Cucina povera, which can literally be translated as “poor kitchen” has humble beginnings rooted in a very simple way of life. With origins primarily in, but certainly not restricted to, southern Italy, it is rich in tradition.
Particularly before and after war time, families learned to make use of simple, available, and high quality ingredients. With little or no refrigeration, they learned to make use of everything, i.e., nothing was wasted! Creativity grew from finding ways to prepare different dishes with limited budgets and the same ingredients. Thus, recipes and techniques evolved from having to shop, cook and prepare healthy and nutritious meals daily from what was available and convenient.
Cucina povera has never been about being trendy or even “green”. No fancy stoves, pots and pans or utensils or elaborate preparation. Literally farm-to-table, eating what was fresh, local, and seasonal wasn’t a conscious decision, it was the result of what was available and brought home that day.
The farm-to-table tradition is undoubtedly alive and well today in Italy. This daily ritual is a lifestyle that not only supports local farmers and food artisans but ensures the quality of the goods they bring to market.
It was and remains a deep-rooted way of life; a very simple and healthy one that is usually learned but not at some fancy cooking school, or from a celebrity chef or trendy cookbook. It’s learned in the kitchen watching and helping Mamma or Nonna as she prepared,with loving hands and heart, her family’s meal.
And that is, and always has been, the secret ingredient of cucina povera…love!
(Photos: It’s a wonderful “hands-on” experience to cook with local mums in Italy!)
Content & all photos © Victoria De Maio