MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In each recipe, there is a story, an adventure with a beginning, a middle and, I hope, a happy ending. Those words from the mother of Italian cooking in America, Marcella Hazan. She died yesterday at age 89. Starting with her classic Italian cookbook in 1973, Hazan changed the way we cook and appreciate Italian food.
Dorothy Kalins, the founding editor of Saveur magazine, shared many meals with Marcella Hazan and counted her as a longtime friend. Dorothy Kalins thanks for being with us.
DOROTHY KALINS: Thank you.
BLOCK: How would you describe what made Marcella Hazan so influential?
KALINS: The most important thing to remember about Marcella is in this chef-obsessed world, she was a cook, a home cook and not a chef. And as a matter of fact, if you went out to dinner with Marcella in New York, you would never go to an Italian restaurant because she felt that that was not cooking. That was plating. She would say, take a picture of the plate and now bring me some food.
BLOCK: Some real food.
KALINS: Real food.
BLOCK: Let's listen to a little bit of an interview a few years ago. This is Marcella Hazan, talking with our colleague Linda Wertheimer and she was talking about the courtship with her husband, Victor, and his intense love of food.
MARCELLA HAZAN: He was always talking about food, so - which, for me, young woman, you think that someone who court you talk about other thing, but not food. Especially when you're not interested in food.
BLOCK: And this is such an interesting idea, Dorothy, because she did not set out to be a cook, really.
KALINS: No. She had two advanced degrees in biology, but she loved Victor and she wanted to please Victor and probably could have become a nuclear physicist if that's what Victor was interested in. And she started teaching fundamental principles of Italian cooking just at the moment when Craig Claiborne, who was very influential at the New York Times, discovered her. And she became the voice of an Italian housewife, if you will, but filtered through something very much more complex and very much more intelligent than that.
BLOCK: You wrote in one of your articles about her that she did not suffer fools gladly.
KALINS: Well, you know, we have - share a beautiful, mutual friend, Pamela Fiore(ph), and she said something wonderful. She said, Marcella minces garlic, she does not mince words. She just - wasn't patient with kind of mindlessness, with people who didn't know how to approach or didn't know where she was going. One time I asked her what was the most important thing to tell people and she said, to know where you're going when you're cooking.
In other words, not just the recipe, but see what you want this to taste like on the plate. And it was so elemental. It was so smart and I've never forgotten that.
BLOCK: If you were to open up your Marcella Hazan cookbooks at home, would there be one page that's especially spattered, has been pored over many times?
KALINS: Well, I mean, I come back to risotto because it's so easy to screw it up and she's much more than just her recipes, although I think - you know, once she told me, do you know what I'm so proud of? Dorothy, she said, what am I so proud of? When she goes to sign books or when she went to sign books, so many women came to her and said, I named my daughter after you.
And the idea that there's a legacy of people who have learned from her and who care about her, that mattered to Marcella.
BLOCK: That Dorothy Kalins, remembering the influential Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan. She died yesterday at age 89. Dorothy, thank you so much.
KALINS: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.