A book review by Franz Scheurer
The Silver Spoon (Il cucchiaio d’argento) has been Italy’s cooking bible for over 50 years (first published in 1950) and it was recently translated into English and re-published by Phaidon Press Limited. Now they have put together a Tuscany cookbook, featuring recipes from the authors of The Silver Spoon with superb photography by Edward Park and great illustrations by Bopped Giacobbe. It took considerable effort to find the names of the photographer and the illustrator and frankly they deserve more credit.
The book is unusual first in feel and second due to the arrangement of the chapters by city and regions. The book’s feel is substantial, paper weight must be at least double of what is standard and it instantly appeals. The grouping is as follows:
I love their introduction and I quote: “Everyone has their own idea of Tuscany, even those who have never visited the region. Renowned the world over for its culture and history, Tuscany is as much about the ancient olive groves, rustic farmhouses and lines of cypress trees in the early morning mist as it is about the beautiful paintings, exquisite sculptures, medieval towns and architectural masterpieces. But the reality of Tuscany is more complex than this rose-tinted idea. There are few places in the world where the locals would see no contradiction in referring to themselves as mangiafagioli (bean-eaters) while in the same breath, and without a trace of conceit, telling you that they gave the world such men of genius as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Nowhere is the essence of Tuscany better expressed than in its cuisine. Always an aspect of life in the region, today Tuscany’s cuisine elicits almost as much interest and praise as its artistic and cultural heritage. Its reputation for quality, simplicity and flavour is recognized around the world. But just what is Tuscan cuisine?”
To answer this question you will have to buy the book!
The recipes are a mix of classic regional dishes and real backcountry peasant fare. This is the first Italian cookbook that makes me want to don an apron and descend on the kitchen.
One of the first recipes is the ‘Testaroli al pesto’ (a dish that Lucio Galetto of Lucio’s Italian Restaurant made famous in Sydney) and one of my favourite peasant dishes. Originally it was a way to reconstitute the hard, dried out bread the Roman armies carried with them. Today a pancake is made that is then cut and boiled for a couple of minutes to mimic simple pasta. I tried both methods, using bread made over the fire and the pancake idea and I must say the long method tasted better to me.
A fabulous story on Lardo di Colonnata introduces the world-famous marble quarry of Carrara and who could resist the earthy ‘Minestra Garfagnina di Farro’ on pages 66 and 67? Sage has traditionally been used in Tuscany for centuries and if you like sage, have a look at ‘Salvia Fritta in Pastella’ on pages 86 and 87. One of my all-time favourites is ‘Trippa alla Fiorentina’ which you’ll find on pages 142 and 142. This book has it all, from ‘Farinatta to ‘Sformato di Gobbi’ and of course ‘Ribolita’ gets a whole four pages to itself. This is such a wonderful comfort dish!
This book should be a must in any household. This is not haute cuisine but down do Earth, achievable recipes that taste a million dollars.
Go on, get it now!
Published by Phaidon Press
More information: http://www.phaidon.com