Twitter can sometimes seem be a bit empty, and only filled with vacuous beasts like me, channelling their inner banal nonsense into the cyberwhatever it is that makes up that there interferweb thing. But sometimes it is a force for good, and you get to acquaint yourself with the far more noble creatures that inhabit the Earth.
Last year, while tweeting my usual nonsense to my friend Chef Jose Graziosi, we had another joining in the fun with verve and brio. This was my first introduction to the lady who is known on Twitter as @Carmela_kitchen. A woman known for her fondness for polka dots.
As it turns out Carmela was born into an Italian family and lives in Northampton. She is also an accomplished cook with a passion for all things Italian and particularly pasta. The passage of time, an inspirational Grandma (Nona) and a burning desire to share her love of the Southern Italian style of simple rustic cooking, have led Carmela to the stage of her life where she has now become an authentic published author.
Her simple paperback book, “Southern Italian Family Cooking”, is packed with lovely ideas of how to get the best from very little. It extols that simple honest cooking that is so typical of the life in the less affluent South of Italy, it is known as Cucina Povera.
Our Twitter exchanges have continued and I have prattled on about the spice meddling I conduct. Carmela did express mild interest, and me (being me) decided to send her some. My recollection is that she liked it, which got me to thinking. Carmela is a vivacious Italian woman with a passion for food, taste and flavour, she also has flaming red hair and style. I wondered could I think up a unique spice mix blend that would do justice to her?
After a bit of tinkering I had my prototype complete, its name….. Carmela La Rossa Pooda Blend. It is red, rich, aromatic herby & spicy with a dash of heat. To my delight, once I had it sent, delivered and sampled Carmela (she is the personification of La Rossa) declared she loved it and ordered a tranche more so she could cook more with it.
One was as you can imagine very pleased. It adds another spice combo to what I rather grandly call my Signature Range. This selection is so called “Signature” because all the spices have been inspired by and made for real people.
My list this far:
Carmela Sophia Soreno Hayes, Pop-up restaurateur, cookery teacher, recipe book author and nice person (obviously, I have just been rambling on about it)
Pierre’s Erld Smerky Pooda Blend, for Chef Pierre Rigothier in Paris
VSCJG Pooda Blend for Chef Jose Graziosi in the Cambridge area
The Peaceful Turk Pooda Blend, for Chefs David Coulson and Robert Elat at Peace and Loaf Restaurant
Bella La Parisienne Pooda Blend, for Food Journalist Annabelle Schachmes in Paris
Royster Bay Seasoning Pooda Blend for Chef Roy Brett at Ondine in Edinburgh
Carmela is equally at home with her authentic Italian ingredients as she is laughing at cake and collecting recipe books.
It was simply delightful to hear that Carmela had been in touch with the fabulous Helen (who runs her independent book shop in the lovely Northumbrian market town of Corbridge) and made plans to come up for a short talk and book signing.
This offered me the rare opportunity to meet up with La Rossa in person at the event.
So it was in February this year Carmela rocked into Corbridge in her daring (and darling) little yellow sports car, and I met her at the Tea & Tipple Café where the book signing and talk was taking place.
She comes across as a woman passionate about her subject and very capable of putting across her ideas and thoughts. The evening passed well with some drinks and nibbles made by Helen, from recipes in Carmela’s book. I think Helen was somewhat anxious about presenting what she had made, to the very woman who wrote the recipes in the book. She need not have been so worried because Carmela is as gracious as she is elegant.
The book itself is simple and delightful. It is packed with simple easy to make authentic Southern Italian recipes and the odd anecdote or two. It is a great book if you want to introduce someone to making fresh tasty food, but is worried they cannot cook. With this, they will be off to a flying start in no time, and will rapidly gain confidence. To those that already cook it is a handy little reference to have knocking about in the kitchen.
After the Tea & Tipple we had a chat, and I was able to learn a little more about her life, family (four robust, lively children and a patient husband) and her forthcoming plans.
Carmela has started to research and write her next book which is all about her speciality, and that is pasta. I imagine it will be very informative and a “must have” for those that, too, love to make their own.
This year will involve a research trip to Italy with her dear friend and fellow rebel, Julie. I can imagine much fun and high jinx are expected and much Prosecco will be drunk.
More pop-ups and collaborations will follow I am sure, and an eventful time to be had with her cookery demonstrations too.
It would be nice to think that one day Carmela will get the recognition she deserves and has worked so hard for, and maybe gets her own telly program; because trust me she has the ability to charm and inform and make cooking as much fun as Nigella Lawson has done in the past. Programme developers are you watching? Especially you at the BBC.
I look forward to perhaps meeting this delightful inspiring woman again one day and getting her next book signed like I did the first one. Maybe that time I will be able to enjoy some Nino Franco Prosecco with her too while she regales me of the tails of mischief that she and Julie got up to in “The Old Country”.
Salute, cin cin and Jolly Good Luck la Rossa!