Memories of a mortar and its kind Ligurian lady

It takes about an hour and a half to reach Liguria, a long and narrow region that stretches along the northwestern coast of the Italian peninsula, driving along the highway is a meandering route from Milan. The word "beauty" has been abused in tourist information books, but I think it would be a good adjective to use for Liguria. From time-forgotten countryside to celebrity cities with their ten-foot yachts and Hollywood stars, you'll find it all.

It is the closest sea to Milan, so the Milanese gather there on weekends. For a long time, I spent my weekends as well in a rustic town with few people in Liguria.



This area is so fertile that they said "spit and the plants will sprout", perhaps because of the mild climate or perhaps because of the good soil. The locals cultivate their own vegetable garden on a piece of land so small that in Japan would say"a land like a cat's forehead". But there are so many beautiful and healthy vegetables growing in the garden that I want to take some away. (Of course, I hold back)



Liguria, like every other Italian region, has many culinary specialties. One of the most famous is Pesto Genovese. Yes, it's a basil pesto, and everyone who loves Italian cuisine has eaten it at least once. This pesto is made with simple ingredients: basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. The secret of its delicacy is, of course, the basil.

Well, this is where “the garden, like a cat’s forehead” comes into play again. The basil that grows in Liguria is so big, so fresh, so beautifully colored and so full of vital energy!

And to make a real Genoese pesto, yes, you need a "mortar"!

The Carrara marble mortar, which we present you, is found in many Italian houses, and in Liguria I think it is no exaggeration to say that it is found in almost 100% of the houses. In addition to Carrara marble, the mortar can be made of wood, ceramic or metal, depending on its use. The reason why in Liguria the mortar is made of Carrara marble is, of course, due to the proximity of the Carrara quarries, but another important factor is that it does not heat up as much when used, unlike other materials.

And above all, the beauty of Carrara marble cannot be compared to any other material.

The first time I saw Genoese pesto made in Mortaio was at my neighbor's house in Liguria. Before that, I had only seen it done in a mixer at a friend's house in Milan.

One hot summer, I was listening to her endless chatter while avoiding the strong summer sun, when I casually said: "I've never eaten a pesto made with a mortar", to which she replied: "Then I'll do it for you. When I said, "I didn't want to bother you ...", as I followed her as she walked, shaking her big buttocks, she said, "Don't worry!" and she picked a large handful of basil from her "cat's front" garden.
When I entered the kitchen, which was dark and cool even in summer, she opened the shutter a little to let in a little light, and then, continuing her chatter aloud, as if to the rhythm of cheerful music, she stepped on and grinded the garlic, pine nuts and basil with a mortar, and served me Genoese pesto made in a small antique bowl with a floral pattern.

Only then I realized the correct use of the Mortar, which I also had at home as a decorative object, and the meaning of the four small protrusions. They are used to rotate the mortar when grinding. The four protruding parts serve as a handle to turn it.


This lady, who had no interest in us, always shared with us the vegetables from her garden and her fresh eggs. All the vegetables were delicious, but what I will never forget are the tomatoes and the salad, not to mention the basil. The tomatoes were so sweet it was like eating the spirit of the sun. When I ate the salad she gave me, it tasted so rich that I wondered what all the leaves I had eaten were from.

A lady who taught me, a city girl from Tokyo to Milan, what true wealth is. She has always been so kind, but I felt embarrassed not to be able to give her back. She had no interest in pretentious and expensive Milanese chocolates and sweets, and she was not interested in the little gifts I could buy in Milan.

She also offered me things she cooked from time to time (stuffed anchovies, parmesan, etc.), they were so good that I was too embarrassed to bring something I cooked.

I couldn't do anything, so sometimes when I came back to Japan, I used to bring Japanese sweets and souvenirs, and she pretended to be delighted with a smile like a sun but I'm sure she was just kind.

I was thirty at the time, so I thought she was a lady of a certain age, but come to think of it, she was probably the same age I am now.

I hope she is still okay.

I don't know how many times I've eaten the Genoese peso in my life, but I don't think I'll ever eat anything as good as the pesto she made me.


Artisan's story