It’s no secret to people who know me that Lidia Bastianich is my favorite television chef. I have watched her from the beginning, and have been lucky enough to eat at Becco’s, one of her dining establishments, this one on famed Restaurant Row in New York City, near the theater district. Yum.
Because she is my favorite, I knew that she had grown up in an area that was once part of Yugoslavia, and now is part of Croatia. To escape communism, Lidia, her mother, and her brother went to Trieste, Italy, on the pretense of visiting a sick aunt. Her father escaped on foot a bit later. The family was eventually placed in a refugee camp, where they lived until they were able to travel to the United States.
Bastianich’s story is fascinating, beginning during her time in Yugoslavia, where she spent much of her time with her grandmother, learning to live off of the land. Her descriptions of eating what they grew and raised are vivid and enlightening. I was astounded to read how none of the vegetables of animals was wasted, from the intestines to the hooves of the pigs. As a result, her love of food and nature is inherent in her life.
Life in the United States was vastly different. Her mother and the kids adjusted, but her father never got used to life outside of Europe. It wasn’t until she married that Lidia became entrenched in a life that involved providing food for others in restaurants. She and her husband became fairly successful restauranteurs, and Lidia continued in this life even after divorcing her husband.
Reading about her life as an immigrant, and how she became a very proud American citizen was eye-opening as compared to immigration today. Times have changed.
I enjoyed reading about this woman’s journey very much, and recommend the book highly.