Italian Discount
Issue 2

Martina is an industrial designer who studies on the Design Products course at the Royal College of Art. She’s from Sicily, Italy, so cooking is an important part of her life. One Friday afternoon, we went to Costcutter, the closest corner shop to the Kensington campus, expensive and small. With only an eight pound budget for three people, Martina was definitely in trouble.

Firstly, she found only frozen cake dough for sale which totally destroyed her handmade pasta plan. After mumbling “Oh my god!” six times, she gave up her Italian principals and picked up a pack of readymade spaghetti. This, she advised, is not very good quality. She also bought a pack of cherry tomatoes (of course). When asked why she didn’t choose the the bigger variety, she said British cherry tomatoes are sweeter and more flavourful. Finally she decided to make tuna-cheese-pasta, for which she found all of the ingredients — except basil. She was upset.

‘I don’t think we need basil,’ I said.

‘Yes, maybe.’

The next day, Martina appeared with a big bag of basil.

‘I must use it, just a bit! I can’t make the thing without basil. I can’t live without it.’

I felt threatened to comply. I checked with another Italian who happened to accompany us - he didn't think basil was all that important. Before starting to cook,  Martina tidied up  the whole kitchen as cleaning is a joy in her life.

Right at the start, she encountered difficulty because the kitchen didn’t have a chef’s knife. A normal one is too blunt to cut tomatoes. Eventually, she used a craft knife for what turned into serious tomato surgery. Our photographer dutifully recorded this operation.

I asked Martina how she felt about being photographed by someone.

Gueorgui interjected ‘I’m a photographer! Not someone.’

To which she replied: 'It feels like a day in the life of a celebrity chef. In fact, I do have a friend who is a cooking star in Indonesia.'

As we waited for the water to boil, I was asked to recommend some Chinese hip-hop stars other than Higher Brothers. I suggested a guy called GAI and played his most popular song, ‘Hot Pot Soup.’ At the same time, Martina measured the pasta by hand. I wanted to know how to get the amount right without using measuring tools. She said it’s ‘something in my mind.’ She then put a vague amount of salt in the water.

(Martina told me another secret: pasta soup is very good for the stomach. Italians drink it when they feel nauseous.)

Next, she broke some spaghetti and showed me how it remained raw inside; a true mark of al dente pasta. Pasta cooked just right. In China, the noodles I ate were soft - disappointing by Italian standards.The finished tuna-tomato-cheese spaghetti was very delicious and Martina was kind enough to share her recipe. But she was quick to add: ‘It’s not proper to use sunflower oil for pasta.’ Please use olive oil.


RECIPE


Ingredients:


100 grams SPAGHETTI £1.39

10 CHERRY TOMATOES £0.99

125 grams MOZZARELLA £1.56

1 small can of TUNA CHUNKS IN OIL £1.99

1 clove GARLIC £1.03

1/2 tablespoon SUNFLOWER OIL from the studio

A few BASIL LEAVES provided by Martina


Directions:


1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Cook pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.


2. Cut tomatoes and mozzarella cheese into small cubes.


3. Combine these with tuna, oil, basil and a dash of salt in a large bowl; stir to coat evenly.


 4. Add pasta to this mixture and toss.



          Kewei Chen

Layout design by Dimitri Wiss and Dominik Langloh