If you know food writers in Ireland, you will know one of its finest, Paolo Tullio.
He is best known for his restaurant review column in ‘The Irish Independent,’ but I have come to know him through RTE’s ‘The Restaurant,’ television series, where he is a resident critic. He has, kindly, been a mentor to me over the years, and someone I am now lucky to call a friend. Don’t try talking to him about Italian food though, it’ll make you want to move there in the morning.
Here, he shares some of his food memories………………
Falling for Food
The first food memory I have is………
In my mother’s kitchen, helping her sort through rice, picking out the black bits. Funny to think that that’s not necessary anymore.
The first thing I eat in the morning is……..
A bowl of muesli. I’ve been doing this for nearly a week. Prior to this new habit, breakfast was a cup of coffee.
The first food I remember hating…………..
Was carrots. I remember my father saying ‘eat them, they’re good for you’ and I answered,
‘Well you eat them, then.’
The first time I remember being proud of dish I’d cooked……..
Was my first omelette. I made it one Mother’s Day as a treat for Mum, poor dear.
The first time I fell in love with an ingredient……..
Was my first taste of truffle. Once tasted, it became an obsession, and to some extent it still is.
My favourite ingredients………
Are wheat, flour, butter, olive oil, potatoes, rice, tomatoes and cheese. With these to hand, a multitude of dishes can be made.
The first time I remember making people happy with food…………
Was at boarding school, when we learnt how to cook on a one-ring burner. Pasta was the winner, with dishes like carbonara and arrabbiata.
My ultimate cooking disaster……………
Has yet to happen. So far any mistakes I’ve made have been rectifiable, so I’ve yet to cope with a full-scale disaster.
My favourite meal of the day is……..
Dinner. Because it’s the meal where I allow myself any food I want………Perfect.
Something people might not know about me when it comes to food is………
That I really enjoy simple foods. I appreciate skill and technique, but I’m happy with a poached egg and warm toast.
The first time I remember food being heaven………..
Was when my parents took me to a restaurant called ‘The Hole in the Wall,’ a very famous restaurant in Bath, England. I was 13 years old and I was knocked out by George Perry-Smith’s food.
My food hell would be…….
A lifetime of eating fast food.
What annoys me most when it comes to food is……..
Over complication. It’s a mistake to assume that complicated equals good. Often the real skill comes in keeping things simple.
The first thing I’d save in my kitchen from a fire would be……..
My cookbooks. Everything else can be replaced.
The first cookbook I was obsessed with was………
My first. My mother gave it to me when I moved into a flat of my own at the age of eighteen. She gave me Pomiane’s ‘Cooking in Ten Minutes’, a wonderful book by a great chef.
My food heroes are………..
Careme and the great French masters of haute cuisine, the women of my Italian village, who can make simple things taste divine, and those who fight for better quality food for everyone.
The first meal I remember as the most romantic was……….
Eating freshly caught mullet cooked over an open fire on a beach on the Costa Brava. Caught by me, and cooked by me, for the then love of my life.
The first amazing restaurant experience I had……
Was that same visit to ‘The Hole in the Wall.’ It was probably the first restaurant in England to use fresh, local ingredients, and many of the ideas of cookery writer Elizabeth David were incorporated into the menus.
The first time I sent a dish back in a restaurant is……..
Not something I remember. I can’t even remember when I did it last.
The first thing I could fall out with somebody over when it comes to food is……
Probably salad dressing. I hate over complicated dressings. For me it needs three ingredients: oil, salt and wine vinegar.
The ultimate meal ……
Would be sashimi in Tokyo……….. I may need to bring the Corton Charlemagne with me.