Do not forget your roots. Simonetta Lein The Wishmaker Meets Chef Lidia Bastianich

See your values as the magic that is in you to make your dreams come true. Simonetta Lein

On countless occasions life equals the courage you put into it. A few months ago a journalist was interviewing me as the Wishmaker and she happened to mention that she interviews many chefs and celebrity chefs.
It came naturally to me to ask: Do you know Lidia Bastianich?
"I interviewed her a couple of times and I know her assistant."
"Would you be so kind as to share the contact with me?"


This is just an everyday example of how things that seem impossible become possible and all it takes it is the courage to ask, knowing that you may hear "no", but that you could also hear "yes". And so I did. I got to get in contact with Lidia's assistant and we scheduled a phone interview. Lidia to me is special, not only did she grow up in Italy but also in my very same region. Our region is called Friuli Venezia Giulia. It's a lesser-known part of Italy, and yet it is so beautiful and unique. You have the mountains, the sea and the hills all in the same region, and in just one hour you can visit different worlds and these worlds are still intimately connected with the earth, with traditions, with simple life and family values. Those who grow up where Lidia and I grew up know the value of hard work and humility. There is nothing fancy about our roots yet they are so deep and true. Lidia could be anyone's mom, a true Italian "mamma", with characteristic strength, determination, courage and love. She left her land many times, as did I, and I believe that those who have been through the experience of leaving your own land can face pretty much everything and fear nothing. I was quite emotional about the chance to have this interview; she is exactly how you see her, kind, motherly, very well-prepared, true and genuine. We start our conversation in Italian and immediately I am transported back home. Let me take you along with me.

When you were a child, did you wish for the career and for the life that you have manifested today?

I was always connected with traditions, with nature and with food as a true experience of life. I did not really imagine all the success, the television, but that came as a consequence of my roots. My bookshelf of tastes was born when I was a child. I remember the animals we had, chickens, goats, and the wild mushrooms, we made wine and also oil. Food was not abundant, we made everything at home. It was wartime, so we really learned how to appreciate it. I emigrated to the US when I was a teenager; I missed my grandmother tremendously, and as I would think of her, all my memories related to the culture and appreciation of food came out. In America I started to study science and I was very passionate about it. To pay my tuition I worked at a restaurant. I soon got married and my husband also had a passion for food. We were 24 years old and he asked me: Would you help me if I opened a restaurant? Would you work with me? That is how "Felidia" was born. I found a professional chef and I helped him to help our restaurant and so I learned everything about it.

**I know what she is talking about, that genuine values are what life is about. The hot bread when it just comes out, the smell of the grapes when they are making wine. Those smells, those sensations, nothing can replace them. While she was talking I felt such a beauty in simple things, such a feeling of richness.

Seeking out unique experiences is all well and good on the path to happiness, but I felt much more joy in her words, in the sheer humanity of the idea that all the flavors of a good life stem from simplicity and love. Now that is something really special!

Remember the simple things in life and learn how to appreciate them. When I wrote my first novel, Everything is Possible, I felt the urge to communicate to people the beauty of all those everyday things that make it much more important than what we think. Try to think about all those roots and values that made you who you are today. Yes, now. As you read. You will feel amazed as you realize how important they are for your life.

Name a wish that you had for your life or for humanity that finally came true.

While I was working in the food industry I realized that the connection with genuine food was no longer part of people's culture, all that original connection with mother Earth, the truth about good food was lost. My wish came true when I realized that what I was missing was also missed by others, and they started to move into that direction creating a movement. A lot of people started gradually to become more related with what they eat, with organic products, with slow food products. Those products that bring me back to my traditions and those values that mother Earth teaches us. The greatest joy for me is to see that now a lot of children are aware and they start to recognize what is good for them to eat.

** Nobody has ever recounted to me this "wish that came true". Nobody has ever pointed out something so simple and yet so important. As they say, we are what we eat. I agree, and what Lidia brought up is of tremendous importance for this planet. Organic, slow food represents more than simply a way of eating. It is a way of thinking, a way of being more in contact with the earth, understanding the value of the good things in life and the importance of time as an element that we mistreat all too often with our constant running around after everything. And making the children more aware too of what they eat means making tomorrow's generation a healthier and happier one.

If you were granted one wish for humanity or for our planet, what would it be?

