Elizabeth David (Penguin)
“How we cling to our myths, we English”. The year is 1963, and in the introduction to the first Penguin edition of this venerable work, David describes the disdain with which her compatriots viewed the culinary cultures of France and Italy when she began to writing, in 1954. book aroused in her a powerful sense of discovery and disbelief: “How wrong they have been, from Mrs. Beeton to my own contemporaries. Where had they looked? Had they watched at all? Given the entrenched supremacy of Italian cuisine on our contemporary menus – and the ubiquity of this book on our kitchen shelves – it’s almost surreal to think that there was a time, before David, when we could have be so collectively deceived. The four books that follow here can each be described as definitive and best-sellers, but one suspects that neither of them would be, in this country, without Elizabeth David and her ability to strike gold. , and, with such constraint, to share it.
Gastronomy of Italy
Anna Del Conte (Flag)
From the start, this was destined to be a classic. Del Conte details – and in 1987 it was the first time anyone had – all the regions, ingredients, techniques and dishes of Italy. The organization in alphabetical order makes it as readable and practical as a real dictionary. If you consider that at that time Italy, as a unified whole, was only a century old, fighting the diffuse and intensely regional nature of its geography and cuisine into something so digestible really took a while. A Herculean effort, praised as highly abroad as at home.
The silver spoon (Phaidon)
Del Conte’s Dictionary Thesaurus. With 2,000+ recipes, it’s the timeless bestseller that lists every variation of baked sea bass, every which way with a shoulder of lamb, 17 different types of pastries and 14 distinct sides of zucchini… it’s i.e. it is complete. The book began in 1931 as a slim Milanese publication, and has expanded with each new edition to incorporate ever more regions and ever more recipes. If David, in Italian Food, had to throw away most of the material she had gathered, for lack of space, the silver spoon takes the opposite route. Published in English in 2005, it is as heavy as a book subtitled Eating Is A Serious Matter should be, and will only get heavier.
The essentials of classic Italian cuisine
Marcella Hazan (Boxwood)
The only cuisine that deserves to be called Italian cuisine, writes Hazan as an introduction to this famous 1992 title, is the home cooking“There are no highs or lows in Italian cuisine. All roads lead home. And it’s how she then proceeds to uncheck the fundamentals – to chart the way back, if you will – that sets the book apart. Beginning with the triumvirate of Italian technique—battoto, soffritto, and insapoire, which build flavor from the bottom up—she goes on to list the contents of the Italian pantry, before walking you through the various steps on a menu. His chapter on soups, for example, opens with the idea that “vegetable soup can tell you where you are in Italy, almost as accurately as a map.” Through eloquent prose and piercing insight, Hazan manages to unleash the soul of his country.
The science of cooking and the art of eating well
Pellegrino Artusi (University of Toronto Press)
This is where it all began, and by any measure, it’s the best place to start. Written in 1891, Artusi’s was the first cookbook for the home cook to be published in Italian. And to this day you will be hard pressed to find an Italian home without a copy. Its relevance is in no way frustrated by its great old age, as Emiko Davies duly noted in her recent Kitchen Encounters: the dishes are exactly what you’ll find on the tables and counters of trattorias today. Artusi is the safe guide you can trust.