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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Italian Cinema Today Sunday Series: Cinema & Cibo - Interview: Recipe Author and Movie Extra Daniela Borzelli of BIOPiatto

Today begins our Sunday series- Cinema & Cibo. Every Sunday, at least for the remainder of the summer months, I will feature a recipe or food-related subject with a connection to cinema.

When I began researching for this series, I stumbled upon a Twitter account called BIOpiatto, which translates to "organic dish". I was drawn to this account due to the diversity of the recipes and how healthy and delicious they looked. I had absolutely no idea the treasure I was about to discover.

Meet Daniela Borzelli. She was raised in the Cinecittà neighborhood of Rome near the infamous movie studios and spent much time in her grandparent's Garbatella district, where Nanni Moretti's infamous scooter scenes for Caro Diario were shot. She is an amazing, strong woman who overcame a serious eating disorder and today, is able to celebrate the joy and creativity of healthy eating. She began a blog, which came under the radar of the popular Italian Giallo Zafferano cooking network. The two forces teamed up and with the acclaimed network's affiliation, Daniela's recipes have reached foodies all over the world.

Daniela opened up to me about a life-changing tragedy that caused her to shut down emotionally and physically, leading her and her family down a dark, dangerous road to anorexia. Her parents did everything they could to stand by their daughter and save her life. And then one day, she woke up and everything changed.

Daniela with actors Stefano Fresi and Pitero Sermonti
After talking with her for a while, I wasn't expecting a cinema connection to come up in our conversation. I was just fascinated by her personal story. Then to my delight, she told me that she was an extra in Sydney Sibilia's much anticipated Smetto Quando Voglio - Reloaded and shared with me her experience of working on set with the director and his hilarious, talented cast. She also has a special connection to the Golden Age of Italian cinema. Her parents were friends of the prolific actor Maurizio Arena, who appeared in nearly 80 films before his untimely death at the age of 45. Arena rose to fame in the mid-50's with Dino Risi's beloved international classic, Poveri ma belli. Today, there is a park in the Garbatella neighborhood named in his honor.
So without further explanation, here is my much-enjoyed conversation with the creator of BIOpiatto, Daniela Borzelli.

Tell me about your story and what led you to start this cooking blog..
My blog was born out of passion. The inspiration came to me on the advice of a friend in Barcelona where I was celebrating my birthday with my daughter. I'm not a chef, I am a woman and a mother. In my past, I've had health problems because of a bad bout with anorexia. I was sick for a while and eventually my weight got down to 37 chilograms (82 pounds).
Anorexia is a disease that unfortunately is not considered a serious illness. It can be caused by the nervous system or by problems due to body weight. In my case, it was anorexia nervosa. 
When I was 17, a close friend was killed in a motorcycle accident. To make a long story short, I was devastated and began my downward spiral. My parents did everything they could to help me find my way back. My father even took me to see a magician. After my weight went down to 37 chilograms, I was bedridden.
I refused food. I slept all day not to think. My father put holy water on me as I slept. I caused more harm to my parents than to myself. I did not care about anything. However, I was eventually helped by a psychiatrist. He recommended that I go on vacation with a friend to a place far away from my problems where kids my age were having fun. That advice led me  and a friend to Ibizia. The day before we were to leave, I woke up craving a prosciutto sandwich. My mother, weeping, ran into the kitchen right away to prepare it, and from hand to hand, that was my rebirth. Then when we were in Ibiza, my medication was stolen from my room on the first day, so that was it. I never took it again. I returned from the trip and everything was fine.

Then how did your interest in cooking come about?
After that experience, I felt a renewed will to live. I felt the desire to eat and the desire to look at the my body again. So I began to devote myself to the recipes. I wanted to put care and effort into my meals. Instead of salt, I cook using spices, seeds, organic products.. and now and I live life to the fullest and make sure that I will live longer and in good health. I took over my life I live with my daughter and together we eat well and are we're very happy. My friend in Barcelona, who I had not seen in 20 years, suggested that I start a blog with all my new recipes. I experiment with flavors and spices. I document the beneficial properties, I create a certain taste and I publish the recipe on the blog. Sometimes I add ingredients for extra health benefits. For example, in a simple salad if you add ginger, you get a salad with anti-inflammatory properties. If you add chia seeds, you get a remedy for osteoporosis. In practice, I try to help people correct their diet by incorporating or substituting foods because as my motto states.. Eating is a necessity.. to eat intelligently is an art.

Daniela's parents
What is your favorite Sunday family meal? My favorite Sunday dish is egg pasta with a sauce made of chicken giblets (pasta all'uovo con il sugo con le rigaglie di pollo). It's a dish at our house that my father makes. In the Borzelli home, all the men were good cooks. Now, my father is 86-years-old and my cousins all share his passion for cooking. My father was born in the most beautiful and intimate town of Rome, Garbatella, where you still see the clothes hanging in the windows and you hear the ladies screaming as they converse from one window to another. The children still play in the yards. My childhood was spent there. All of our holidays and Sundays were spent at the home of my paternal grandparents. My father was a close friend of Maurizio Arena, who also grew up in the neighborhood. So getting back to this Sunday dish, all the giblets of the chicken are used to make the sauce.. the heart, lung and liver. Then it's seasoned with onion. You have no idea how good this is with the fresh egg pasta. In Rome, we say  "è la morte sua"- which means it's better than anything else!

