I have just finished watching Stefano’s Cooking Paradiso, an Australian cooking show that is now available on Hulu. In the eight part series, chef and restaurateur Stefano di Pieri cooks Italian dishes with an Australian twist. He showcases the produce of the Sunraysia/ Mallee region and takes around his favorite haunts near his hometown of Mildura on the Murray River. He visits family farms, vineyards, orange groves, and a houseboat and spends a lot of his time cooking for friends and family and putt-putting around in his skiff on the Murray. The dishes he prepares ( cod on risotto, eggplant parmigiana, rabbit terrine , home-style wonton soup etc) are interesting but what I really enjoy are the glimpses we get of Stefano and his lifestyle. He is so relaxed , so warm and so engaging, so happy in what he does that I wish I could be in his shoes or, failing that, a guest at one of his get togethers on the banks of the Murray. Watching him, one gets the feeling that this is a man who is perfectly content with who he is and what he does, that there is no place he would rather be. I suspect that this is what draws most viewers to his show.
How much do we really need? What must we absolutely have if we are to be happy ? In the documentary Happy , a rickshaw puller who makes a precarious living on the streets of Calcutta says that he is perfectly happy when he returns home in the evening and his little son calls him ” Baba!” Looking at his beaming face as he holds his son in his arms , we have no doubt that he is telling the truth.
Along time ago, I read a short story by Guy de Maupassant about a well-born girl who elopes with her lover, a shepherd, and happily spends the rest of her life with him in his hut , remote and far away from civilization. The title of the story was Bliss and I still remember it fifty years later, so strong was the impression it made on me.
The Roman statesman, Cicero, wanted a bit more. In his words, no one can be unhappy who has a library and a garden. I understand where is coming from but these two items imply solitude. I would want something with more human interaction. I’m more comfortable with the ideas of a close friend who told me that all we need are the three F’s. … Food , Family and Friends.
Stefano de Pieri would agree with him.