Traditional Italian cooking for the screwed, crude, vegan and tattooed by Cecilia Granata. Cecilia was born in Italy back in the early 80’s. Her book Mama Tried, takes on her two of her many passions, cooking and tattoos.We are excited to have been able to interview Cecilia Granata. She is such a down to earth person, and very likeable. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy 🙂
A HUGE thank you Cecilia for letting us interview you, for allowing us to post a recipe and the photographs of your food and tattoo’s. We wish you all the best with Mama Tried and all your future projects!
1. When did you decide to become vegan? What was your ah ha moment?
Since I was a little girl I was in empathy with animals and I didn’t like the idea of their pain. I was some sort of Lisa Simpson but not vegetarian yet. Then at 15, waken up decisively by some ideas in the punk hardcore lyrics and attitudes, I went vegetarian. My mom with some reluctance, ended up adapting brilliantly and helped me figure out delicious nutrients. Nevertheless, I started performing terrible propaganda actions to my meat-eater parents (friends/relatives/strangers) like printing out images of slaughterhouses and place them in front of their meal forcing to eat every last bite, for that creature died in their name! (which is true by the way). It worked: both my parents and a bunch of friends actually went vegetarian. I became fully vegan and cruelty free a couple of years later, it was 2002. I basically turned into a full version of Lisa Simpson then.
2. Why did you decide to showcase your amazing tat work instead of food photos?
The original idea for this project came when I was studying illustration in college (School of Visual Arts, NY) from my lifelong obsession for the alphabet. So I decided I was gonna base a project on it. The way the creative process works, at least for me, is that I find themes that interest me for whatever reason, and I start to explore them, giving myself some guidelines. Apparently, one of the things that interested me the most was food, which is fair enough, and that was the concept: I was gonna do a collection of recipes -vegan- because I had a message – Italian-because you can’t really go wrong with Italian food, unless you put pineapple over pizza -illustrated- because I had to put some art in my art project -in alphabetical order-so that every chapter would be a letter, and only contain recipes starting with that letter, and related illustrations.
The project took years and I became a tattoo artist in the meantime. At some point during the final developments of the book I came to realize how many broccoli and carrots tattoos I was getting to do at work: positioning myself as a Vegan Tattoo Artist, a lot of people where coming to me to get their animal rights tattoo, or just a cruelty free tattoo that didn’t use animal ingredients, just similarly to food. I came to realize that these two words, Veganism and Tattoos, maybe weren’t that far apart as it may seem, and I decided to exploit this cute combo and transform all the original illustrations into Tattoo Flash. Having photos was actually never part of the plan, although I love photos of food, don’t take me wrong 🙂 but this was born as an illustrated book.
3. How do you stay creative in the kitchen? Who was your role model/mentor?
I still call my mom in Italy all the time asking her advices, she’s a great cook and she knows so many recipes! Then I tend to improvise a lot depending on what I have in the kitchen or what’s seasonally available and find inspiration in many blogs or cookbooks. It’s very relaxing for me to cook so I take pleasure out of it and that inspires me, even when things don’t come out as expected or even plain-failures. Cooking is a delicate and mindful art of balance, an act of listening, waiting, infusing and playing with your food. I think of it as witchcraft and love potions, and that has plenty to keep me creative in the kitchen!
4. What is your favorite go to meal?
I’d say either any kind of vegan omelette. I always have chickpea flour in my cabinet and it literally takes 5 minutes to pull out a mouth watering and filling meal. Or definitely some recipes for pasta, from the super simple “pasta aglio olio e peperoncino” -garlic, oil and chili pepper- to a quick saffron-zucchini or whatever sauce, to a classic pasta al pesto, which can be ready in literally 9 minutes.
If I am REALLY lazy, my meal can easily be a loaf of (good) bread covered in extra virgin olive oil.
5. Seeing as how some of your cooking instructions seem a bit vague, what would you suggest to people who are new to cooking? How would they go about cooking the recipes?
