HQ MamaBakers, Michelle and Karen, recently had the pleasure of having lunch with, and interviewing, cookbook author Tessa Kiros about her latest book Limoncello and Linenwater: A Trousseau of Italian Recipes.
Your latest book, Limoncello and Linen Water is centred around your Mother in Law, Wilma. Tell us a little more about her.
“She’s an incredible woman. As a Mother in Law, she’s not invasive, she doesn’t shove things at me and when I ask her for anything she comes forward with an array of helpful things.
For example, I invited her to lunch one Sunday; she asked me what she could bring and I told her I was out of mint and if she could bring some that would be wonderful.
Soon after she arrived, I looked outside and there was a huge terracotta pot of mint and she was in the garden with my children planting out cuttings. As she was leaving, I noticed a small jar on the window with another little mint cutting. She said to me: “When that grows roots, just plant it out in the garden”.
She has four sons and a husband and what I love about her is how she rises to the occasion; she never said “I’m not coping”, she simply found a way of making it work and did it well. This is the whole theme around Limoncello and Linen Water.
And that is Wilma. She is an incredible inspiration and she has the kind of knowledge that is so invaluable to me as a Mother.”
What is the main challenge, food wise, for modern families?
“I think there is a lot of choice. Possibly too much. We all want a little bit of this and a bit of that. It is very multi-cultural which is a wonderful development but I think with all the choices and the need for convenience, there is a loss of being in tune with what is seasonal, what our bodies need and what our Grandmother’s made.
Of course, we have to keep up with the times but I think it’s nice that we each have a little pocket of nostalgia to go back to; a reference to our Grandmothers’ ways.”
Tell us more about the importance of the Matriarch to the family?
“In Italy, where I live, the Matriarch is not lost, she is very appreciated and she loves being involved in her family.
I went to a woman once, who is a Grandmother, who healed my back ache, and asked her what she was planning to do that day. She said:
“My granddaughter is coming because my daughter is going to work”.
I asked her if she liked that, she told me how much she loved being so involved and that she was going to wash and iron her daughter’s familys’ sheets and prepare dinner for them. She simply came to life telling me all about it.
I have a woman, Mariella, who comes to help in my home for three hours a week and recently she asked me if she could bring her mother because she was getting frail. So she started coming along with her daughter. She would sit in my garden and teach embroidery to my children and I love that.
The Grandmothers in Italy do what they do because they want to do it. They say “When we had children we didn’t really get to spend that much time with them and now we are getting a chance again to do it”.
In Italy, many women are only getting by, work-wise, because of the Grandmothers. Not many families can afford to have extra help in the house and work full-time. The involvement and inclusion of the Grandmother keeps the whole situation for many families, afloat.”
One big batch recipe you would recommend for our MamaBakers:
“I just love these little biscuits as a special something.”
75g butter, softened,
75g sugar, plus extra for sprinkling,
A few drops of vanilla extract,
1 teaspoon of rosewater,
210g Plain flour,
Tiny, fresh, unsprayed rosebuds, halved lengthways.
Preheat the oven to 170 degreesC and line a baking tray with baking paper. Using electric beaters, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Beat in the egg, then add the vanilla essence and rosewater. Add the flour and mix in with a wooden spoon. You can keep the dough or make the biscuits immediately.
Break off balls of dough the size of a rum ball and roll them into smooth balls in your hand.
Flatten them ever so slightly, then place on the lined tray leaving a little space between them.
Using a plastic bottle cap (from a bottle of water, for example), gently press a ring pattern on the top of each biscuit. Set half a rosebud on top of each biscuit, pressing it in gently.
Sprinkle a little sugar over the top. Bake for 10 minutes until just set but still very pale (they will harden as they cool). Move them to a wire rack to cool.
To purchase a copy of Limoncello and Linenwater, click here.
Event organised by Manuka PaperChain Bookstore: 34 Franklin Street, Manuka, ACT 2603.
Tel: 02 6295 6723.