A symphony of pasta and risotto for musician Claudio Piastra
We continue our chat with the famous classical guitarist Claudio Piastra. All the numbers stack up for the artistic director of the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti Tadini di Lovere near Bergamo: twenty albums, all of them acclaimed by public and critics alike; almost fifty books, which he has revised and edited; and over one thousand performances at festivals and musical events around the world.
Coming from a family of restaurateurs, he’s equally passionate about food. What is the ingredient you can’t do without, Claudio?
“I’m not a health freak, so I’d probably say butter. I don’t use it all the time, but I always keep my fridge stocked with it.” What is the funniest item in your kitchen?
“Definitely my electric milk frother. I’ve only just got one, but I really can’t do without it: it’s the first thing we switch on in the morning.” When was the last time you had a really good meal?
“I usually go out to eat after a concert, often with the people who’ve organised it. They’re usually very keen for me to sample the local delicacies. I feel absolutely starving after a performance, because it’s late, I’ve spent all my energy and I only have a light lunch on concert days. They say that if you get too hungry, you don’t appreciate the quality of the food… perhaps that’s why I always seem to eat so well. But getting back to your question, yesterday lunchtime I enjoyed some traditional and all-but-forgotten rustic dishes made using organic produce from the garden: soup with potatoes and rice and baked pears with zabaglione. I’d forgotten all about the flavours; we need to remember them and, in some cases, bring them back to our tables.” Which recipe do you do best?
“I really enjoy cooking, although I don’t have much time to do it. I can’t pick out one recipe, because I like variety and my favourites change. Apart from stuffed brisket (which I cook using shoulder of veal, unlike the traditional recipe), I often make different types of risotto and pasta dishes. I never follow the recipe; I always improvise…” Which traits do you admire in a chef?
“Though I do appreciate the emphasis which people have been placing on cooking in recent years, I find the idolisation and sensationalisation of food ridiculous and completely out of place. I’ve met quite a few chefs, and one of them explained to me that it takes more than just technique: rather like music, you need sensitivity, love, skill, honesty and a knowledge of culture to reach a higher level.” What’s the meaning of food in your experience?
“Food has many different meanings. We experience it through all five senses, and it adds a greater dimension to our social relationships. It is also a question of survival, the reason why entire populations have been driven to migrate, conquer and dominate over the centuries… Your question gives me the chance to reflect on how unbearably awful it is that there is still so much inequality today around ’access to food… Seeking to make food available to everyone in the world is not just an ethical and a human responsibility, it is fundamental for our survival.”
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