Nicole's work, with its genuine honesty and empathetic allusions to the toils and spoils of motherhood, immediately had me introspectively thinking of portraits or other physical manifestations of my mother.  More specifically: what dish would I make to laud and honor my mother?  This was a hard question for me to answer as my mother cooked and baked what I could only describe as multi-cultural food, and it all tasted good.

Nicole offered me a bit more insight in to her inspirations for the works on an increasingly more-spring-like day walk to the train.  In some ways cutting to the chase, Nico mentioned her Portuguese heritage -- simple staples of potatoes and fish, perhaps Sardines were characteristic.  She was careful to mention, that her work is not meant to be tied to Portugal, but we are indeed tied to our heritage.  When I heard Sardines, combined a decidedly cool breeze and the sounds of harking seagulls, I was instantly brought to the great Chicago tradition of Smelt fishing.

Chicago Smelt fishing goes back more than 70 years, but the opening of the season in April is always something of a celebration.  Backindaday, it was said anyone could go down tada harbor with their nets and fill up a 5 gallon bucket of these small, bony delicacies in a night.  I was lucky enough to participate in opening day a few years back. The anglers arrive midday, although casting your net is not allowed till 7pm.  They set up makeshift grills fer-dee-a fish they catch, and any other manifold proteins they have brought to barter or seemingly expedite the wait till fishing time, or seemingly expedite the wait till you pull in the nets.  Come to think of it, most of it is really about the waiting, the tradition-- telling stories of how great the catches used to be, trading Old Style for a fresh brat, trading brats for some nice Smelt, singing old-timey songs.

Claire excitedly exclaimed "Filipino Eggrolls" when I asked her about my mother's cooking.  This resonated with me, and I thought it could fuse well with the aforementioned fish (smelt) and potatoes.  From a more literal interpretation of Nicole's work, I found the touches of gold striking in context with the simple geometric shapes, the woven textiles, the earthen colors.  In essence I am to make a simple-man's dish:  Fish and Potatoes from Portgual, Smelt from Chicago, Eggrolls from the Philippines.  I wanted to add that underlying regal hope, that touch of gold.  Black Truffles.

-Nick

all photos courtesy of Nico Mazza

 

 

SPRING 2011

NICO MAZZA