Tessa Kiros blends homemaking tips with recipes in Recipes and Dreams from an Italian Life, a warm and welcoming keepsake readers will want to return to again and again.
Incorporating housekeeping tips in addition to recipes is an unusual approach for a cookbook. How did you arrive at the concept?
It had a natural path. I had started jotting down things people like my mother-in-law were saying to me while I was collecting recipes. Then suddenly I noticed the book was beginning to take a certain shape.
What was/is the importance of a trousseau?
I think the trousseau is a wonderful thing. I came to appreciate it only recently—the role and importance that it gives to the integrity of running a house well; the way it is connected to a past and linked to a future as well as the value of certain objects in and of themselves. I like the stories behind it, why a previous generation would think these are the important things to hand down to their families; how the generation before would make a great dish, set a beautiful table, make a perfect bed. To listen to the experience of these older women who have walked the road.
In the end—everyone is free to choose to mix the old with the new as they see suitable for their particular lifestyle.
What was your mother-in-law’s reaction to your project? How involved was she in the process?
My mother-in-law was very enthusiastic (as always) when I told her. Though for her, many of these things are a normal part of everyday life. She was delighted to hear that I would be assembling things into one space and mingling them in with the recipes.
She generously gave her time, her tips, and her photo albums for us to use, but she didn’t know if and how we would be using them until I presented her with a copy of the book. She was speechless for a while. I think she was very surprised and proud when she saw herself on so many pages. She has leafed through it many times, but will have a better understanding of the things I wrote when she gets the Italian version in a few months. It’s great for her to see how much of her material we actually used: tips, props, her photos, her love and wisdom.
Do you personally observe the same thematic days of the week that structure your chapters?
I live in a small village in Italy, and tasks are often done on a set day. Market day is once a week generally. Washing day makes sense once a week and I think relaxing on Sundays is great.
I don’t have a set day of baking, but I was very enthused to learn about this old-fashioned approach toward method and order. I think it’s great and makes sense to bundle things up onto a day so you can actually get them done. I often find myself tripping over chores and things and never quite getting one thing finished. Organizing the book in this way was a reminder.
What was the most inspiring/amazing thing you discovered while working on the book?
The way things somehow always fall into place; how people were just coming forward with recipes, fabrics and so much more. Things were just appearing. I love the way that it all flowed into place. It is an incredible feeling to watch something like this coming together through collaboration.
What are some of the lessons you’d like readers to take away from the book?
They should collect things from their family: to see the beauty of using everything and re-inventing things; to make sure nothing goes to waste, everything is valued, starting with great produce and using it all up. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.