Interview with Lidia Bastianich – Part 2 and a recipe for a Free-Form Peach Crostata
“We need to go back to basics. Fifty percent or more of what we do to prepare food is about the product. The better the product, the less I have to do to it and the better the end result,” Lidia Bastianich told us. She is passionate about getting back to basics in both food and in life.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Eataly (an Italian artisan food market in New York City co-owned by Lidia, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali and Oscar Farinetti), you will find incredibly beautiful food: meats, fish, shellfish, breads, produce, and pastas. Fabulous basic ingredients. As you know if you cook at home, there is a huge difference in the outcome of a dish based on the quality of the ingredients that you use.
Lidia is also very concerned about many of the social issues surrounding food and the sustainability of our food production. “The world produces 120% of the food needed for human consumption and yet there is 30-40% hunger.” Waste and distribution challenges represent a big portion of the difference. Lidia went on to say, “We demand that perfectly marbled steak… the yield on that investment is not good. We need to modify, come closer to the earth. Eat simply. Eat straightforward. We can’t continue to push the edge. We need to eat the whole animal. Things are thrown out of balance and we are going backwards. You have to empower the people to make the right choices through education. Buy what is good for you.”
In talking about simplifying life and going back to basics, Lidia wants people to really understand where our food comes from. “Many people are not comfortable buying and preparing food and they don’t know real food. They know boxes. They need to get back to the source. If they had a ripe red tomato, you don’t have to do much to it; a little olive oil and salt and pepper is all you need. Children think chickens come from a plastic wrapper. They don’t know.” I discussed this topic in my article, Honor the Animal. Lidia said, “When you take a cow to slaughter, that is the reality. If people get that connection, they will respect everything else more.”
She continued, “We take the wrong approach to food. Everything is negation. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. It’s wrong. It causes problems. We need to talk about the positive. We need to eat the right things in the right seasons. Prepare great food simply and make it taste good.”
We have often written about the decline in the quality of our food that is available through most supermarkets. Food is now designed for transportation, cost, appearance, and shelf life with little or no concern about the taste, nutrition, and health benefits. Good quality food that is properly raised and harvested satisfies the mind and body. Food lacking in natural flavor, vitamins, and minerals does not. We often try to overcome the lack of natural flavor with seasonings and spice, but it cannot compensate for foods that are lacking in flavor to begin with.
Lidia talked about the same topic. “Most food doesn’t tell us anything. We eat a lot, but it is not satisfying. It is a problem. The Mediterranean diet is healthy. There is a lot of flavor and lots of color. Antipasto is intense in flavor. You have a few olives, meats, and cheeses and then maybe some pasta. Protein is only one third of what you eat. It satiates mentally. You need less and you are satisfied.” Lidia’s favorite pasta to cook at home is simply al dente pasta with olive oil, garlic, black pepper and Pecorino cheese.