quaglie all’uva (quail with grapes)

Recipe Notes (Alexia Moyer)

Welcome to Toronto. This week we’re cooking from Italian Canadians at Table: A Narrative Feast in Five Courses.

Editors Lorretta Gatto-White and Delia De Santis have gathered the food-related writings and recollections from Italian Canadians cross country. The result is a literary cookbook. You can cook from it, as it includes recipes and/or detailed descriptions of food preparation.

Pride of place belongs to narrative here. This book isn’t just about cooking, in other words. It’s about writing cooking.

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Many of its contributors live and work and eat in Toronto, including Elizabeth Cinello.

“Food Companion Wanted” is both title and premise of Cinello’s short story. Widower, Alberto Di Rota places an ad in the local Italian Canadian paper. He’s looking for a live-in cook and he wants traditional Italian meals. Widow, Nina Crocetti, weary of her daughter and granddaughter’s no-carbohydrate and vegetarian, gluten-free diets, agrees to meet Alberto at a park on Caledonia road.

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Torontonians (and Toronto enthusiasts) are undoubtedly aware that this area, Glen Park, is home to a large Italian Canadian population.

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Nina gives Alberto an extensive and appetite-inducing list of her specialties, including quaglie all’uva (quail with grapes). I was tempted by the roast lamb and the stuffed squid but settled at last on the quail. I think you will approve.

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How big or small are these quails? While the photograph gives some idea of scale, I would say that each fit perfectly into my open, cupped hand. My butcher (or butchers rather, for there are at least 8 gentlemen at work behind the counter of my gleaming meat emporium of choice) trussed and wrapped them at the base with a layer of fat.

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The fat keeps them from drying out. The string is, as it turns out, not so they’ll look more demure. It helps them to keep their shape and to cook evenly. I can attest to the fact that the little quail who made it onto my plate was neither dry nor unevenly cooked.

I may as well work my way through Nina’s list now. Or better yet, place an ad in an Italian-Canadian paper as a means of acquiring my very own Italian grandmother.

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Cinello, Elizabeth. “Food Companion Wanted.” Italian Canadians at Table: A Narrative Feast in Five Courses. Loretta Gatto-White and Delia De Santis, eds. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013.

Photo Credit: Alexia Moyer

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