THE PRESS, Christchurch Jo Seagar says her new cookbook, is not only beautiful, but practical and inspirational. She tells KATE FRASER how she came to organise a cooking school in a village in Umbria, about the fluency of her Italian and recommends her r
You have a cook school in Oxford, North Canterbury, so is the Italian Cook School in Eggi, Umbria, an extension of that business?
No. It began with my fundraising involvement with Hospice New Zealand. A businessman also involved in the organisation said to me he and some friends owned this villa in Italy and as a fundraiser for Hospice, maybe I could take a group to Italy and organise a cook school in the villa. I didn’t really know Italy. I was more of a Francophile having studied and cooked in France. But we went, loved the region and the villa. We had an Italian translator with us and when we asked about a possible tutor for a cooking school, she said: ‘‘My Mamma is the best cook I know.’’ And that is when it all took shape. The House of Travel puts the trips together, the group lives in the villa, Mamma Fenisia Vittori comes out from the village and she teaches us. I ama New Zealander of many generations, but I know Mamma and I are of the same recipe.
So Mammais the tutor and you are . . . the student?
We all get involved in La Cucina Italia – the marketing, talking to the farmers, preparing the ingredients, and the cooking. It is what makes Italy special, where there is still time to spend all day in the kitchen doing things the old way. ‘‘Cooking for the men’’, we might say, whereas in Italy, it is ‘‘cooking for the family’’. We work with Mamma’s traditional ingredients and recipes and I add the bits that say authentic doesn’t always mean complicated.
Are there similarities between Italian and New Zealand cuisine?
Italian food is very regional. You use what there is. In Umbria, it is also frugal. Nothing is wasted. I think Kiwis get Italian food. I