I’m feeling very smug as I write this. I’ve just cooked ribollita and it’s rather good. It isn’t difficult – it really is peasant food – but ribollita has a special place in my heart.
Cast your mind back, if you are old enough, to 1989. The blooming Mr and Mrs Miller are on honeymoon in Florence. It’s a beautiful city with some amazing sights. The statue of David is breathtaking. I know this is true because I’ve seen it twice and I still love it. Santa Croce is full of history. The ice cream is sensational. I love it.
One evening we went along the back streets and found a little restaurant above a shop. It was nothing special but even then I was keen to try the local cuisine. Memorable holidays are about experiences and sitting waiting for our food with a Florentine wife berating her Florentine husband in the kitchen was stereotypically wonderful. The other memorable part of the holiday was the sensational ribollita we ate there. I don’t know why I loved it. There is nothing spectacular about the Tuscan speciality. I don’t know whether to call it soup, stew or something different. It is a very ‘stiff’ combination of use-up ingredients. We both were bowled over by it though. The flavours and the textures are unlike anything I’ve had since – mainly because I’ve not eaten ribollita in over 25 years!
Why have I not eaten it since? I could give you a list:
I didn’t want to spoil the memory
Authentic recipes are few and far between
It’s not often we keep stale bread of the right type
There is so much else to cook
It’s difficult to see how ribollita would fit into most dinner party menus
You may think that spoiling the memory isn’t a good enough excuse. In my defence I can only cite the terrible experience with tiramisu. I’ve had two terrible ones for every good one I’ve eaten and half of the good ones have been made by me. Oddly I’ve only had one (sensational) zabaglione too… maybe it’s an Italian thing.
Chance resulted in the opportunity for ribollita once again. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about soup. It’s generally a very disappointing thing for me. I’ve not had many memorable soups in my life. I recognise it’s healthiness but somehow I can’t mentally think of it as a meal. The blog reminded me of ribollita as one of the few exceptions to my “no soup” rule. Couple that with spotting cavolo nero in the supermarket and an attempt to eat healthily and ribollita was looming on the Miller horizon for the first time in years.
The psychology of food is fascinating. What would I not attempt to cook something which had such an impression on me? I’ve certainly had the same experience where I’ve eaten something I simply don’t have the ability to cook and similarly with things I have no chance of obtaining the right ingredients. This was all about not wanting to spoil the moment.
….but I took the chance.