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Interview with Diane (DeAnna) Johnson about her cook book “A TUSCAN TABLE”

1.    Dear Anna, you are the author of the cook book “A TUSCAN TABLE”. Can you please describe the main message of the book and your motivation to publish it?

DeAnna: I worked on the book for years! I have been cooking for years, copying my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. The recipes and how we treat ingredients have been passed down generation to generation in our family. The idea of publishing the recipes in a book - to make our family treasure available to more people - had been developing over time but as more and more people in and outside of my family encouraged me, I decided to do it! I see cooking as an absolute enhancement of our family’s quality of life and my motivation to work on the book was to share this way of lifestyle through cooking with other people beyond my friends and family.


2.    The book describes cooking style and recipes over three Tuscany generations. Cooking has changed dramatically in this time. If you would had to choose to be a chef 100 years ago in Tuscany or nowadays in the USA. What would be your choice?

DeAnna: I would definitely stay in our time in the US. Today we have so much many ingredients, equipment, opportunities and knowledge to prepare amazing fresh food! When my grandmother first arrived from Italy in the USA she couldn’t find the right ingredients. So she brought zucchini seeds from Italy and start growing zucchini in her garden. I actually still do that today….In fact, as I think about your question, I would love to take a “time trip” for one year and experience how it was to cook during my grandmother’s time but then I would come back and enjoy cooking using all the opportunities and sources we have now!

3.    Can you describe in three sentences what the world can learn from the Italian, and specifically the Tuscan, way of cooking?

DeAnna: I think we, the US and the rest of the world, can learn a lot from the Italian way of cooking as the culture brings people together through food. A healthy lifestyle plays an enormous role in Italian cuisine. Preparing and eating food together is a specific way of life which can get lost in our busy society today. In my family, Sunday was the day to bring the family together and food was the center point of that “family summit”. Food in Italy is a way to show respect for family and friends. That is something we can learn from the Italian culture.

4.    In my opinion Italian cuisine is the best in Europe when priced below €50 whilst French is the best when priced above €50. Would you agree to that theory?

DeAnna: Actually I also have a little bit a French background but…. No I have to disagree (DeAnna is laughing) I’m just too Italian to split my favorite list between those countries. I love traditional French cuisine such as snails or oysters but I will stay fully Italian by answering your question and saying that I just love Italian food too much to agree with your theory!

5.    What does good food mean to you?

DeAnna: Good food simply means positive emotions to me. It is the great feeling you have when you come together with friends and family, enjoy food and enjoy the moment to be embedded in a community. Also good food means a healthy life to me. Health, family and friends give your life a meaning. Food symbolizes that.

6.    What is your favorite recipe of your book?

DeAnna: I have more than one favorite recipe but one I really like is Tuscan Oranges - Arancia Tuscan. These make a beautiful start to any celebratory meal.  They are served in my family at every holiday including birthdays.

Here is the recipe:

  •           Large shallow serving bowl or dish
  •           3 – 5 oranges
  •          Brandy (use one that is of excellent quality)
  •       1 to 2 tsp. white sugar

Peel the oranges, removing all of the white pith. Slice the oranges into slices of about ¼ inch thick.  Cover the bottom of a shallow serving dish with one layer of the slices without crowding them.  Lightly sprinkle with the sugar. Pour the brandy over all of the orange slices until the brandy is about  ¼ inch deep. The brandy should not completely cover the orange slices. Let the oranges macerate in the sugar and brandy at room temperature for approximately 1 hour then turn over all the orange slices and let sit for 2 hours.

Serve as a part of an antipasti course, and if there are any left put them out after dinner, people will come back to these.

DeAnna Mille Gratie


Tesi London1

Matthias Tesi Baur



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