Silvia Colloca talks food, family and community care

Segmento - unapologetically Italian talks with Silvia Colloca about food, relationships and her role as Ambassador for SecondBite.

Silvia Colloca talks food, family and community care

Tell us a little about Silvia growing up and becoming the woman that we have come to know.

My family lived in an apartment in Milan, and there we were, surrounded by cousins, uncles, aunts -always lots of family love. Food would bring us together. My family and I love going back to the apartment where we all have a wonderful time. It is important to understand the value of the family unit.

Funnily enough, as a young girl I had big dreams about music and theatre; also, going to Australia. I was always optimistic about achieving my goals. I am not naturally talented, so for me, it is through sheer hard work.

A lot of people will know me from my cooking. My relationship with food was nurtured through how Italians come together around food -itis actually another language. It is how we communicate care, compassion, how we respond to someone's sadness, how we impress. We use food to establish relationships and interactions. I never really thought of this as a means of communication; it only became obvious when I moved away from Italy.

If food is away to communicate, what would you say is your favourite food to cook?

Family favourite food? Pizza! I would have a civil war on my hands if I did not organise Saturday or Sunday as pizza night.

Also, I love baking bread; it's a creative process. You must imagine each action starting with choosing the flour. Then, adding the water. It is enthralling watching the dough rise. Each loaf is different. Bread-making depends on so much: the temperature, heat, fermenting process, oven temperature. It is unpredictable.

One of Silvia's cook books.

You often talk about relationships as important. Which relationships have shaped you and your perspectives or approach to life?

My parents provided me with such a strong foundation for who I am now. I was different for them. No-one else in my family had any artistic tendencies, but my parents supported me as much as they could.

Of course, my partner, Richard, has been instrumental to me becoming the woman I am today. He is my comfort, he has my back, he calls me out and is compassionate. I believe that relationships need to be nurtured, and we should not take them for granted.

My children complete us. Raff is now a teenager and is finding his own way. Miro is 11, and we are keen to treasure the boy before he too grows into a man. Luna is 4 years old and is a delicious, opinionated, strong-minded little girl.

Given that we are exploring the theme of women for this issue, what advice would you give a young woman today?

I would tell them not to focus on pleasing others. I was brought up according to the Italian Catholic tradition of being a good girl, and it can be debilitating. Everything seems to be built around shame, which can be suffocating. You should focus on being a good person -not a good girl.

I suppose the flipside of that is the excusing of boys with the phrase 'boys will be boys'. This is not acceptable. Everyone needs to be careful and caring, regardless of gender.

You have a particular community role, Ambassador for SecondBite. Tell us about this role.

SecondBite came about through Matt Preston. I received a text, and he asked if he could call me. As if I would say 'no!' I had heard of Second Bite, and he explained the work in detail, but he didn't need to, really. It was an immediate 'yes' from me. It makes perfect sense to be part of an organisation that contributes to the community by redirecting good food to people who need it, rather than to rubbish.

I love this role inbeing able to build awareness of issues around food insecurity and how far a small donation can ensure someone eats that day. Second Bite do amazing things with their charity partners: prepare hampers, cook food, deliver food. It is an initiative that is dear to my heart. In our family, we were taught not to waste food. It was part of the values I was taught.

Ian and Simone Carson, Founders of SecondBite

What's next for Silvia Colloca?

I am writing my sixth cookbook. Who would have guessed I had so many recipes in me? But I have an opportunity to continue to share them and this makes me very happy. I am also preparing season 3 of Cook like an Italian, which is lots of fun.


You will find Silvia Colloca's recipe on Gnudi in the Cuisine and Food section of Segmento - Issue XVI. Buon appetito!