Stories from Clara's Kitchen

Have you met Clara Cannucciari yet? She's the spunky 94-year-old chef who has become a Cooking sensation thanks to her Web series "Depression Cooking With Clara" and her book on the same topic, "Clara's Kitchen".

Clara is not your typical celebrity chef, her videos and book are quite unique. Each recipe is introduced by a short story from her own life. Most of the stories center around the painfully lean Depression years. Clara tells the stories in a way that is straight-forward and endearing. Clearly her family struggled a lot (example: they once had pasta and lard for a meal!), but she doesn't seem to regret those hard years much. She does get a tad emotional at times as she relays the stories in her videos, but who wouldn't? Though life was often hard, she has taken those experiences and learned lessons from them. This book and these videos are a wonderful way for her to share those lessons with us.
The recipes are pretty basic, as you can imagine supplies were very limited. Most have only a hand full of ingredients. Spices are mostly salt and pepper. Almost everything calls for olive oil, and hardly any include meat. Simple recipes, yes - but when put into context I think they are amazing in their complexity. How difficult it must have been to plan meals for your family with an all but empty pantry? Meals that would nourish, and satisfy?
"What are we going to eat tonight? Pasta with garlic. What are we going to eat tonight? Pasta with peas. What are we gonna eat? Pasta with beans. That's all we ate was pasta and a small vegetable," Clara says in one of her You Tube videos as she watches over a steaming pan of frying onions.

I had not heard of Clara prior to seeing her book featured on Amazon via one of those "based on your recent purchases, you might like" messages. I got it in the mail just yesterday (a late birthday gift for myself) and read it this afternoon. It's a short little book, but a very fun read - especially if you enjoy reading cookbooks and/or memoirs of the Great Depression. I happen to love both, so it was perfect for me.

As soon as I finished reading Clara's book, I went to the computer to see her in action on YouTube. What a fun lady!

See a collection of her YouTube videos here.

I'm personally fascinated by the concept of living frugally. I know I'm not alone these days. Though (thank God) we are not in a depression, we are facing a time when we may best be served to take note of money saving methods perfected by our Grandmothers. In fact, Clara mentions that she's written this book (and starred in the videos) to share her experiences with folks who want to live a simpler, more frugal life.
I won't ever make"pasta with lard", but I do think I'll try Clara's recipes for Biscotti, "Eggs and Peppers Sandwiches" and "Pasta with Peas". They each sound like comfort food to me, and I do love my comfort food - even more so when it can be made on the cheap!
I'll close today with a tidbit from the closing page of "Clara's Kitchen":
"I also hope that learning how we survived the Great Depression will help you survive your own tough times. What will get you through is just what got us through - family and friends, and finding joy wherever you can." - Clara Cannucciari

1 comment:

  1. You also might enjoy reading "Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression" by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. My folks were born in '21 and '23 and it was rare to get them to talk much about their childhoods, and I think many folks who had a tough go during those days were reluctant to remember, let alone share that period in history. The above book is great, and opens a window into Iowa life in the Dust Bowl days. I like to think some of the tales told there are reflective of my folks as youngsters.



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