MARCELLA HAZAN Chef/Educator/Cookbook
Classic Italian Cookbook is published, introducing Americans to
the basic philosophy and principles of fine Italian cooking.
hard to remember that just one generation ago, most Americans
had little idea of the immense range of classic Italian cooking.
They were not familiar with ingredients like extra-virgin olive
oil or fresh basil. They were unacquainted with the astonishing
variety of pasta shapes and pasta sauces. That was before Marcella,
a one-name personality to her minions of devotees, introduced
Americans to the infinite wealth of Italy's regional cuisines.
Culinary leaders hold Marcella in highest esteem. Craig Claiborne,
cookbook author and The New York Times food editor for many years,
once wrote, "Marcella Hazan is a national treasure...No one has
ever done more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in
America." Julia Child has designated her "my mentor in all things
Italian." The great James Beard was among her students as well.
Marcella was born in 1924 in Cesenatico, a fishing village in
Italy's Emilia-Romagna region.
During her childhood, she never went near a stove, but spent most
of her time studying. A biochemist with two doctorates, she was
teaching when she met her American husband, Victor. They married
in 1955 and moved to Manhattan. It was only then that she began
to cook, preparing traditional Italian meals at home for Victor
and their son, Guiliano. Her career as a teacher of Italian cuisine
began unexpectedly in 1969 when she took a Chinese cooking class
in Manhattan. Her classmates wanted to know what she ate at home.
When she told them, they urged her to teach a course in Italian
cooking. She did, and enjoyed it. The next year, Victor wrote
to The New York Times about her. Victor's letter prompted Times
editor Craig Claiborne to visit the Hazan's apartment and taste
the foods that she had prepared for her class. Claiborne wrote
an article about her, and Marcella was launched. Some months later,
an editor at Harper's Magazine Press (an affiliate of Harper &
Row) called. Marcella invited him to dinner, and he asked her
to write a cookbook. She hesitated: "I don't write in English,"
she said. But, finally, knowing she would have her husband's help,
she agreed. Victor went to work by day and came home at night
to discuss Marcella's sessions in the kitchen and to type out
the translations of her recipes. The result of that first collaboration,
The Classic Italian Cookbook, became a seminal work.
Next, Julia Child came to lunch and suggested that Marcella meet
her editor at Knopf. The editor offered a contract for More Classic
Italian Cooking, and also bought rights to the first book - an
unusual move that proved to be a smart one. Knopf reissued Classic
in 1976, and went back to press with it twenty-eight times. Marcella's
books have deepened readers' appreciation of Italian culture and
taught them, with clarity and precision, how to create wonderful
Italian dishes. Thanks in large part to her books and classes,
Americans became familiar with ingredients and preparations they
hadn't known before. Between them, the Hazans have published six
books. A seventh is in the works.
The Hazans have received a number of awards that testify to their
significance as culinary figures. Most recently, Marcella Cucina
won both the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Mediterranean
Cookbook and the equally distinguished Julia Child Cookbook Award
for Best International Cookbook. In 1992, Food Arts magazine presented
Marcella and Victor with the Silver Spoon Award for "sterling
performance" in introducing Americans to "Italian food and Italian
wines - as they're served and consumed in Italy." Also in 1992,
Essentials of Italian Cooking won the Beard Award for Best Italian
Cookbook. Marcella was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's
Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America (considered the Hall
of Fame of the gastronomic world) in 1986. And her first books,
The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking,
have also been honored, each with a Tastemaker Award. Since 1986,
Marcella has been listed in every edition of Who's Who In America.