‘Saint’ of the Stove closes Marcella’s kitchen

Marcella Hazan

Married to the same man for more than six decades, Marcella Hazan’s ashes will be interred in her home village of Cesenatico in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. Those details, however, give nothing away about her influence in international food.

- The New York Times

Marcella Hazan, cook and cook book author

April 15, 1924 – September 29, 2013

In his early days as a rising star chef, Mario Batali received a letter from Marcella Hazan after he had made risotto in a sauté pan on his television show, Molto Mario. In it, the exacting and sometimes prickly Italian-born cook told Mr Batali he was all wrong. In no uncertain terms, Mrs Hazan told him the only proper way to make risotto was in a saucepan. He did not agree, but the two became friends anyway, sitting down over glasses of Jack Daniel’s whenever their paths crossed.

'I didn’t pay attention to Julia Child like everyone else said they did,' Mr Batali recalled. 'I paid attention to Marcella Hazan.'

Mrs Hazan, a chain-smoking, determined former biology scholar who reluctantly moved to America and went on to teach a nation to cook Italian food, died Sunday at her home in Longboat Key, Florida. She was 89. She had been suffering from emphysema for many years, and had severe circulation problems, her husband, Victor, said.

The impact Mrs Hazan had on the way America cooks Italian food is impossible to overstate. Even people who have never heard of Marcella Hazan cook and shop differently because of her, and the six cookbooks she wrote, starting in 1973 with The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating. "She was the first mother of Italian cooking in America," said Lidia Bastianich, the New York restaurateur and television cooking personality.

Mrs Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She abhorred the overuse of garlic in much of what passed for Italian food in the United States, and would not suffer fools afraid of salt or the effort it took to find quality ingredients.

Her tomato sauce, enriched with only an onion, butter and salt, embodies her approach, but she has legions of devotees to other recipes, among them her classic Bolognese, pork braised in milk and her minestrone. When Mrs Hazan arrived in New York in 1955, Italian food was still exotic, served in restaurants with straw-covered Chianti bottles and red-checked tablecloths. She was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup.

The culture shock nearly crushed her. She was appalled by canned peas, hamburgers and coffee she once described as tasting no better than the water she used to wash out her own coffeepot at home. At her first Thanksgiving meal, she nearly gagged on the cranberry sauce.

What was worse, she had no cooking skills herself. Mrs Hazan’s training had been in the classroom, not the kitchen. She had a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. But she was determined to cook for her new husband, a dapper man from a family of Manhattan furriers, who had been born in Italy. He moved back there from New York in his 20s. After returning to New York, Mr Hazan worked at his family’s business, and Mrs Hazan began navigating a bewildering city that shopped and cooked in ways that were completely foreign...

Full obituary in The New York Timeswww.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/dining/Marcella-Hazan-dies-changed-the-way-americans-cook-italian-food.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&smid=fb-share

Obituary in San Jose Mercury News: http://california.obituaries.funeral.com/2013/09/29/marcella-hazan-dies-cookbook-author-taught-classic-italian-to-america/

Remembering Marcella Hazan, NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/09/30/227855007/remembering-marcella-hazan-who-brought-a-taste-of-italy-to-america

Obituary on The American Conservative: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/marcella-hazan-rip/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marcella-hazan-rip

Wikipedia on Marcella Hazan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan