The recipes and cooking tips found in this book have been painstakingly drawn out of my relatives—primarily my mother—over the past 25 years. Now, don’t get me wrong. My mother is a lovely woman and a great cook, but like so many good cooks from her generation, she is a terrible explainer. Me, I’m an awful cook but a good explainer . . . so I eat and write.

In this world there are three types of cooks: good cooks, great cooks, and lousy cooks. Great cooks can make gourmet suppers out of old slippers and dog food. Lousy cooks think Kraft Dinner is actually dinner. And good cooks are the ones blessed with the understanding that homemade food is the best food and that cooking is a wonderful way to spend one’s time when not having sex.

Both sides of my family originate from the province of Marche in Central Italy. Our region is known throughout the country for producing high-quality wines, excellent shoes, and tough-cooking women. And it is from these women that the many recipes in this book were born.

The elders among our family want this knowledge passed along to the younger generation and to our many Canadian in-laws so that when they, the elders, are invited over for dinner, they enjoy themselves. It’s not that Canadians are bad people (everyone knows they make excellent policemen), or that there is anything wrong with an Italian immigrant’s descendant ordering Chinese. It’s just that we all need to realize that a bought dessert from IGA is not the highlight of a special family meal.

Hey, I like Aunt Elma’s lazy man’s cabbage rolls, and every once in a while I even crave something in the shape of a jelly mould. But, ladies and gentlemen, this is not real food. Spaghetti sauce does not have to come from a jar, and there is a substitute for onion powder and those little dehydrogenated onion flakes—they’re called onions.

So here it is: every Canadian girl’s answer to cooking Italian, without the moustache.

What I like best about this book is that no recipe calls for Campbell’s cream-of-anything soup or copious amounts of dry mustard. And we never ask you to pull out anything complicated like a Crock-Pot or an electric frying pan. We use simple cooking methods with simple ingredients to create a cooking style that saves you the hours of wondering where the hell you put all those pizza coupons.

So throw out your frozen vegetable medley and your six-month-old jar of Prego. Get some garlic, onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, potatoes, canned plum tomatoes, a few plump chickens, lots of good spaghetti, good soup noodles, fresh Parmesan cheese, meat, fish, eggs, dried and canned beans, fresh parsley, salt, basil, black pepper, chili pepper, rosemary, 4 or 5 bay leaves, maybe a little marjoram, 60 bottles of white wine, a case of olive oil, 5 real lemons, a stove, an oven, some counter space, and a couple of really big pots and pans—and let’s start cooking.

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