Monday, August 11, 2014

The Country Cooking of Italy by Coleman Andrews

With a strong voice backed up by commanding experience and knowledge, the author presents recipes for Italian country dishes that make your mouth water, and make you want to rush to the kitchen to make the food and make your mouth water for real!

The author points out that until very recently, until post WWII to be exact, Italy was a very poor country.  Many people lived on nothing but dried cod, chestnuts, wild greens and the animals they could hunt.
"Italian cooking in its homeland...was far simpler than the gussied-up Italian American interpretations..."

"At its best, like all cuisines with modest beginnings, it respect the seasons, wastes nothing, values consistency and simplicity; and it belongs to a place."

Besides the 250 recipes, the book includes roughly 50 short essays on various topics, scattered throughout the book:  mozzarella, bruschetta, Apicius...  This is in recognition that many cookbooks are bought to be read these days.  Actually, the essays alone could make up a fascinating book!

With relief, I can tell you that the author does not mess with cooking machines and contraptions of all kinds when describing the how-to of the recipes.  I feel it in my gut that there is something fundamentally wrong about cookbooks that purport to describe ancient recipes and then have you "whiz" the ingredients in a Moulinex!

The instructions are old-fashioned, yet perfectly good techniques for preparing food.  Honestly, if there were silly modern inventions in a book on "country cooking", I would have complained in this review.

The Slow-Food movement, born in Italy, would approve of this cookbook.  Italian food is a simple cuisine full of quick, fresh dishes with authentic flavors; one can live with the few extra minutes needed to prepare it as it was meant to be prepared.

The author is a food scholar, so there is plenty of information about the history of dishes, the Latin names for foodstuffs, quotes from classic cookbooks both modern and from the past going all the way back to Apicius, the relations of the food to other Mediterranean cooking, explanations of unusual ingredients.

My favorite section is the Soup chapter, that offers the widest variety of Italian soups I have ever seen a cookbook.  But not being a meat-eater, I had a hard time getting through the meat chapters. They are for true and dedicated carnivores.

Quite a few of the texts quoted in the book are available for free from Project Gutenberg, the grand-daddy of free e-book sites on the Internet.  And the author includes a fascinating bibliography, which is highly unusual for a cookbook, and a treasure trove for Italophiles.

The book's Table of Contents:
  1. Antipasto
  2. Soup
  3. Pasta Secca
  4. Pasta Fresca
  5. Rice & Polenta
  6. Savory Pies, Foccaccia
  7. Fish
  8. Crustaceous
  9. Poultry & Rabbit
  10. Pork, Lamb, Goat
  11. Veal & Beef
  12. Game
  13. Offal
  14. Salads & Vegetables
  15. Desserts & Confections
  16. The Basics

From the book's description:
Following the success of their 2010 James Beard Foundation Best Cookbook of the Year, The Country Cooking of Ireland, Colman Andrews and Christopher Hirsheimer achieve the formidable feat of illuminating the world's most beloved cuisine in an entirely new light.
Drawing on more than 40 years of experience traveling and eating in Italy, Andrews explores every region, from Piedmont to Puglia, and provides the fascinating origins of dishes both familiar and unexpected.
This gloriously photographed keepsake depicts an ingredient-focused culture deeply rooted in rural traditions, in which even the most sophisticated dishes derive from more basic fare.
With 230 sumptuous recipes highlighting the abundant flavors of the land, all set against the backdrop of Andrews vivid storytelling and Hirsheimer's evocative images, this luxe package is sure to delight home chefs and lovers of Italian food alike.

The book is published by Chronicle Books.
"Inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that's instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value. This objective also informs our business relationships and endeavors, be they with customers, authors, vendors, or colleagues."

Here is a direct link to the book at

Please visit the author's website and Twitter account.

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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