I was one of those few kids which would get a pit in their stomach just at the idea of “sleepovers”. There was something extremely uncomfortable about being stuck in someone else’s home, but sleeping over at the De Mori’s, in their restored country house “all’Impruneta”, was a totally different story.
There was no pit, no anxiety, no stomach aches, no imaginary story crafted the night before to decline the invite, it was actually quite the opposite, the idea of spending a night or two there felt quite freeing.
That feeling didn’t come from the gelato in the little town’s square, nor from the trampoline in their garden where Lori’s daughter Micky and I spent endless hours on and not from their Newfoundland puppy that smelled like chocolate and loved eating watermelon. Don’t get me wrong all the above were great incentives, but when I look back, I realize that what really made me feel at ease, just as if I was in my own home, was Lori.
Lori, with her beautifully natural grey hair, big heart warming smile, soft spoken voice and delicious cooking, always made her house feel like a safe space, free from tensions, from rules, filled with serendipity and good food. A home open to all.
She effortlessly, in minutes, would put together the most wonderful feasts; unplanned and stress free, simply with anything she had available in the kitchen and garden. She has a gift for bringing people together, (the more the better) always around beautiful tables. At their house there are always “ospiti” (guests), fun, corky, nice people, who like me I believe are attracted not only by Lori’s cooking but by her energy. Around her tables there is never uneasiness, awkwardness and that stiffness that sometimes it’s felt when meeting new people. I believe her secret lies in “vivi e lasciar vivere” (live and let live). She never tried to control the situation, she let people be and her positive vibes allowed everyone to feel just fine with just being themselves and enjoying the food and company.
I’m convinced that the feeling of peacefulness that I felt when I was just a child was felt by the many who came by for a quick bite, “un saluto”, or a long lazy lunch and it’s the key to her success. From a simple meal to her wonderful Towpath Cafe in London and the many books… there is a piece of Lori, just like in her upcoming recipe book, which we will let her tell you more about.
Tell us about your new cook book and what inspired you to write it? When will it be available?
It’s a book of recipes, stories, and photographs from our 10 years at Towpath. We’re so excited about it actually as we’ve used much of the downtime during quarantine to put our finishing touches on it. It comes out in October. Laura Jackson, chef extraordinaire and co-owner of Towpath is sharing her recipes and I am telling stories about Towpath from the very beginning when we still cooked at home, through the arc of a Towpath year which usually begins in spring and ends with fireworks around Guy Fawkes night in November.
Do you have a single go to dish?
Laura’s roast chicken is the ultimate comfort dish. And I’d eat a slice of olive oil cake every single day.
What is the secret to a successful dinner?
Cook from the heart with the freshest, most seasonal ingredients you can get your hands on. Remember that it isn’t a performance rather than a bringing together of people which never happens more beautifully than at the table.
What is the one Italian food “rule” you live by?
There’s always room for one more at the table.
And the ingredient you can’t live without?
Tuscan olive oil.
How long ago did you move from LA to Italy? What made you stay?
I first came to Italy when I was 18. I’d never been out of the US before. I fell in love with the place, and with my children’s father. We bought an old farmhouse 30 years ago in the Tuscan hills. When my son was 6 and my daughter 3 we moved there.
The few times you eat out, where do you go?
In Florence it’s Sostanza for me. Cibreo cafe for lunch or on a summer’s eve. In London its 40 Maltby St, Braun, Morito and St John.
What does Italy have that no other place you travel to has?
A real sense that no matter what is happening there is still joy to be found with friends, around a table eating even the simplest things, in lively conversation.
If you could describe Italy in one sentence what would it be?
A place of contradictions, where beauty, deliciousness, friendship and family still matters above all.
Take a copy of Lori’s book Towpath, Recipes & Stories home with you, to not only discover some great simple recipes made of fresh, high-quality ingredients that will fill your bellies, your homes and souls… but to bring back a bit of that feeling I very much ranted about