That nobody was lacking food, that nobody was deprived of a plate of pasta or a piece of bread. The distribution of food is wrong and my deepest prayer is that food will start to be equally divided so that nobody has to suffer from hunger.

**I couldn't relate more to this. I see every aspect of life through the Wishwall, when people write me their stories and dreams. All of them are so beautiful and precious and yet I would like to remind all of us how lucky we are to have dreams along with the possibility to share them. The crazy thing is that in this world the majority of people lack the basics, such as food and water. We are on the go every day and maybe we feel hard done by if some dreams don't come true right away. It is all too easy to say that we should remember those who are less fortunate, but really doing so, and really acting on this will in turn help to enhance our own life, bringing it back to what it is: a great fortune that we can live to the fullest, each person helping each other. There are those who are not interested in making this world a better place. I do not judge anybody; I will just say that such people miss an opportunity to live a happier life for themselves. Helping those in need has changed my life and I hope that you who are reading my words right now will join me too.

If you could go back in time and ask one question from anyone from history, who would you want to meet and what question would you ask?

I would want to meet Michelangelo and ask him what he ate while painting the Sistine Chapel. It's my understanding that he ate mostly bread and cheese and drank wine. Did he have an idea of a good meal and if so, what was it? As an artist did he care about esthetics in food and meal presentation? Was there anything else that he ate while painting what is now considered one of Italy's most famous Renaissance works of art?

**Isn't she interesting? Asking Michelangelo what he was eating during the preparation of the Sistine Chapel is something I honestly never thought about! . I remember staring at the Sistine Chapel, totally mesmerized; it is one of those artistic expressions that makes you proud to be a human being. Whatever he ate, it was very good; I am sure he was drinking some pretty amazing wine to have such a vision.

Please tell me what influences your unique sense of style?

Italian style all the way, how they put colors together. I still remember our Italian Sundays when everyone used to go to church all dressed up, that to me is a value as much as the feeling of the good fabrics, silk, linen, that amazing sensation of pure materials.

**Italians have a sense of style that is in their roots, you can take the girl out of Italy but you cannot take Italy out of the girl. Everywhere I go in the US, even if I think that I am pretty much wearing my pajamas I will receive compliments. I especially appreciate her point about real materials to wear, real fabrics, that sensation of freshness that fashion, when done well, can give you. Always try to buy clothes with good material, maybe own less stuff but good, as my grandmother used to say. I still see it as a great teaching.

Who is your favorite fashion designer or brand right now and why?

I love the red gowns of Valentino, the floral short dresses of Dolce and Gabbana, the tailored tuxedo look of Armani, the flowing lines of the young Francesca Liberatore and the classic tailored look of Andrea Incontri who is new on the scene. But for me personally, I find Marina Rinaldi and Oleg Cassini's designs comfortable and complimentary.

What is your fashion mantra?

A simple base gives motion to a body.

**Lidia loves to dress pretty simply and add movement with scarves and gowns. I love scarves, I stayed in India for a while and I learned how to truly wear them as an elegance statement, which also lent a sense of protection. A woman could feel very secure wrapped up in her scarf or gowns and at the same time transmits, as Lidia suggests, a sense of elegance and movement. I feel this is a "must have" in every woman's wardrobe.

What is your final message for our readers?

I have a lot to be thankful for. To both Italy and America. Italy gave me my roots and the feeling for beauty and good taste; America gave me a structure and taught me about the business. I really appreciate and understand both these cultures. I want to tell everybody that in life you must have passion and determination to accomplish your dreams. Do not underestimate where you come from and its importance.

**Having solid roots can generate that X-factor to really make it in life. Having a base, that secure safety net in your beliefs and in your heart is a priceless tool that nobody can take away from you and that will guide you to make your wishes come true. To be successful, yes, the outcome is important, but without your inner uniqueness nothing magical can really happen.

Thank you Lidia. Mrs. Bastianich has also decided to generously donate a meet and greet and a dinner at her restaurant, Felidia. This amazing and unique experience will be take the form of a charity auction to benefiting The Wishwall Foundation which helps other meaningful and needy wishes come true. I also want to thank Charitybuzz, Gaia Ceccaroli and Shelly who made this possible. If you want to take part in this auction and help out a great cause please consider to click on this link

For the entire charity auction click here

As usual, make your dreams come true.

From Philadelphia, Simonetta Lein The Wishmaker


Credits: William Russell-Edu, collaborator. Alessandr oDobici, photographer