March 21, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

Texas Nonna

By Suzanne Dunaway
Published: 2006-09-01

I am a step-nonna, a name in Italy that has no real definition, yet feels to the one bearing the title as real as bread, and I have hopes of passing on to my able step-grandkids this love of the kitchen and what treasures one can discover there. One of them asked me one day why I loved to cook so.

I love to cook because I watched the wild women of my family having fun in the kitchen at holidays, making racy comments about a naked roasting bird and laughing raucously as they got tipsier and tipsier on milk punch made with another kind of Wild Turkey.

I love to cook because I see so many people touched by good cooking and how much more than just nourishment it brings to the table.

I also cook to relax, to change a blue mood, to work out solutions, to think up a new drawing, to digest a book I’m reading, to consider what is known in our house as the MOL, the meaning of life, a subject often reviewed! I cook in Italy and think about my own “nonna” and the meaning of life. I don’t know if I have found it completely, but on days when the smell of fresh bread from my grandmother’s yellowed recipe is coming from my oven, tomatoes from Campo de’ Fiori are lolling in their extra virgin olive oil bath perfumed with fresh basil, and a blue-eyed, handsome man is holding my chair for Sunday lunch near a sunny Italian balcony, I think perhaps I have.

— The author is an associate editor of The American and author of Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen (Broadway Books) and No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes (Hyperion). See

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Suzanne Dunaway

Suzanne divides her time between the U.S, Italy and southern France.

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