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6 questions for Marcella Hazan, queen of social media

Is that really the Marcella Hazan commenting on my blog? Turns out it is!

By Rebekah Denn / April 26, 2011

The revered 87-year-old cookbook author is one of the most interactive Facebook celebrities I’ve ever encountered.

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The person posting on the Internet as “Marcella Hazan” had the legendary cookbook author’s voice down pat: Gracious, authoritative, opinionated, fully capable of delivering either reproofs or praise.

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Still, I assumed the “Marcella Hazan” commenting on a blog post I wrote wasn’t really Hazan, author of the classic cookbooks creating “the definitive roadmap” to Italian food. It’s partly that Hazan is 87 years old, living a quiet life in Florida, and not the first person I’d expect to find posting on blogs and Facebook and throwing around words like “blogosphere.” I assumed the commenter was a hoax because Hazan is the “godmother of Italian cooking,” a luminary in a way that few are even in today’s celebrity-chef obsessed culture. Although I had interviewed Hazan and her husband Victor on a book tour when her memoir was released in 2008, seeing her comment on pasta books and rice cookers and measuring cups was as surreal as picking up the iPhone and finding Julia Child on the line.

Such is the strangeness of the modern world, though, that I could stop by Hazan’s Facebook page and ask if “Marcella Hazan” was truly Marcella Hazan. (“Yes, my dear,” she replied). And even more intriguing is the fact that the octogenarian author is one of the most interactive Facebook celebrities I’ve ever seen, using the social media service as a personal home page rather than a promotional tool. No, she doesn’t play Farmville, but she writes elegant short essays in the “notes” function, she recommends magazine articles, she engages with friends and fans (currently numbering 3,232), and she leads discussions on food culture. She answers fans questions on issues such as whether prawns can be added to her recipe for fennel risotto. Her information page innocuously (but accurately) refers to her employment as “Self.” (Education: “Studied Biology, Paleonthology at University of Ferrara.”)

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I wondered what Hazan gets out of Facebook, what else she’s reading and writing about online, and whether we can expect to find her on Twitter next. She graciously answered questions via email:

1. Why did you join Facebook? And why join using a personal page (limited to 5,000 “friends”), rather than a "fan" page?

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