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Charlotte Observer, The (NC)
January 11, 2006 Column: Food Bites * Kathleen Purvis NOTHING FILLS YOU UP LIKE FOOD, FRIENDS
Author: KATHLEEN PURVIS, Staff Writer Edition: ONE-THREE
Estimated printed pages: 2
Article Text:Eight women crowd around a big island in a small kitchen, looking at a mountain of shredded potatoes. Marcella Ansaldo, in white chef's tunic and white pants, strews flour on the potatoes, reaching straight into the open King Arthur bag. No measuring, no sifting.She kneads in the flour, squishing potatoes between her fingers, then rolls two long, thin snakes of dough. Grabbing a knife, she briskly taps off pieces.
Two fast rolls over a bamboo sushi mat and the pieces turn into gnocchi, with ridges to hold tomato sauce. She smiles at the women. "Try it," she says, in Italian-accented English. And then she laughs, very merrily. The women step up, struggling to repeat her moves and laughing just as hard. Sometimes, food is something you make to eat. And sometimes, food is about other things. Like friendship. A couple of years ago, Lauren Cranford of Charlotte spent three months in Italy to work on her Italian. For fun, she signed up to take a cooking class at Apicius, the Culinary Institute of Florence. A native of Giglio (GEE-leo), a small island off Tuscany, Ansaldo used to own a restaurant. Now, she teaches at Apicius. Cranford found a teacher. Ansaldo found an eager student. Both found a friend. Last week, Ansaldo made her second visit to Charlotte, to stay with Cranford, teach a little Italian cooking, and get her fill of America. Cranford is passionate about Italy. But she's really passionate about Marcella. "She's got more talent than anybody I ever met. I love to be around people who affect other people. Nobody who knows Marcella doesn't like her." This time, Cranford invited friends from St. Peters Catholic Church, all volunteers with Garden of Eatin', the program that raises money for the poor by selling food on football days. Ann Weber, Annie Hebert, Maureen Murphy, Judith Toman, Barbara Evans and Linda Sanchez all gamely tied on aprons and worked through an ambitious menu: Artichoke flan with mornay sauce, potato gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce, beet-potato gnocchi with saffron butter, chicken breast in a carrot-flecked fricassea sauce, veal slices roasted with onions and olives, and poached pears with a sweet wine syrup and zabaglione.
Ansaldo called the menu classic, "very ancient recipes." At Apicius, she teaches amateurs and professional cooking students. With 11 classes, she covers everything from nutrition to Italian cooking history and regional cooking.
"Some days ago, Lauren told me I'm like a priest of food. Yes, priestess. Priestess of food." As people finally make their way to the tables stretching the length of Cranford's living room, Ansaldo checks around the kitchen, giving everything a final taste. "You know," she announces. "I am happy." *
Kathleen Purvis: (704) 358-5236;
1. Ansaldo; 2. CranfordPHOTO:2 Copyright (c) 2006 The Charlotte Observer
Record Number: 0601110156