• Nicoletta Fornaro

Salad with Fresh Peas, Mint, Flowers and Goat's Cheese

Dear friends,

I apologise it has been so long since my last post, but a couple of new work opportunities have kept me busy. Besides, the weather has been hideous and I haven't taken many new pictures of Venice nor have had the time to wander around the lagoon. As you surely know, the Biennale d'Arte has started and I can't wait for June to explore not only the main exhibition areas, but also the numerous external pavilions! I also hope it will get warmer soon as I am still wearing woolen jumpers, something which is definitely NOT normal for Italy in May!!!!

Being meteopathic, I can't hide that my mood has been negatively influenced by this strangely cold temperature and that I am starting to get sick of waiting to go to the beach or simply enjoy a stroll in the sun. The other evening we even turned the heating back on for a couple of hours, so humid it was! But, considering there is nothing practical I can do, I just have to accept this situation and find other ways to spend my free time, like reading books and visiting museums.

Thank goodness Vito always provides me with lots and lots of magazines and supplements on food and art, the most interesting of which was the special edition of Internazionale dedicated to food (see some articles here). I have already mentioned that magazine in my previous post, I also made the perfect Rachel Roddy orange, ricotta and olive oil ciambellone, took some pics and even drafted a blog post with her recipe and some thought on her article, but then I thought the photos had a wintery mood and decided not to post it (but.. if the weather won't change soon, I'll likely publish it this weekend!).

In the magazine, there was the advertisement of a book called 'Cibo' by German author Helena Janeczek. The title means Food and, of course, as soon as I saw it, it arose my curiosity, so I bought it and am currently reading it. I'm finding it quite fun, as it focuses on the relationship between women and their body and food, but in a very easy-going and lighthearted way. Personally, although I have never suffered either from bulimia nor anorexia, I recognise myself and most of my girlfriends in what she says. The protagonist, in fact, is a round woman -very knowledgeable- who wants to improve her looks and starts going to a beauty centre, where she meets Daniela, the beautician that will take care of her and become her friend and confidant.

The two women are very different in terms of background, interests and culture, but they become allies and share the same mission: loosing weight. Through their life events and memories, food is described and seen in many different ways. For the protagonist, food is mostly linked to childhood memories and has a deep value, whereas for the beautician food is a friend and enemy (she suffers from bulimia). She is constantly on a diet, exercises every day and feels strong if she 'resists temptation', but then... when she has her low moments, she devours the whole house in only a few minutes and feels sick and bad.

Personally, I know these situations are real and diffused in our society. When I was at university, I remember a girl in my course who started following the Duncan diet, until she was recovered in hospital for kidney deficiency. I remember her well, as she was clearly unhappy. She didn't like herself, thus she did not accept herself. She would have been nice, but her dissatisfaction made her nasty with others and apparently closed. She avoided all sorts of carbs and the few times I tried telling her that I live on carbs and that if she wanted to improve her looks, the best thing would have been changing lifestyle rather than following a drastic diet for a way too long period, she just replied that I didn't know anything, that I am naturally slender and have no idea of the efforts she was making to stay in shape.

I never told her that, yes, maybe I am naturally slender, but also... in general, I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle, run almost everyday, eat a mainly plant-based diet and when I have what she called 'cheat days', I just enjoy an ice-cream or a pizza or whatever I feel like having, whereas she was eating only bad proteins, foods with no minerals nor vitamins and on cheat days empty the entire house. I knew she had a serious problem and just felt very sorry for her. Aware that I could't help and that, in a way, she kind of hated me for being slim with no effort... I just stopped seeing her once university ended.

Personally, I enjoy food and see it not only as a source of fuel/vitamins/minerals/etc., but also as something that brings people together and creates memories. What interests me most about food is its link with its territory and its people and, over the years, I believe I have been able to establish a very positive relationship with food! I am never 'on a diet', as my everyday diet revolves around grains, seasonal (and local) greens, lots of legumes and sometimes fish, eggs and cheese. I stopped eating meat last September, but not because I believe it's bad for people, but only for environmental reasons (and I don't think badly about people who eat meat and would never dream of telling another person what to do!). Besides, being involved in the food industry, if a company required me to develop recipes and or take pictures of meat dishes, I would do it without hesitation.

With this said, I have a feeling that the society we live in forces women (much more than men) to focus exclusively on our physical look, imposing unreachable models and establishing an ideal look we should all aspire to. Well.. the thing is that we are not all the same, some of us are tall, some are short, some are slender and some are stout. It is functional to beauty industries to have unhappy people ready to spend all their money on useless diet and exercise plans, while if we all just lived a healthier lifestyle that does not imply deprivation or sense of guilt, we would all be happier and look much better. I don't even believe in cheat days. I mean, if I crave an ice-cream on a Monday evening, I'm not going to wait for Saturday before eating it... I just enjoy it and -honestly- I don't see why I should feel guilty and stressed about it. I stick to the old saying 'a little bit of everything in moderation' and try to eat local and seasonal whenever possible. That's all!

Last but not least, I also believe that good, healthy food tastes exquisite and it should never be experienced as a sacrifice! The recipe I'm sharing, in fact, was truly delicious! Simple, fresh and flavourful, made with fresh peas, spring onions, edible flowers, green leaves, mint and a goat's cheese from Vicenza called Venetico, which resembles Greek feta but is made only a few km away (by the way, if you want to buy it, you find it in venice at the Monday Farmers Market in Santa Marta). I sautéed the peas in the pan with some anchovies, capers and red spring onion, meanwhile I marinated the Venetico in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, pepper and fresh mint leaves and then I assembled the salad adding some lettuce, a bunch of edible flowers (a gift from a friend who grows them) and served it with toasted brown bread and -Italian friends, please forgive me- a cup of hot green tea. I give you my word that it was lovely, filling and in no way sad and I hope you will like it as much as we did!

I'm also curious to know, if you feel like sharing your thoughts, about your relationship with food or if you have dealt with people who experience it as a problem and what you think about it. Meanwhile, I wish you a lovely day and will be in touch soon!



Serves 2


500 gr fresh peas

500 gr green salad

1 medium spring onion

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon capers

8/10 edible flowers

mint leaves

100 gr goat's cheese

1 lemon

olive oil



1) Shell the peas and keep aside.

2) Clean and roughly slice the spring onion, heat a pan and before the oil starts popping, add anchovies, capers and onions. Stir, lower the heat and add the peas. Stir again, sprinkle some water and let cook for about 20 minutes.

3) In the meantime, cut the cheese into small squares and put in a bowl with some mint leaves, pepper and olive oil and leave marinating until before serving.

4)In a bowl, combine salad, sautéed peas, goat's cheese, flowers, a few extra mint leaves, and dress with etra virgin olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice.

Serve with toasted bread.


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