Our house in Venice isn’t grand and isn’t showy – it’s a quiet little house with dark green shutters and crumbling pink paster walls. Inside it’s higgledy piggledy floors and old wooden beams. It’s the house where we have lived for as long as I can remember – and to me it will always be home; it will always, perhaps for that very reason, hold a magical charm. If you open the windows in the kitchen – tall french style ones that stretch from floor to ceiling – you will find that they lead you out on to a little garden. This is my favourite room in the house. ‘Room’ because while it feels barren and bare in winter, come summer the garden is where we live. That is where I sit out and leaf lazily through cookbooks; where Aeneas plays with his little bucket and spade and the figurine shaped like a ferocious dinosaur. That is where we eat and drink, and linger on after dinner, gossiping, gently sipping liquor, all cozy under the dark blanket that is the nighttime sky. That is where the scene of our family life plays out.
Summer now feels tantalisingly close. And with her will come the scorching heat, the picnics by the beach and the pitchers of homemade iced tea with chunks of almost indecently juicy white peach swimming atop. But now is the time for Spring. The sunshine so precious and warming on bare skin – even if only for a few hours in the very middle of the day, but long enough to eat al fresco. And that sound of birds chirruping at first light, the dawn chorus harbinger of a lighter and brighter everything. Spring comes like a breath of fresh air just as Winter begins to feel long. But best of all, of course, in culinary terms Spring is when things get really exciting. This is the time for the first asparagus of the year (think: lightly steamed then dipped in thick egg sauce), and the wild strawberries (think: drenched in zabaione custard); the time for fresh garden peas, so sweet and delicate I can’t resist but eat them as is and straight from their shell, though Venetian tradition dictates they should be stirred into a creamy risotto, into what we call risi e bisi. I don’t like to play favourites with the seasons, but Spring and the bounty which comes with her, is without doubt a moment that I look forward to all year round. [Read more…]