Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
CULINARIA Italy by Claudia Piras is much more than a cookbook. In fact, I might go so far as to say it isn’t really a cookbook at all, at least not in the conventional sense; rather a culinary journey through the Appenine peninsular – “a culinary giro d’ Italia”.
There are recipes, of course, and they’ll certainly tempt the tastebuds. Yet while many are everyday workable, others require considerable skill and patience. Take for example, spaghetti con le vongole (spaghetti with clams), it’s pretty straightforward; whereas Farsumagru (stuffed veal roulade) is significantly more complicated – which isn’t to say it wouldn’t taste delicious when prepared by an expert.
Not surprisingly, Culinaria Italy is divided into ‘regional’ sections that between them explore the history, geography, customs and, of course, the gastronomic delights of the entire country.
But it’s more even than that. Everything you can possibly think of that is in any way connected with food is included – kitchen utensils (cutlery, corkscrews, garlic presses – you name it and it’s here), pots and pans, coffee machines, even Murano glass. Bet that surprised you but think wine goblets!
There are also sections devoted to subjects as diverse as olives and olive oil – do you know, for example, the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil? – and truffles (where do they grow, how do you find them, which is the most delicious?). And have you any idea how they make Parmigiano Reggiano? Just don’t get me started on ice-cream!
Each section is backed up by photographs (from Ruprecht Stempell) – not only of food but of Italy itself and the people whose livelihoods depend on it – chefs, fishermen, farmers, dairymen and bartenders, to name but a few. So, not only is Culinaria Italy a mine of information, it’s good to look at too.
If you love Italy, its food and its people, you’ll love this book. But that’s all I’m saying on the subject as I’m off to get a cappuccino and a slice of panettone – just a little slice!
Other books in the Culinaria series include France, Spain, Greece, European Specialities and Germany.
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