A Book Review by Franz Scheurer
What first grabbed my attention is the format. Although softcover, it’s substantial and ‘feels good’. The almost square page size works very well with the chosen layout and photography style. In other words, it looks good and feels good when you first pick it up.
Gail and Kevin Donovan and Simon Griffiths, with Robert Castellani, put this book together. Gail and Kevin with head chef Robert run Donovans in Melbourne. Simon’s photography adds a truly magic touch to this book. Together they travelled southern Italy, each one seeing it through very different eyes and the book is a collation of facts, recipes, anecdotes and trivia, honouring the Italian people’s never ending spirit and capacity for enjoying life to the fullest.
Starting in Rome their journey takes them south to Puglia then all the way to the ‘bottom of the boot’. Visiting Basilicata and Calabria they eventually get to Sicily and out to the Aeolian Islands. Each day is documented with recipes, stories, notes on antiquities, recent and ancient history, wine notes and personal impressions. Mixing with the locals at every opportunity (it helps that Robert is a native Italian speaker) they paint a picture of hard work with a relaxed attitude to life surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colours, aromas, scents, tastes and textures.
Some of the recipes are classics, others less known, but all portray the freshness of Italian food and the magic of creating a feast out of a few, but absolutely perfect, ingredients. Everyone goes to the markets; everyone shops on a daily basis. Fresh is best. Seasonality lives!
I particularly enjoyed the ‘Wines of Cantine Florio’ a journey of exploration through their impressive facilities in the ancient port city of Marsala. The article starts with a quote from Pietro Urso, the director of Cantine Florio: “Marsala is a drink of meditation and thinking”, then proceeds to trace the history from its origins in 1773 to today, making me salivate throughout the three pages.
The book certainly succeeds in conveying the sense of adventure the travellers obviously felt and it manages to bring to live a wonderful food and wine culture. Makes me want to hop on a plane …
If you’re an Italophile, love Italian food and wine or simply like to learn the art of living, then do yourself a favour and read this book.
Published by the Penguin Group
ISBN 0 14 300140 X