The very last thing I did in Parma during my visit this past fall was to stumble into Gloria Canelli's magical apartment and gasp. Gloria is an archaeologist whose excitement for the world's little artifacts is immediately evident when you step into her home, but especially so when she takes you to her kitchen.
What amazed me most was that despite her clusters of knick-knacks and towers of memories, she cooks every single day, knows where every last utensil and pot top hides, and keeps all her ingredients in very fresh rotation. This was one of the most fascinating kitchens I'd ever seen.
Her place is one of the five apartments that make up a building her parents bought in 1953, the year they married. Previously, fifty people had lived in the building; now three of the five apartments are occupied by Gloria and her siblings, and her parents have the other two. Gloria told me that her apartment and those of her siblings showcases each of their differing styles. In the case of Gloria's apartment, it is all about collections.
When I arrived at Gloria's place, I'd just finished touring another kitchen nearby, belonging to Lina Germi where not a single item is out of place. What opposites! I had a little chuckle to myself as Gloria showed me her pinball machine and her collection of sugar packets from around the world, remembering how Lina, just a few blocks away, had the most sparse kitchen I'd ever seen.
Gloria's world is colorful, noisy, and chaotic, and yet she has a soft voice and gentle academic manner that puts a visitor at ease. Everywhere you turn there is something to explore, from the ice cream cone dispenser ("I don't serve ice cream here; those cones are years old") to the wall of number seventeen table cards she's swiped from across the globe.
By the time I left I wasn't sure if I would rather try her pigeon and rice, or wander a foreign land, digging up treasures and sneaking colorful trinkets into our pockets.
10 Questions for Gloria (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
My travels and my curiosity about the world. I cook something based on the thing I cook it in.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
It's too difficult to pick! Maybe my collection of soapstone and brass cookware. It comes from Brazil, usually. But I also recently got a piece in Iran.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I make rice and pigeon for my husband and it's his favorite thing. That will be memorable one day.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Baking. I use the oven to store things. It doesn't matter because my sister makes beautiful cakes and she lives next door.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Sometimes I wish it were bigger, but I love my kitchen. This is the heart of the home.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
There are so many treasures in here, I cannot answer that. Space-wise, the pinball machine is a splurge. I bought it for myself on my birthday.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I could probably throw away some magazines.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
I travel a lot so I look to cook all kinds of cuisine.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Cook every day.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Lentils in my soapstone pot. They cook slowly and stay warm on the table.
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Show us your kitchen here!
Related: A Peek into Parma, Italy
(images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)