AN ITALIAN Scottish restaurateur has told how cooking has helped her through the “saddest and most challenging” moments in life, including the sudden death of her father.

Giovanna Eusebi shared a moving account of the last day she spent with her dad Eddie at the family’s delicatessen in Shettleston, in Glasgow’s east end.

She said they spent the entire day in the back kitchen preparing food and recalled how “strangely” no one else had come into the room all day, allowing them to have what turned out to be a very profound conversation.

HeraldScotland:

“I would not change the last day with my dad for anything," she said. "We spoke about family, and he reminded me, as he did every day, of how very proud he was of his children. 

“I spoke of all the mistakes I had chalked up, but in his ever non-judgmental way he reassured me everything would be fine. 

“My dad encouraged me to be bold, chase my dreams. He left at 5pm as he was going for a curry with my brothers, nephew and uncle. I hugged my dad for the very last time.”

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Her father died that evening, on June 1 2005, after suffering a heart attack at the age of 67, which the restaurateur said, “broke all our hearts”.

“The shop never felt the same for me again. I would look at the empty chair and still be startled by his absence.”

She recalled how weeks after her father’s death, she found a tub of his signature slow-cooked tomato sauce that had been stored in the freezer by a friend.

HeraldScotland:

“I sat on his chair and held it under my nose. It was literally my last spiritual meal made by my dad. He was a lovely man of quiet, deep faith. That sugo was his final gift to me, made with his love.

“I can still smell the aromas, which would get more and more intense as the day went on.

“Food has nurtured my life. There is a fragility about food, you eat it in a moment and then it is gone; however, the memory stays with us for longer.”

Ms Eusebi, who now runs a restaurant in Glasgow’s west end, said her father, a self-taught cook, had inspired her entire career in the restaurant trade. 

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She said: “Cooking was not just a meal; it was an event. He educated me on the great chefs of the day: Elizabeth David, Franco Taruscio, John Tovey and the Roux Brothers. 

“His preparation was meticulous. Every carrot baton and diced onion was cut to mechanical precision. 

“My father’s secret was using the very best ingredients. He taught me that great food takes time and preparation and those memories last longer than one meal. 

“In later years, when I returned to take over the reins of our family deli, he never left my side. Our background music at the counter was Dean Martin, or occasionally his signature whistling. 

HeraldScotland:

“There were more customers in the kitchen than at the counter. My dad would sit on a wooden stool with a red leather covering, storytelling, and reminiscing. 

“Nestled on the stove between the giant pots of sugo would be a Moka pot. 

“He loved people and people loved him. Saturdays were always busy, and we would not move from the counter, making coffees and cutting cheese and Parma ham for our guests.”

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Ms Eusebi shared her memories of growing up in an Italian Scottish family for a new book, ‘‘Reclaiming the Piazza III: Communicating Catholic Culture’, by Leonardo Franchi, Ronnie Convery and Jack Valero.

HeraldScotland:

She told how food became the “currency” for her mother Gina’s recovery, when she was diagnosed with cancer, first in her mid-30s and then later in her early 50s.

She said: “For my mother, food, faith and family were the greatest comforts in her life when she left Italy. Growing up on the land, good ingredients were abundant. Breakfast was fresh figs, grapes, and cactus fruit picked from the tree in her garden. 

“Nature reminded her that no two days were the same and to take each day as it comes.

"This became a mantra that became her religion when in her mid-30s and then later in her early-50s, cancer came knocking at the door.

“Food was now the currency for her recovery. To this day she abhors processed food. The ready prepared salad bags are ‘full of pesticides,’ and the fruit is ‘pumped with chemicals’. According to my mum, if you have flour and water you have life.” She is a genius at making a meal out of nothing.”

With thanks to Adamah Media for providing this excerpt.