How did your father know the actor Maurizio Arena?
He and my father grew up together. I must have seen "Poveri ma belli" 300 times!

So explain to me the beautiful photos that you sent..
(Two-shot) This was taken at the home of Maurizio Arena. He lived across from my dad.

(Postcard- bottom) This is a postcard that Maurizio wrote to my mother. At the time, my father was in the Air Force. You can see underneath Maurizio's name, his girlfriend also sent her greetings. Her name was Eloisia Cianni. She was Miss Europa of 1953.

(Autographed photo) This is dedicated to my mother. They were close friends when he was a still a little known actor.

Tell me about your experience in Italian cinema and more recently with "Smetto Quando Voglio Reloaded".

Daniela on set with actor Stefano Fresi
I work as an extra from time to time in order to supplement my income. It's a nice diversion and a fun job. I am registered with three agencies that work with Mediaset, RAI Fiction and various feature films. Recently, I was asked to play a journalist in the new film by Sydney Sibilia, "Smetto Quando Voglio Reloaded". It was a great experience. There were 240 people working in a theater over a two-day period. The actors were just so funny and friendly. The sweetest was Stefano Fresi. He is really a force of nature! The actors were instructed by crew managers not to take photos with us, but during breaks, they came out to where we were and posed for photos. The scenes that I witnessed were just too funny. We spent 12 hours shooting, but the scenes with Stefano flew by. Pietro Sermonti was also very courteous. I'm petite, so when we posed for the photo, he was sort of squatting down to match my height. I'm excited to see how the film turns out. Sydney Sibilia is a young, witty director that has created a spectacular cast. There is harmony between them. There are jokes between the cameraman, director and actors. It's really a great family.

What is your favorite Italian movie?
My favorite film of Italian cinema is Steno's "Un Americano a Roma" with Alberto Sordi.

It's great that you should mention Un Americano a Roma.. Last year, I published the recipe for that famous dish of spaghetti! Here it is... Maccheroni all’italiana. So why is it your favorite Italian film?
America is the dream of many Italians that believe there is a better life, a better future overseas. And here's this Roman boy who feels very American.. the great Alberto Sordi with his unmistakable gestures. I love it!

Speaking of pasta, your dish- Pasta Puttanesca is our featured "Sunday Cinema and Cibo" recipe. Tell me about this creation.
The puttanesca is a Neapolitan dish. The flavor of oregano is my favorite thing, and then added with the tomato and capers, gives life to a very tasty and spicy dish. In addition we also add the flavor of the anchovies. I thought of this dish because it is fresh as well as tasty and I always play with the flavors to add something more. Here, I just added thyme and reduced the amount of tomatoes. There is no salt, only spices, and the thyme is such a thin herb that I put it in the dishes often. Those who don't use salt should add more spices. Then  slowly, the true flavors of the food come out. Salt modifies, and in a way, falsifies food. It also causes water retention and hypertension, so it's good to avoid it. I don't always eat clean.. once in a while, I eat "piatti sporchi" (junk food) but as a rule, I eat healthy.

Getting back to your struggle with anorexia, is there anything you'd like to say to young girls today dealing with the illness?
The advice that I can give to the girls who are suffering from this eating disorder is to do like I did and take a nice vacation and cultivate something that keeps your mind and body occupied. In this blog, I have found victory. Those who fall can get up. So, my second advice is to live, make mistakes and face your decisions alone because only by doing this, you will form a strong character. Anorexic people are fundamentally weak, but weak psychologically. I now leave the choices to my daughter. I stop to look at what she does but I never interfere in her life. You have to learn to choose to grow, make mistakes and correct those mistakes. Nothing is impossible. It takes a lot of determination and I am the example that you can get back to love life, and I love it so much that I have found my cure in food. Anorexia care involves eating well and healthy by eliminating certain foods, reducing red meat, canned sausages, increasing fruits, vegetable seeds, spices and berries and keeping physically active.
With this blog, I try to give an example that will is power. I'm fine now and I thank the Lord every morning that He makes me open my eyes. I have a daughter and family who needs me, and I must be their strength. I have a rich life, full of emotions that I had forgotten.

Click here to visit Daniela's blog. I find that Google Translate gives the most accurate translation. Visit her also on Twitter.

Upcoming Cinema and Cibo Series 2018

During August and September of 2016, I ran a Sunday series called “Cinema & Cibo” in which I profiled Italian filmmakers and their passions for food. 

In addition to Daniela's story, I also published my treasured 2007 interview with the late Italian-American actor Dom DeLuise, whose family’s origins are in Basilicata… 
Click here to read the article.

Dom DeLuise cooking with his mother
Documentary filmmaker Dario Carrarini talked with me about his film L'eleganza del cibo. Tales about food and fashion as he was preparing to present the trailer at the 2016 Venice Film Festival. Click here to read the article.
Lettuce dresses featured in Dario Carrarini's documentary film
And it's always fun to find an excuse to talk about the gorgeous and talented De Laurentiis family! Giada De Laurentiis's new show at the time was about to premiere. Giada in Italy   featured stories and recipes inspired by her grandmother, Golden Age cinema goddess Silvana Mangano.. and featured scenes with Giada's mother, actress/activist Veronica De LaurentiisClick here to read the article.

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