sharing recipes,” she says. “So much of Calabrian cooking is fast, delicious, and easy, and I want people to realize that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to eat well.”
We recently had a chance to chat with Michelle about the romance of walking in her ancestors’ footprints, why blogging makes her a better cook and what she eats first on one of her rare trips back to the U.S.
Q. When your neighbors hear your story and learn of your roots to this area, what is their reaction?
A. The locals are enthralled by the fact that I’ve “returned.” When I first arrived, they wanted to know exactly who my family was so they could place them, but my great-great-grandfather left at the turn of the century, so that was tough. Regardless, they are still so sweet and tell me I’m a “paesana” all the time.
Q. What are some of the foods central to this region of Italy?
A. As in many areas of Italy, the pig is king. So, lots of sausage, pancetta, and Calabria’s own suppressata (a type of salami); my husband and I made our own pork products this year for the first time. Also, there’s a great emphasis on veggies, greens, and legumes – tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, olives, chicory, escarole, spinach, broccoli, fagiolini, fave, lentils – and of course peperoncini, or chili pepper.
Q. Tell me about one of the local dishes you enjoy most.
A. I don’t like Italian-American lasagna (ricotta and mozzarella), but I love Calabrian stuffed lasagne (sagne chjine), made with a meat sauce and full of prosciutto, hard-boiled eggs, and provola cheese.
Q. How has the culture of where you live now affected your cooking?
A. I usually cook twice a day, and most everything in-season. I rely on a well-stocked pantry/freezer and frequent market purchases. When it’s hot, we eat “freddo” — cold — more often, so a typical summer lunch would be caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, suppressata and fresh bread.
Q. How you would sum up your Italian friends and neighbors’ attitudes toward preparing and eating food?
A. They’re pretty similar to my own. I grew up with home-cooked meals, and in fact, I was the kid who loved eating boxed mac-and-cheese at other people’s houses because we never had it in my house. During college and law school I strayed from that, but moving here put me back in touch with my childhood in a very good way. I’ve made a home for myself in the kitchen — and I especially love the way my body feels fueled by real food. The difference is like night and day.
Q. What’s the first thing you want to eat whenever you are back on American soil?
A. I don’t get back very often (twice in the last eight years), but the number one food item I miss is a big juicy steak. Besides my mom’s smiling face, it’s the first thing I look for off the plane.
Q. How has blogging about food made you a better cook/writer?
A. Writing about cooking makes me focus on what I’m doing — helpful since I improvise and then can forget what I did. By paying attention for blogging, I’m better able to convey the process and sensory impressions from the dish as a writer, and as an added bonus, it’s easier for me to recreate a particularly delicious improvisation.
Q. And speaking of your blog name, Bleeding Espresso, tell me how you make your espresso and how you take it.
A. I make my espresso in a moka pot at home and drink it straight up, no sugar.