mar­cella hazan

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - BY LIDIA BASTIANICH Twit­ter: @Lidi­aBas­tianich Lidia Bastianich is the host of public tele­vi­sion’s “Lidia’s Kitchen,” a cook­book au­thor and owner of five restau­rants.

Mar­cella Hazan was one of Amer­ica’s most knowl­edge­able and de­ter­mined ex­perts on Ital­ian cook­ing. What made her its grand dame was her ded­i­ca­tion, pre­ci­sion and hard work. She al­ways stayed true to the tra­di­tional recipes of Italy’s dif­fer­ent re­gions.

Born in Emilia-Ro­magna, she earned a doc­tor­ate in nat­u­ral sciences and bi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Fer­rara. She mar­ried Vic­tor Hazan, and the cou­ple ar­rived in New York in 1955. Although Mar­cella’s mother and grand­mother cooked, she never spent much time at the stove grow­ing up. Once in Amer­ica, though, she dis­liked many of the pop­u­lar Ital­ian Amer­i­can dishes and would not ac­cept the of­fer­ings of many of the Ital­ian eater­ies. And so be­gan her cook­ing quest. She cooked for fam­ily and friends, and then, with Vic­tor’s sup­port, she set out to teach Amer­ica the real re­gional foods of Italy from her home kitchen in Man­hat­tan.

Hazan took to teach­ing cook­ing with the ap­proach of a univer­sity pro­fes­sor: She stud­ied, an­a­lyzed and cooked from Ada Boni’s com­pre­hen­sive re­gional Ital­ian cook­book and oth­ers. Af­ter tak­ing a class on Chi­nese cook­ing, she was con­fi­dent that she could use her own knowl­edge to teach Ital­ian cui­sine and be­gan of­fer­ing classes in her apart­ment. From there, she be­gan writ­ing down her recipes and even­tu­ally au­thor­ing cook­books.

Dur­ing my early years as a chef, I of­ten re­ferred to her cook­books and con­tin­ued to do so as I be­gan writ­ing my own. Her recipes and in­struc­tions are clear and sim­ple; in fact, her recipes al­ways work. Hazan wrote and taught about the Ital­ian sen­si­bil­ity for prod­ucts and tech­nique, and she made sure the history and re­gion­al­ity of the recipe was clear. When I was in doubt about the au­then­tic­ity of a par­tic­u­lar recipe, I would check her books to re­con­firm.

Hazan’s “The Clas­sic Ital­ian Cook Book,” pub­lished in 1973, was the first com­pre­hen­sive re­gional Ital­ian cook­book in Amer­ica. She was a true pi­o­neer, and her work opened doors for all of us who fol­lowed in show­cas­ing the beauty and de­lights of the tra­di­tional re­gional cui­sine of Italy.

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