The Zen of Artichokes

I love autumn. If it’s not the leaves and all the color, then I find poignancy in the drying and dying weeds littering the ground. They embody survival to me. One plant I particularly love is a thistle-like plant, filled with tiny seeds attached to billowy white parachutes. The least puff of wind forces the…

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The Pull of Italy: An Explanation of, or at Least a Discourse on, an Obsession

Just what is it about Italy? The sheer, sheer beauty? Or ... The turbulent history The grottoed mushroom-rank earth The Latin-infused language The ancientness The glimmering light The icy green water of northern lakes The needle-like cypress trees The deep phosphorescent colors of art The blue of the sea The dark wood floors and terra…

Pandolce: From Liguria with Love, Thanks to Laura Schenone

Laura Schenone, author of the soulful The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and the scholarly (and prize-winning) A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, traveled back to Liguria for Christmas in 2007. From that trip came her perpetual Christmas gift to all of us, Pandolce. In an article in the December 2008 issue of SAVEUR…

No Thanks to Marco Polo: An Encyclopedia of Italy’s Pasta Shapes

Marco Polo returned to Italy from his Chinese travels in 1296. The myth, legend, what have you, credits him with introducing pasta into Italy’s culinary repertoire. But Marco Polo did NOT bring pasta to Italy. And 73-year-old Italian author Oretta Zanini de Vita wants you to know that, immediately, upfront and center. Zanini de Vita…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Honey Cakes

Some interesting comments from 1845 about All Souls' Day, by Charles Knight in Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (!), Volume 14, p. 441: To do a Tarentella as it ought to be done requires room, and although the palaces of the nobility and gentry be large (in ninety cases…

Elizabeth Romer’s Chronicle of Tuscan Agriculture

Contemplating the impact of Food Network's publishing juggernaut on the current food scene in America, I find myself turning backwards, to some of the "earlier" writers on food in Italy. Many of these people, like Elizabeth Romer in The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley (1985), wrote of day-to-day practices, of times…

The Hermetic Lady in the Palazzo: Marlena de Blasi

Cookbook author and memoirist Marlena de Blasi does not seek the limelight, preferring instead to write her books in the shadows. The shadows, that is, of the great stone monuments of Italy, first San Marco in Venice and now a sixteenth-century palazzo in Orvieto in Umbria. De Blasi’s body of work includes A Taste of…

What Mummies Tell Us about Food

As we all know, or suspect anyway, mummies provide an amazing treasure trove of information about life (and death) in the past. Talk about primary sources, so beloved of historians! As A. A. Gill wrote in an article about the Palermo mummies in the February 2009 issue of National Geographic magazine: An enormous amount can…

Cooking in Italy

Instead of forking out thousands of lire for a cooking class in Italy, take a look at these videos. Buon appetito! Cooking  Sicilian  with Mamma Agata Amalfi Coast with Mamma Agata (Looks like somebody got into the wine a bit early on) Lezione di cucina dl ristorante La Finestra a Padova (Italian Cooking Class at…

The Garden of Bartolomeo Vanzetti

Sometimes I close my eyes and just remember, remember being in ___ [name of place] and then it was just (pause) sit at the table, and I got a lot of brothers and sisters, you know. My dad’s there and I just sit at the table and it’s like, eat and laugh and talk and…

Italy in Provence

Memories of Provençal food continuously whisper to me. And reflection forces me to draw the logical conclusion that the food of Piemonte, Liguria, and Provence share the same grandparents. Or even the same parents. Countless, interminable wars guaranteed both the emigration and immigration of people (and food) over the centuries. Walking cookbooks, I call those…

Prosecco Mi Amore

Like Rodney Dangerfield, makers of Prosecco want more respect. If you respect Prosecco, take a little journey over to "Italian Makers of Prosecco Seek Recognition," in the December 26, 2008 issue of The New York Times. So what seems to be the problem? Because prosecco is the name of a grape, like chardonnay or cabernet,…

Italian Cooking in Paradise: A16 is A-1

As a cookbook junkie --- close to 200 of my 3500 cookbooks concern Italian cooking --- I drool when books like Nate Appleman's A16: Food + Wine show up. The cover alone is worth the $35.00 admission price, for the photo makes my soul cry out for the simplicity it represents. Not because anything's sad…