La Cucina – Text for reading comprehension
`La Cucina´(the kitchen) – an Italian experience
My parents, who had been married for sixteen years, divorced when I was twelve years old. I stayed with my mother in Cape Town, one of the biggest cities in South Africa. My father, who had lived in Cape Town all his life, moved to Johannesburg, the most populous city in South Africa. He had to learn how to take care of himself, and meals were a problem for him as he was hopeless in the kitchen. Paul, my father, wanted me to visit him in the school holidays, which meant I would have had to spend three weeks in Johannesburg in the winter holidays, and six weeks in the summer school holidays. The thought of being without my mother, who served excellent meals, was hard indeed.
My flight was booked: South African Airways flew direct from Cape Town International Airport, which is the second busiest in South Africa, and serving almost 4,000,000 departing passengers. I had a direct flight, a window seat, and could watch the plane taking off and landing. It was one of the busiest air routes, and the flight duration was two hours and fifteen minutes.
Paul loved the Italian cuisine, and he knew I did, too. A friend of his, whom he had met at the Ellis Park Tennis Club, which has now been transformed into a unique venue and social club, recommended a Sicilian family, who cooked for singles and businesspeople. Having a licence and permit under the Homemade Food Act, they also had a good knowledge of food preparation and safety. The food, which was priced fairly, was about tradition, and it was strongly connected to an Italian philosophy, an approach to cooking that should be part of everyday life.
Paul contacted Louisa Lancelotti and arranged to have two full-course meals a day, lunch and dinner. Lunch was between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. My first day in Johannesburg started with a typical Italian meal Louisa had prepared especially for me. It was a three-course meal, involving a lot of thought and planning. There were five guests, mainly businesspeople.
The starter was pasta, home-made pasta. We each got a fork and tablespoon. I was surprised because I thought tablespoons were only for children. The pasta was served in a big bowl and the sauce was served separately. There was a generous amount of freshly grated parmigiano, and we could help ourselves to as much as we liked. Louisa knew that freshly baked bread with olive oil and a little garlic was one of the best Sicilian dishes. We had ample time to flavour this satiating dish. My father engaged in participating in conversation with the other guests and this allowed him to switch off from his daily work.
Our main meal was ‘Cotoletta’, breaded veal cutlet, which was served with parsley and lemon. Louisa brought us a big bowl of mixed salad, ` l´ínsalata`, with tomatoes and some thinly sliced basil leaves. I ate slowly, savouring the delicious food and quickly forgetting how homesick I had felt that very morning when arriving in Johannesburg. Spending time with my father and sharing these beautiful moments, made me feel happy in these homely surroundings.
The dessert was ‘cupola di fragole’, a delicious strawberry cake made with ricotta, fresh Italian cheese from cows’ milk, and yogurt. This was a major hit and a treat for any child and adult. My holiday in Johannesburg was suddenly filled with the scent of lemons, tomatoes and basil.
Louisa had a unique business idea by making lunch and dinner an experience for any businessperson, to stay productive and help them through the busy season by having at least one good home-made meal a day, varied, delicious and fresh.