Here's what you need to do, just as soon as you've read this interview with former Jacksonian Elaine Trigiani—call up The Everyday Gourmet at 601-977-9258 and Bravo! at 601-982-8111 to find out how to get yourself on their e-mail lists. That way, you'll be among the first in town to get the news of her next hands-on cooking class or olive oil seminar or Tuscan food feast.
Trigiani, 41, lives in Loro Ciuffenna, Tuscany, where she leads olive oil tasting seminars and teaches Tuscan cooking. A few times a year, she comes home to visit and to share her knowledge and the joys she's discovered about olive oil and fresh ingredients.
She'll be at Bravo! on Aug. 7, for an olive oil seminar and an authentic sit-down Tuscan meal paired with Italian wines (that sold out in 12 hours). Then she'll be at The Everyday Gourmet on Aug. 9 for a hands-on class and olive oil seminar. At press time, tickets were still available for Aug. 9.
What piqued your interest in Tuscan food in the first place?
I've always been really interested in food, mostly because I really like to eat. Tuscan food is simple, with just a few ingredients and the pure flavors that nature gives us. We taste the bounty of the earth, and it's good for you.
What's the importance or value of the proper olive oil in Tuscan cooking and cooking in general?
Good olive oil enhances the flavors of the ingredients all around it. It's kind of like salt. ... It's the little oomph. In Tuscan cooking, olive oil plays an important role by bringing the flavors together. It's incredible the richness it brings to whatever you cook with it. It enhances the ingredients around it.
What influence do you see fresh ingredients having on Italians' health?
The Italian lifestyle is kind of natural. You start to pay more attention to where your ingredients come from. On a local level you ask, "Who grew this tomato? Who made that cheese?" You know the local growers and producers. It's nice to be able to know exactly where food comes from. It's a kind of quality control; we don't have an FDA stamp, but it's a luxury to be able to buy such genuine products. I notice that I feel better because I'm eating healthier.
What sort of fit do you see between Tuscan cooking and Mississippians?
People here in Mississippi have always had a strong food tradition. We love to eat and to cook the bounty that's here. There's great produce, great stuff to take advantage of. It might take a little more time to shop but less time in the kitchen. I love our food; it's a good fit with the Tuscan philosophy of a few fresh ingredients. We need to take advantage of our local producers and buy from them. Go to the farmers' market, making sure to get out there and hunt out those good products.
What's your favorite Southern food?
Oh-h-h-h, I can't pick just one. I love all of it. I love a big ole vegetable plate and cornbread.