Conversations and Colour: Emiko Davies

With so many Australians currently in lockdown, this week we wanted to transport you out of your home - across the waves, and into beautiful Italy. Welcoming us into her wonderful world is the generous, humble and hugely talented Emiko Davies. 

Don't know Emiko? Wow. Well please allow us to introduce you. Australian-Japanese cookbook author (you should really check her out) Emiko has lived in Italy for over 10 years, has probably the cutest kids on the planet, and as if that's not enough to convert you - she has a sommelier husband - and they all live together in sensuous Italy. Sounds too good to be true? Well step into Emiko's world and you'll never want to leave. Forget the jet lag, grab a coffee, and scroll down to indulge and lose yourself to the magnificence of Emiko Davies.

Tell us who you are and what you want us to know about you: I am a cookbook author and a mum to two girls. I grew up in Canberra to a Japanese mother and an Australian father but we spent most of my adolescence in China, which I loved and I suppose has partly contributed to me feeling at home in places I don't come from.

Where do you live and what do you love about it? Since 2005 I have called Florence home but right after the 2020 lockdown (literally, the very first day that we could travel more than 200 meters from home) my husband Marco and I bought our first home in the town he was born in, San Miniato. We are still only 30 km from Florence but we love that we are right in the heart of the very charming, historical centre, a minute's walk to all the cute places to eat, my favourite food shops and the piazza where the kids love to play, but also that from everywhere you look there are these sweeping views across the valley and towards the mountains. All things you can't get in Florence anymore. We are also now closer to Marco's family, which was a big reason we moved too.

Little Tienda - Emiko Davies interview

You graduated from art school, and wound up in Florence. What did you specialise in and how did you end up in Florence? I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design in the US and majored in Printmaking. It was in my third year that I first came to Florence on a study abroad program to study etching at Il Bisonte, a wonderful printmaking school and I instantly fell in love.

What does a regular day look like for you? Right now it's pretty varied, I'm in the middle of writing my fifth cookbook of recipes and stories from Venice, but most of it (the research, recipe testing and photographs) is now done, so we are at the editing stage and things are a bit calmer. I usually start with a wake up call from Luna, my three year old, and check my emails while getting her breakfast and myself some coffee. When school is on (we are in the middle of the very long Italian summer holidays now – nearly three and a half months worth!) then our day starts considerably earlier as Mariù, my eldest, starts before 8am. My husband Marco works as a sommelier in a Michelin starred restaurant so he gets home in the middle of the night and I try to keep the girls busy in the morning so he can sleep in, sometimes we'll go out for a wander around town and stop into our favourite pastry shop for morning tea or pick up anything we might need for lunch or dinner. Later, when Marco is up we swap, and he might take the girls to visit nonna so I can have a few hours of quiet time to get some work done – it might be a blog post, recipe testing, editing photographs or working on my manuscript or other articles I might have on the go -- then he's off to work, the girls come back home and it's more or less this juggle every day. 

What’s a simple recipe you swear by? Spaghetti con le vongole is one of our family favourites – I have some fussy eaters in the family but this is one we all love. It's as simple as garlic, olive oil, clams and only takes minutes to cook (the spaghetti takes the longer). I love recipes that have ingredients that you can count on one hand! 

Given many of our readers are Australian, and we are girt by sea - can you share something that’s inspiring you right now? Instagram live! I've been desperately missing family and friends back home in Australia, and missing traveling and connecting with people so I've found technology to be such a blessing to help stay in touch and make those distances feel shorter. I love being able to tune in to a conversation on Instagram live when I see that a friend or someone I love following is on, whether it's someone cooking or talking about what they're doing now, the fact that it's live seems to help me feel instantly connected. Also we are finally planning some workshops again after 18 months of uncertainty and chatting with fellow hosts and planning trips has me excited and dreaming again.

Little Tienda - Emiko Davies making handmade pasta.

Favourite Little Tienda piece? I have many Little Tienda pieces from over the years but my absolute favourite is my gingham Luana dress! It's such a versatile dress, you can wear it anywhere, it belongs at the beach as much as it does at a candlelit alfresco dinner and it was a dream when I breastfeeding Luna (which I still am actually, but when she was newborn it was round the clock and I always struggled being able to wear dresses that I could breastfeed in too). Also something about a maxi dress just makes me feel special.

Go-to beauty product you can’t live without? I have sensitive skin and barely wear make up anymore but I like to use a simple organic rosehip oil as a moisturiser.

Someone you love following on Instagram? I love following @lagrossetoile in France for her incredible vintage French textile knowledge, brocante finds and that she is often fearlessly talking about politics and sustainability in textiles and beyond and I also love @hettymckinnon for dinner inspiration as I so miss Asian food here in Tuscany, it is my instant connection to home when I'm feeling most homesick (which is kind of all the time lately). Both happen to be fellow Australian expats.

At a dinner party I am likely to be… definitely the host! And although it's been a long time since we have been able to have dinner parties, I'm looking forward to hosting more now that we can.

What’s next for Emiko Davies? My new cookbook, Cinnamon and Salt, comes out in April 2022, so I am eagerly awaiting that. I think the next project may be something bigger, something that could help sustain my family as sadly writing does not really do that. The dream would be to open a place that's all our own where we can share our knowledge and connect with people. I am maybe the world's worst business person, but I believe in doing what you love, I feel it's been a long time coming, I just need to be brave enough to commit to setting down the roots (buying a home here has helped that enormously) and to make that giant leap!

You can find Emiko's website here and follow her on Instagram here

Emiko wears the Luana dress throughout. 

Photography courtesy of Lauren Bamford for 'Tortellini at Midnight' by Emiko Davies.