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Bastianich: Lunch, Her New Book, and A Serious Look at Food

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Lidia Bastianich has a large audience in San Antonio, and many of them turned out to have lunch with her at Luce Ristorante y Enoteca Wednesday.

Lydia Bastianich 2014 cookbookThe renowned chef, author, restaurateur and television personality presented her as-always warm and informative discussion about food, her childhood and her latest book, “Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking,” written with Tanya Bastianich Manuali. Her appearance was a benefit for KLRN and included lunch, prepared by Fresh Horizons.

There were larger messages connected with using food with common sense, wisely and frugally. Bastianich said that chefs today — and all of us — must have a conscientiousness about the fact that in 50 years the world’s population will have doubled — and how we will be able to feed that many.

And chefs, cooks, farmers markets and those interested in food have, in fact, talked for years about supporting local farms and food producers, eating seasonally and supporting farmers markets.

Chefs in particular have found it a challenge — a delicious one — to use all of the animal, nose-to-tail, she pointed out.

Lydia Bastianich speaking“We have hunger in the world, yet the world produces 120 percent of what is needed (to feed everyone). Forty percent of the food goes to animals … for us who really want our marbled steaks,” she said. The food industry has to take part in the challenge of feeding a hungry world, she says.

And, what we can do when buying food: “Go into the store, buy conscientious products and slowly this train can turn on its track,” she said. In response to a question, she said that genetically modified strains of wheat and corn are not sold in Europe. Food intolerance we are seeing more of in the U.S., she suggested, could well be linked to these.

Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad

Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad

We can be conservative with our preparation, as her book talks about. Her example: keep odds and ends of vegetables instead of throwing them away — and make a vegetable stock, use it for soup.

The question and answer period with the audience brought also questions about her favorite food, which is pasta, (and no, you don’t want to rinse it in cold water after it is cooked) and stories about her childhood connection with food.

“I grew up connected to the earth, my grandmother had animals, a garden … she grew everything,” said the author.  “Children these days are really separated from that.”

To another question, as to whether the chef planned to open a restaurant in Texas, the answer was maybe — but possibly in Houston. To an audibly disappointed crowd, she said that locating a restaurant was a matter of heart, but also must be a sensible business decision.

Fresh Alaskan Halibut with Braised Fennel, at KLRN Fundraiser at Luce

Fresh Alaskan Halibut with Braised Fennel, at KLRN Fundraiser at Luce

Mezzaluna filled with fruit, semifreddo

Mezzaluna filled with fruit, semifreddo

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