Ancient culinary culture and creative eyes.
In Venice, each plant, tree, shrub and herb could tell a story – not just each house and campo 🙂 While the urban features and architecture of our town are quite well known and looked after, the immaterial heritage of Venice has been neglected for centuries.
Telling the story of the plants, trees and herbs, the edible lagoon, is what we are planning to do in the Cucina Speziata project. Venetians, during more than 1,600 years, developed an own style of cooking. Venetian merchants brought back from their spice ventures and overseas voyages not just spices but valuable exotic trees and edible plants.
These were the ingredients from which Venetian spezièri (spice experts, apothecaries, patissiers and chefs, you name it …) created a unique fusion kitchen, combining local plants, exotic herbs, blossoms and spices from Asia and Africa.
During their decade-long trips, the Venetian spice merchants came across Ayurvedic dishes and traditional Chinese medicine as far back as the 10th century. Marco Polo wasn’t even first to travel along the silk road to China.
Venice was a province of Byzantium, so her cooking style and choice of ingredients were influenced from the beginning by ancient Greek and Roman dishes. The Venetian doctors and spezieri dived into ancient knowledge on how to make remedies from plants in ancient Greek sources, for example from Hippocrates and Galen.
During their voyages, Venetian spice merchants learnt much on food and cooking in Persia, Syria, Armenia, Arabia, India, China, India and Asian countries. They had the recipes collected by locals in scripts and books and brought the recipes and spices back to Venice.
In Venice, from the loads of spices and the recipes that came with them, the spezièri created their own spice mixtures, inaugurating a distinctive style of seasoning dishes and producing remedies, perfumes and cosmetics from herbs and spices.
The result was a unique fusion kitchen consisting of ancient Greek, Arab, Ayurvedic and TCM elements.
It must be due to our family background in architecture and hospitality business in Venice that I’ve always been fascinated about spice dishes and recipe developing. My grandmother’s garden was once part of the premises of the monastery of San Zaccaria, and the family has inherited part of the convent library.
These books and documents and other resources from public, private and monastery libraries are the basis for the recipes we’re collecting and creating, in which I’m supported by my Venetian grandmother.