Giovanna Eusebi is the owner of Eusebi’s Deli in Glasgow. She recently contributed an essay on the Catholic approach to food in the book Reclaiming the Piazza III.
My great-grandmother came to Scotland when she was 16 in 1920. My mum came from Italy and married my father when she was 18. My mother’s background was the cucina povera, the poor farmers of Southern Italy.
I suppose it’s the first movement you think of that talks about preserving food and not being wasteful; from land to table working with the seasons. It’s very ingrained in Italian culture. Sustainability at the heart of everything.
At the table they were very mindful of how sacred food is – food is to nourish the soul. Often with fast food we become fast consumers: eating for eating’s sake. By devaluing food at the table you also devalue the people who produce it.
Our table was always about slowing things down and coming together. We try to live those values in our restaurant as well.
When the pandemic came, everyone was told to stay home. Well, if you didn’t have a home, where were you to go? Where is the dignity in someone having to queue up for their dinner?
We started a network with other restaurants in the city to get meals to George Square for the Kindness Homeless team, an amazing charity started by one woman to distribute food and essentials.
Sustainability is really important to me. Food waste is a bigger contributor to the ruination of our planet than plastics. Last year, with COP26, food waste wasn’t even on the agenda.
We joined in on a campaign called ‘Plate up for Glasgow’. We got 30 or 40 hospitality venues on board. We challenged them to make one low-waste dish and put it on their menu.
Ours was a cauliflower. We used the whole thing, the core, the leaves, we made ricotta cheese, and made a dressing. It was to highlight the problem of food waste, but it was also to bring hospitality together after the pandemic and show how we could save the money and the planet together.
God gives you something good and pure in food, and man’s greed often ruins it.
My father was a meticulous cook. He would take his time and everything had to be done properly – and his sugo was legendary. We’d make it together in huge pots.
One day, in our busy wee place, uncannily no-one came in from 3-6 o’clock until we closed.
We just spoke and chatted through life – I mapped out all the mistakes I made and he just told me how much he loved me and how proud of me he was of me. And that was it. He went for dinner with my brothers and that was the last time I saw him.
Luckily, a friend of mine had gone into the shop and took this sugo and put it in the freezer. I found it a week later and just sobbed my heart out. His cooking was a way of caring.
Hospitality was always there in my life. My parents always had shops and were always behind counters. For me, it was very vocational: you see the difference they made in people’s lives in generations of families. I’ve had the privilege of cooking important meals for people. A few years ago, a lady came in and ordered food with her family and husband.
Afterwards, she came up and told me it was their last meal together. He was dying and they wanted to have all the family together. There is an old couple who come in and they’re so in love.
But his memory is eroding. They used to come out weekly but now come out monthly. So, she cherishes every moment at that table. Being a part of precious moments in time is a privilege.
A lot of people ask: what would be your last meal? It wouldn’t be my last meal that would be important. It would be the people I was eating it with.
Reclaiming the Piazza
I think you have to see God in the ordinary. I think Faith is to be lived and celebrated. And I celebrate mine at my table.
There are some amazing chapters in that book on the arts, architecture, and music and it was nice to be included in that.
It’s all about finding God in ordinary things and for me that was cooking.