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The Perfectionist

(by Sara Bruno)

From a young age, I observed how my mother's everyday life revolved around food. She does not like to cook, and would not spend hours in the kitchen simply for pleasure, but in the typical Italian family, eating is a time of uniting, and she committed to the responsibility with impeccable taste. I would accompany her on marketing trips when I was little—always to the same places where she had special trusting relationships with the butcher, baker, or green grocer.

I have always loved sweets, and I looked forward to Saturdays when my mother would prepare la crostata di mele: apple pie. I think she has a special feeling for apples because any dessert featuring them becomes a masterpiece in her hands. From my bedroom I could smell the scent of the fruit macerating in maraschino liqueur, made from the distillation of Marasca cherries, and I would be drawn to the kitchen table to watch her making the pastry. She always made a small “tasting” tart just for me because she knew I couldn’t wait until Sunday lunch. I loved this ritual, but a small part of me hated to see her imprecision. This was a big difference between Mum and me: Ever since childhood, I have been a very precise person. Everything had to be in order, everything had to be the same, everything had to be perfect. I have neatly arranged closets, precisely comported hair and make-up, while my mum is more casual in her dress and her home.