Good point! As I said, part of the reasons is that this was in between an art book and a cookbook, so I took some freedom with it. On top of that, very often in Italy, you’ll find (or ask your grandma) recipes without quantities and pretty intuitive; it’s just the style, and that got definitely evident in my book. I ask people’s help because food changes and asks you slightly different things each time, and you have to listen and go along, regardless of the precise amounts or instructions. Follow your very instinct and decide what’s good for you and for the plate, eyeball basically. I understand that the illustrations definitely don’t leave space for hints about the dish, so a good idea would be to look up on the internet or in cookbooks what the recipe looks like. Or find english translations of the actual recipe from other sources, to get a more visual and comparable sense of the process.
That’s also exactly how I approach food research, by comparing different recipes and modify and combine.
Or e-mail me!
It’s all about having fun at the end.
6. How do you like to spend your free time? Is it in the kitchen, or inking? You have incredible talent. How do you find the balance?
Thank you 🙂 Well I would say that I don’t consider spending time in the kitchen as free time, just because it’s only a natural part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth.
Although there are definitely times when I just do it as a meditation or thing that makes me happy and relaxed, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, while I play a record.
In my free time though, I really tend to adventure outside, to travel -India- is one of my favorites, to spend time with my husband, friends and family (sometimes cooking and eating together indeed); to watch movies from the nineties or to take classes and learn new things; and last but not least, to practice yoga with devotion. That’s how I DON’T balance at all, but I somehow keep it all together.
7. Which came first? The love of cooking or the love of drawing/tatting/inking?
Oh you know, I think they were both just always infused with my life experience. As an Italian, food and cooking are always a priority, ahah I mean, they are just a very precise and fundamental daily routine. You just constantly see people around you cooking and you start picking it up when you need it, pretty much every Italian cooks daily for themselves. And I’ve always had a personal fascination for it and for the magic element it contains. I used to write little notebooks with vegetarian recipes for all my friends in high school, and collage them with pictures and drawings. As for drawing, again, I was exposed early. My mom would draw and teach me to draw and I’ve always been creative in that sense. She would draw me beautiful mermaids with colored pencils of which I have a framed collection, and I just wanted to do the same! Little we knew that after all I became a tattoo artist, and ended up drawing and tattooing a lot of mermaids all the time! I started getting interested in tattoos after hip-hop and punk rock imagery hit my teens and since then it’s been -obviously- irreversible.
8. Is there a recipe you can share with us?
RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE – SAFFRON RISOTTO
1 small golden onion
1+ 1/2 cups arborio rice
Vegetable broth as needed (just make a big pot, you can save the rest)
1 glass dry white wine
1 large pinch saffron
Slice the onion thin, drop some oil in a casserole and let the onion become translucent on medium/low heat. Meanwhile, warm up the broth and keep it almost boiling until the recipe is done. Throw the rice in the casserole and stir well for 1 minute. Add the wine and keep stirring (on low heat). Add the saffron and slowly add the broth using a dipper. Every time it absorbs (keep stirring with a wooden spoon), add some more broth (maintaining the boil) until the rice is ready (about 30 min). When the rice is soft and all the water is absorbed, turn off the heat for few minutes. Put back on low heat add 1 tbsp margarine, sprinkle with nutritional yeast, stir well and serve.
The recipes themselves are great for those who like a recipe but still like to put their own creative spin on things. This is a use your judgement kind of book. From Cecilia’s explanation in the intro of her book, Italians are use to winging it, and it’s not uncommon just to have a list of ingredients and no measurements. It’s all done by eyeing things out, and testing as you go along. Thankfully, there’s measurements- so don’t worry about that. As an “experienced” home cook, I appreciate the fact that dishes are easy, open ended and doesn’t sacrifice flavor. At the end of the book she has an ingredient index, so it’s uber easy to find what your looking for.
I received a copy of Mama Tried, and one lucky person will be able to win a copy. Good Luck. The winner will be contacted by email, and will have 24 hours to respond. If we know how to get a hold of you on SM, then we will send you a private message. Click on the link. I’m having problem with being able to post the image. Mama Tried
Contest CLOSED!!!! Congratulations Samantha O! She is the lucky winner of Mama Tried!
Her shop is located at sacred rose tattoo, 1503 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA. If you live in or around that area, or a planning a visit, why not call her up and book your appointment?
Recipe and all pictures (except the book cover, which I took) are used with permission by Cecilia.
If you have this book, what have you tried?